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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
Spread the word, Luka Modric has arrived. After six months of being kicked off the ball, stamped into the mud and having his pocket money stolen by the bigger boys, the little Croatian wizard has finally put in a performance worthy of his reputation. He tore Stoke City apart at White Hart Lane, shrugging off their attempts to break his ribs, dancing through their leg-snapping tackles and jinking in and out of their attempted assaults. He pulled all the strings for a revitalised Spurs and the only thing he lacked was a goal. But that will come in time.

"Modric was absolutely fantastic, he ran the game tonight," beamed Harry Redknapp after the match. "He showed that not only is he a great footballer, but he's got a massive heart as well. He never shirks receiving the ball. He is a top, top player. I thought that Modric was like Eyal Berkovic, but he was a fragile lad and this fella is different altogether. He is as brave as a lion."

Redknapp himself didn't look particularly brave as he took his place on the bench here. The Spurs boss is known to be devastated at his side's slump in form and, as he walked out of the tunnel, he seemed even more apprehensive than usual. Tottenham needed this win badly after a string of recent performances hinted at a squad with less heart than The Tinman. If anyone was going to give them a lesson in determination and grit, it was those throwbacks from the Britannia Stadium. At least, that was everyone thought...

From the first whistle Spurs threw themselves into the fight. Stoke have got all kinds of dirty tricks up their sleeves, but Redknapp's men kept picking themselves up off the floor and getting on with the game. Referee Mike Riley seemed to realise that if he blew the whistle for every Stoke foul, we'd all be there until the small hours, so he appeared to hit upon a policy of one free-kick in ten. The home fans were furious, the home bench even more so. Tony Parkes may have been hired as a goalkeeping coach, but his shouts from the sidelines were so loud that he could double as a PA announcer if there's ever a power cut in north London.

Former Chelsea bench-warmer Carlo Cudicini made his debut and, if the reaction of Redknapp and the crowd is anything to go by, it will be a while before we see Gomes back in the first team. Cudicini is the kind of goalkeeper who does the simple things well, time after time. Every cross, every backpass, every long shot. All were dealt with in the same calm, composed manner. All were met with a roar of approval from the stands and a slowly spreading smile from the manager. He's got enough to worry about without the nagging fear that his keeper might throw the ball in his own net again.

This was a cathartic victory for Spurs, their first in the league since early December and only the third time this season that the home fans have seen more than one goal added to the 'goals for' column. We've always known that they have talent. Now they have fight and, finally, they have a player of absolute class in Modric. Surely, this will be an end to their struggles against relegation.




CLUELESS -

Mike Riley spent the night handing out cards for nothing challenges, missing heavy challenges, denying penalties, playing non-existent advantages and generally riling up both sets of supporters. The Tottenham bench were so angry, I thought they were going to explode.

GREAT DEBUT -

Carlo Cudicini would probably have preferred to play against anyone but Stoke in his first game, but the Italian coped excellently with the looping crosses and throw-ins, taking everything that came his way. If he's out of shape, he didn't look it and if he's too old, he didn't show it. Poor old Gomes.

ELECTRIC -

Another fine performance from Aaron Lennon, who's having the best season of his career. Redknapp played Bentley on the right and Lennon on the left in the first half and vice versa in the second. Lennon was superior on both occasions. He even weighed in with a goal that any striker would be proud of

PUNTERS RANT -

There might have been a few bets on Stoke after Tottenham's scandalously poor performance at Burnley, but a quick check of the form book would have stopped that. Stoke haven't won away in the Premier League since 1985 and they weren't going to change that here.

MAN OF THE MATCH -

Unquestionably it was Luka Modric. There was one moment in the second half when the Croatian midfielder was surrounded by three Stoke players all eager to bend his legs back in the wrong direction. He didn't panic, he didn't dive, he just zipped around two of them and nutmegged the third. Awesome.

MATCH STATS

Crowd - 36,072
Yellow Cards - Bentley, Woodgate (Spurs), Cresswell, Higginbotham, Whelan (Stoke)
Red Cards - None
Tottenham -
Carlo Cudicini 7, Didier Zokora 7, David Bentley 7, Aaron Lennon 8 (Tom Huddlestone 6, 83rd), Roman Pavlyuchenko 8 (Frazier Campbell 6, 83rd), Luka Modric 9, Michael Dawson 7, Vedran Corluka 8, Jermain Defoe 8, Benoit Assou-Ekoto 7, Jonathan Woodgate 7
Stoke -
Thomas Sorensen 6, Danny Higginbotham 6, Glenn Whelan 6, Richard Cresswell 6, Ryan Shawcross 5, Amdy Faye 5 (Ricardo Fuller 6, 48th), Rory Delap 6, Abdoulaye Faye 5 (Ibrahima Sonko 6, 45th), Matthew Etherington 6, Andrew Wilkinson 5 (Andy Griffin 6, 45th), James Beattie 6
 
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