Sunday, November 25, 2012
Defoe delight overshadowed by chants
Miguel Delaney, White Hart Lane
Finally, after a pretty tough last few weeks, Andre Villas-Boas had something to shout about. The only problem, however, is that much more will rightfully be made of what the West Ham fans were shouting.
All the way throughout Tottenham Hotspur's otherwise impressive 3-1 win, the away fans were singing chants that were either anti-Semitic in nature or goading the home side over the violence some of their fans suffered during the trip to Rome for the Europa League fixture against Lazio.
The manner in which the chanting will detract attention was reflected in the post-game press conferences as Villas-Boas attempted to concentrate on his side's performance.
"It's difficult. You can interpret in various ways. I prefer not to mar the performance with songs like this," he said. "You know the animosity there is between Tottenham and West Ham United. As long as it doesn't reach stupidity it's a great, great rivalry. It would be unfortunate for me to mar the performance. It's hard to decipher the meaning of these songs."
To a certain degree, Villas-Boas's position was understandable. He wanted to finally bask in what was a generally fine performance from his team, and particularly striker Jermain Defoe,
It has been a trait of this season, though, that off-field incidents deflect from the actual football. Another trait, however, has been the odd nature of the table. And that was reflected by the fact that, despite this being Spurs' first win in four and only second in six, they are back level on points with Arsenal and only four off the Champions League places.
"We don't jump a lot in terms of the table but we narrow the gap," Villas-Boas said. "We're within two points of Chelsea. It's narrowing down. It puts third place in a better perspective and hopefully we can continue this run of form against Fulham and Liverpool
"I think it was a very good performance. We've been chasing it for some time; a solid 90-minute performance. I think we were very deserving of it. We had two difficult away fixtures, against Manchester City and Arsenal. It was extremely important to get back to winning ways."
In truth, though, it still took them a while to reach that level: 44 minutes to be precise. Given that this was a contest between two such systemised managers, it made for quite a mechanical opening period in which the only moment of note was Gareth Bale crashing a shot off the crossbar.
Just before half-time, though, the "immense" Defoe - as Villas-Boas described him - added life to both Spurs and the match in general. Picking the ball up from deep, he ran through the West Ham backline before finally powering a shot past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
"It was very similar to the goal he scored against Reading,' Villas-Boas said. "On one-on-one situations he's immense. It was decisive because it unlocks the game. He's an incredible striker. He's enjoying his football. When we see strikers of this nature, their anger for goals is exactly what you want and request from a striker. I couldn't ask for any more."
Sam Allardyce, however, was expecting a lot more from his own players. The West Ham manager agreed that the Defoe goal was the turning point and that his team "never recovered from it". He seemed startled at just how submissive they were though. In short, this match saw none of the characteristics that have propelled West Ham into such a respectable league position.
"We were very poor, unfortunately. There's not a lot to defend players. I'd like to," he said. "We got shown up in some defensive frailties, which hasn't been the case normally this season: it's been the basis of our success. Our defensive frailties were very poor for the first, second and third goal. Our in-possession play wasn't good enough compared to previous games.
"To expect anything at Tottenham, we've got to be 100 per cent and we weren't today. You can't let yourself be put under that much pressure because in the end you will make mistakes and they punished us severely.
"The whole story looked like we were a bit overawed and I don't know why. Tottenham have lost three of the last four so they're hardly in form, are they? We've made it easy for Tottenham to win today and that's disappointing for me. We haven't been anywhere near our best. I didn't expect that today. It shocked me to be honest."
The one positive for West Ham was that Andy Carroll finally scored his first goal for the club, with Allardyce arguing that the team have to give him sufficient service. By that point, though, Tottenham were well in the clear.
In what was probably his best game for Spurs so far, Clint Dempsey clipped over the West Ham backline beautifully for Bale to run and make it 2-0 shortly after half-time. Within minutes, then, Defoe added another.
Indeed, the last goal effectively summed up the game. A Tottenham team who sprang to life and were as well oiled as at any point under Villas-Boas so far, suddenly took advantage of a poor West Ham defensive lapse. Aaron Lennon charged onto a loose ball, bore down on goal and then squared for Defoe to finish.
It would be nice to say that silenced the despicable chanting of some West Ham fans. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
Villas-Boas, however, will try to look at the positives. Allardyce, meanwhile, will try to look at what went wrong and fix it.