Football: Calderwood covers Spurs' soft centre

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 1

Calderwood 51

Leicester City 1

Cottee 34

Attendance: 28,355

TWO wins out of their three most recent Premiership matches - it was too good to last. Beating Blackburn seven days before had brought a spark of hope to Tottenham but at White Hart Lane yesterday their continuing frailness made it questionable that the fires of a serious recovery had been ignited.

Admittedly on fragile evidence, the assumption was that if nothing else Christian Gross (or Jurgen Klinsmann, who rumour has it is selecting the side) had taken a few steps towards producing better organised Spurs teams even when they were depleted by the usual platoons of injured players. Yesterday, once again, the side had to make do without Klinsmann himself, Les Ferdinand, Steffen Iversen and David Howells, which left the not entirely fit Chris Armstrong to lead the attack with David Ginola. Nevertheless, Spurs immediately settled into a semblance of the pass-and-run game that in better years they played without a hint of self- doubt. Typically, though, Leicester tackled, battled and eventually rattled that initial confidence.

Only a spring-heeled leap by Espen Baardsen after seven minutes safely redirected a close-in drive from Emile Heskey following the roaming Robbie Savage's centre. But the current of the game flowed mainly towards the other end where Spurs might have made significant progress had Ginola and Armstrong been afforded greater support. That, of course, depended on Spurs releasing midfield players, which against this industrious Leicester is never a risk taken too lightly.

Despite losing the injured Garry Parker and needing to restrict Savage mainly to defensive duty, Leicester bravely pushed forward and in the 34th minute Parker's replacement, Theodoros Zagorakis, collected a quick forward pass from Savage and slammed a curling drive seemingly into Baardsen's grasp but the goalkeeper let the ball go and Tony Cottee pushed it past him and across the line.

Much as Ginola's unpredictable brilliance in a central attacking role decorated Tottenham's game, it remained little more than peripheral to the cause of recovery. So it was left to a defender, Colin Calderwood, to bring about the equaliser. Moving up field in the moments afforded by a free-kick, he was in the goalmouth when Ruel Fox planted the ball in front of him. He easily snapped up a goal that immediately put an edge on the game.

Certainly the draw was a justified outcome but there was always a fragile spine in the body of Tottenham's game, and also a tendency to err under pressure. In the last 10 minutes they were fortunate to escape when Stephen Carr carelessly laid a defensive square pass across the goal. Heskey came pounding in but Baardsen got there first. There were faint appeals for a penalty but stronger ones when Campbell cut across Cottee. They were over optimistic, but not according to Martin O'Neill who saw it as a blatant infringement.

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