Football: Dominguez delights Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Derby County 0
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The Independent Online

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Derby County 0

The clearest indication of Tottenham's current travails comes as you approach their ground, in the names emblazoned on the backs of a thousand replica shirts. There are none. For while the continued rebuilding of White Hart Lane may eventually produce stands fit for heroes, the work in progress on the team is having great difficulty producing any.

After half an hour of this game it was easy to see why. The visitors were comfortably in charge and fans who once thrilled to Gascoigne, Hoddle and Waddle were forced to admire the passing patterns created by opponents such as Carsley, Burton and Hunt.

Tottenham's two costly summer signings brought little solace. Les Ferdinand put himself about with customary gusto without ever threatening to dominate, while David Ginola, more galling than gallic, appeared intent on finding a hundred ways to be dispossessed inside his own half. Ginola's most telling contribution was to hurt his shoulder, an injury which saw his departure and the arrival of Jose Dominguez. At that moment the game changed.

Dominguez's arrival from Sporting Lisbon on the eve of the new season was overshadowed by Chelsea's capture of Graeme Le Saux the same day, but given that his previous employment in England had been with Barry Fry's Birmingham City, it was hardly surprising that he was not immediately tipped as a Spurs saviour.

Gerry Francis had been tracking his progress for some time, though, and with Dominguez having missed all the pre-season training, the Spurs manager rushed him through three reserve games in the last 11 days. Francis later suggested his new recruit was still not fully fit, which makes you wonder what he will do to defences when he is.

The Portuguese international was a revelation. Playing behind the two strikers he was constantly hungry for the ball, blindingly quick to turn away from his marker and always eager to find more players to beat. A succession of Derby defenders went into the book as they attempted to shackle him, and it was from one of the resulting free-kicks, glided in by Andy Sinton and headed home by Colin Calderwood, that Spurs scored the game's only goal.

"He's a little bit more than a winger, he's a modern day winger in that he can roam everywhere and pick the ball up anywhere," Francis said. For his part Dominguez, who wanted to return to English football because of the atmosphere - "at Sporting you have two, three big games a season, here it's every game,"- felt he was a better player than at St Andrew's. "I was a teenager at Birmingham. I was very young. Sometimes I hold on to the ball a bit too much," he said.

Dominguez is a perfect illustration of the attraction of foreigners. At 23 he cost just over pounds 1.5m, a price that may make him the bargain of the summer. Francis himself made the comparison with Trevor Sinclair, an uncapped Englishman who would probably have cost more than pounds 5m.

The debutant, whose stature makes it inevitable that he will henceforth be known as diminutive, also won a penalty in the closing seconds when his pace proved too much even for the otherwise excellent Igor Stimac.

It was perhaps fitting that it was blasted over by David Howells because, Dominguez apart, much of the rest of Spurs' play was disappointing. Derby missed the cutting edge of Aljoso Asanovic, who should return this week, and the finishing power of Dean Sturridge, who played for half an hour but was clearly not match fit. They were a little unlucky to suffer a second successive defeat, but simply had no answer to Dominguez.

"We're calling Jose, Joe," Francis said. No ordinary Joe, it would seem.

Goal: Calderwood (45) 1-0.

Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-1-2): Walker; Calderwood, Scales, Edinburgh; Carr, Howells, Clemence, Sinton (Neilsen, 76); Ginola (Dominguez, 33); Ferdinand, Iversen. Substitutes not used: Baardsen (gk), Fox, Mabbutt.

Derby County (3-5-2): Poom; Dailly, Stimac, Laursen; Eranio, Hunt (Solis, 72), Van der Laan (D Powell, 72), Carsley, C Powell; Burton (Sturridge, 60), Ward. Substitutes not used: Hoult (gk), Rowett.

Referee: M Bodenham (Cornwall).

Bookings: Tottenham: Nielsen, Edinburgh. Derby: Laursen, Eranio, Carsley, Stimac.

Man of the match: Dominguez.

Attendance: 25,886.