Clarets capitalise on Spurs capitulation to finish season on a high
Burnley 4 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Monday 10 May 2010
As embarrassing capitulations go, it was reminiscent of the Tottenham Hotspur of old. Given that the hard work had already been done, it was perhaps forgivable – not that Harry Redknapp would concur.
The largely predictable events at the Emirates Stadium rendered Spurs' pursuit of third place merely theoretical, but the manner of their collapse – from holding a comfortable two-goal lead shortly before the break, to resembling a sieve thereafter as the hosts poured forward at the end – left a bitter aftertaste to what, nevertheless, has been a highly-satisfactory Premier League campaign.
"At two-nil it wasn't even a game," insisted the Tottenham manager, reflecting on a Jekyll and Hyde afternoon for his fourth-placed side. After admitting that he might have been at fault for not significantly freshening-up his side after the emotionally and physically draining victory at Manchester City, he added: "It was easy, in fact at times, it was too easy and it didn't even look like a game, so to lose is bitterly disappointing. We seemed to run out of steam. Wednesday had taken a bit out of them so maybe I should have shuffled the pack."
Wade Elliott's close-range strike shortly before the interval – guided through as much as past Ben Alnwick on his Tottenham Premier League debut, three years after the goalkeeper's arrival from Sunderland – gave Burnley hope where they had looked bereft of it, as the visitors swept into a two-goal lead seemingly at will.
The opening goal arrived as early as the third, as Gareth Bale arrived unmarked at the far post to beat Brian Jensen with a confident left-foot drive, after Aaron Lennon had easily out-paced Danny Fox to deliver an inviting low pull-back from the visitors' right. The in-form Wales international was heavily involved again, as the visitors doubled their advantage shortly after the half-hour.
Bale's intelligent ball in from the left found Luka Modric on the edge of the box. There was still plenty for the Croatian to do, but in one fluid movement, the midfielder ghosted past his marker, Steve Caldwell, before firing a powerful shot into the top corner from a diminishing angle 12 yards out. It should have been game over and an 11th victory in 13 Premier League outings, but following Elliott's lifeline, the hosts were an utterly different proposition after the break.
Tottenham weren't without warning, as Alnwick saved from Martin Paterson and Jack Cork, before Steven Fletcher, stretching, fired over from point-blank range. Paterson and Cork combined for the equaliser 10 minutes into the second half, the latter heading the former's cross, before Paterson, unmarked at the far post, guided in an inch-perfect Fletcher cross with 20 minutes left.
Ledley King, starting his fourth consecutive match to further press his England World Cup claims, struck the bar with a glancing header at the death, but there was still time for substitute Steven Thompson, applying the faintest of touches to Elliott's shot, to claim the fourth.
It was only Burnley's second victory in nine games at the end of a season where they have been largely out-classed in their chastening nine-month stay in the top flight, but it was enough to secure an extra £800,000 thanks to the Premier League's merit payments as they leap-frogged Hull in the bottom three.
"It might not sound a lot in Premier League terms," Brian Laws, the manager admitted, "but to a club like Burnley it's a significant amount." That figure could be further boosted next season with an appearance in the Europa League, courtesy of the Fair Play League – although it is likely to require Fulham to beat Atletico Madrid in Wednesday's final to boost the Premier League's coefficient.
"I'd almost forgotten what winning feels like," Laws, who retains a rather frosty relationship with the majority of supporters, admitted after only a third league victory of his turbulent four-month tenure. He added: "They've not been frequent enough for sure and I'm sure we'll all reflect this summer how we've thrown away good opportunities.
"We haven't seen performances like that enough but we've given everybody a lift and if we can keep the majority of the group together we've got a good chance to bounce back. This club swam the Channel to get into the Premier League, and we'll try and swim it again next season."
Burnley (4-4-2): Jensen; Mears, Bikey, Caldwell, Fox; Paterson (Eagles 90), Elliott, Alexander, Cork; Fletcher (Thompson 86), Nugent (Blake 80). Substitutes not used Weaver, Duff, Jordan, McDonald.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Alnwick; Kaboul, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone (Palacios 65), Modric, Bale; Defoe (Pavlyuchenko 63), Crouch (Gudjohnsen 86). Substitutes not used Bentley, Jenas, Walker, Bassong
Referee M Dean (Wirral)
Man of the match Paterson
With a fourth consecutive start, Ledley King pressed his World Cup claims. The nature of Burnley's goals, however, won't give him much satisfaction. Aaron Lennon, putting the opening goal on a plate for Bale before hitting a post in the second-half, impressed in fits and starts. Tom Huddlestone was below-par, as was Peter Crouch, and a subdued Jermain Defoe looked to have launched his summer holiday a game early.
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