Tugay the hero turned villain

November 19, 2006
By The Insider
(Archive)

Heroes and villains are often contrasted in any analysis of a football match. Occasionally, the same player fills both roles and, for some at Ewood Park, Tugay did that.

Tugay
Empics / TonyMarshallTugay is given his marching orders

His crime was to be dismissed after scoring a wonderful volley though, for the majority, the real offender was referee Phil Dowd. Martin Jol, red-carded for the first time in his coaching career, would certainly agree. So, too, would Mark Hughes, who said: 'I don't think Mr Dowd would be proud of his performance.'

The unfortunate and sadly premature conclusion to an afternoon enlivened by Tugay's technical expertise was the moment when rancour replaced football as the major talking point. Before then, after a quarter of a rather nondescript game, Ledley King's headed clearance was met by his superlative volley, flying past Paul Robinson from 25 yards.

'If you want somebody on the edge of the box, it's got to be Tugay, because he's got that ability,' said Hughes. 'But it's tarnished somewhat because Tugay was having a real impact on the game in a positive way. I was enjoying watching him play.'

Unstoppable it certainly was, but it was the fifth goal the Tottenham goalkeeper has conceded from outside the penalty area this season and the third from a thirty-something midfield anchorman (following Ivan Campo and Claude Makelele).

The Blackburn manager believes the Turk, now 36, could play on until he is 40, a renaissance that should be enjoyed by advocates of passing football. He will not, however, be appearing next week against Watford unless an appeal succeeds.

When Hossam Ghaly lofted the ball over Tugay and his change of direction flummoxed the Rovers midfielder, he caught the Egyptian with his trailing leg. 'I don't think there was contact, the guy has lost his footing,' added Hughes. 'We're scratching our heads.'

Nevertheless, it was a penalty and, rather harshly, a red card. Jermain Defoe stroked the spot kick into the corner of the net.

Until then, Tottenham had done little to suggest an equaliser was imminent. And, even with one fewer player, Blackburn came closer to a winner with an improvised backheeled volley from Benni McCarthy, which Robinson saved. In the interests of equality, Ghaly duly evened up the numbers in injury time, elbowing Michael Gray to get sent off. It was the sort of decision that should not be disputed, but inevitably was.

Jol led the protests, resulting in his own exit from the touchline. 'Hossam Ghaly jumped in the air and it was a bit strange, but he never used the elbow,' he insisted. 'He misjudged it but [the referee] reacted to the crowd. I saw Ghaly and I know Ghaly. It was never intentional.'

It took place in front of the dugout, enabling Jol to give Dowd the benefit of his views. According to him. 'I said "you are totally wrong" and he said "you can go as well". He was a bit emotional. It's easy to give me the first red card of my whole career [as a coach].' Is he expecting the dismissals to be rescinded? 'Certainly mine'.

A busy week for referee Dowd, then, with all three red cards set to be appealed. And, too, for both clubs on the pitch with Feyenoord and Bayer Leverkusen awaiting them respectively.

Qualifying for the UEFA Cup may be an achievement; surviving a season in it is surely a greater one. For Tottenham and Blackburn, rooted in the lower half of the Premiership, the benefits of European football appear outweighed by the consequences.

Inconsistent performances, injured players and an inability to select the same side rank high among them. It seemed so much simpler when their sole focus was on domestic matters.

Tugay
GettyImages / MarkThompsonScorer Tugay and Michael Gray celebrate

Traditionally, Blackburn have not had this problem; swift and embarrassing European exits have been their lot. But it is harder to get knocked out of the UEFA Cup than to stay in it, and Rovers are prospering on the continent, if not in the Premiership.

For both, qualification from their group is all but a formality, but the debilitating effect of their European run is being felt. 'Spurs, I thought, looked a tired side,' said Hughes.

And Tottenham, in particular, seemed distracted. Chants of 'we're all going on a European tour' from the away support seemed to suggest it was preferable to a Sunday in Blackburn. Jol's team selection left a similar impression.

For the second successive season, the Dutchman decided to deploy his second-choice strike force at Ewood Park. Defoe doubled his Premiership tally for the season with the penalty and attempted to emulate Tugay with a couple of volleys.

Mido merely succeeded in enhancing the reputations of the benched Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov. The Egyptian did have a goal rightly disallowed for offside, but his other efforts only served to fuel the taunts of the Ewood Park crowd who have not forgotten that he rejected a move to Blackburn in the summer.

If Jol underestimated Blackburn, it was costly. And even with a squad the size of Tottenham's, some players are indispensable. King, a reassuring presence in the rearguard, is one.

And Aaron Lennon, though still a teenager, has become another. With the winger still sidelined by the knee problem that forced him to withdraw from the England squad, Spurs lacked pace and penetration on the flanks. Edgar Davids showed flashes of skill on the left before being replaced by Steed Malbranque, still some way short of his best.

On the right, Ghaly's only contributions of note culminated in red cards. But it was a match where the lasting memories may be of the sendings-off, and where the villains outnumbered the heroes.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Tugay - He may have only lasted an hour and his departure handed the advantage to Tottenham, but the veteran midfielder was the finest player on the pitch.

MOAN OF THE MATCH: 'If you get a penalty, that's enough, that's punishment enough,' said Jol of Tugay's red card. Most would agree even if, by the letter of the law, Phil Dowd could find a reason for dismissing the Blackburn goalscorer.

BLACKBURN VERDICT: For all their solidity and spirit, refereeing decisions continue to antagonise Hughes. Seven penalties have now been awarded to their opponents this season: Hughes would query 'three or four', including the latest.

TOTTENHAM VERDICT: Jol was pleased with their resilience, particularly from Morten Gamst Pedersen's set pieces. But they created too little, and, in particular, were ineffective on the flanks.

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