Gomes heroics repel Rovers and hand Spurs precious points
Blackburn Rovers 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Thursday 03 February 2011
With new management, a different style of play and three home wins in a row, Blackburn had started to dream about European qualification before last night's visit from Tottenham. They created enough chances to sustain that sort of wild ambition, but thanks to Spurs' goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes, could take none of them.
The visitors, despite their array of attacking talent, carved out hardly any chances, but the one early one they did produce was headed in by Peter Crouch, for only his second goal in the Premier League this season. The remaining 87 minutes were about Rovers battering away, trying to repair that damage.
"We had 18 attempts, 11 on target," said manager Steve Kean afterwards. "If we'd have just got a point from that game, I think we'd have been disappointed. Sometimes you just don't get the bounce of the ball, although their goalkeeper's made four of five great saves."
Much of the pre-match talk concerned central defenders, with Blackburn's captain, Christopher Samba, overcoming his objections to the sacking of Sam Allardyce sufficiently to sign a contract to keep him at Ewood Park until 2015.
Word was that Spurs' problems in that department were so severe that Jonathan Woodgate was set to return after 14 months out with a groin injury. In the end, Harry Redknapp found alternatives to that gamble and Woodgate was named on the bench.
Another novel feature of the Spurs bench was the presence of two goalkeepers, there because the new signing from Everton, Steven Pienaar, had suffered concussion in training and it was the only way of making up the numbers from the squad that travelled north. As it was, they only needed one goalkeeper.
It was also surprising to see Tottenham's leading goalscorer, Rafael van der Vaart, employed wide on the right. As a ploy, however, it could hardly have paid off more promptly or more simply.
Inside the third minute, the Dutchman found an abundance of space to measure an early cross and Crouch outjumped Samba with ease to head the ball across goalkeeper Paul Robinson and into the far corner of the net.
Apart from that small matter, Rovers dominated the first half, with much of their threat coming down the left flank. Twice in quick succession, Martin Olsson put in low crosses but found nobody in the area. When he did find plenty of bodies in the goal-mouth, after a corner had been played short to him, Junior Hoilett's shot might have found the net but for Crouch's clearance.
Hoilett was also close to the target when he volleyed into the ground and Gomes had to scramble to stop the ball looping over his head and into the goal.
The second half continued in the same vein when Blackburn's remaining Diouf – Mame Biram – forced another good save from Gomes. Kean tried to change his side's luck, bringing on Steven N'Zonzi and Morten Gamst Pedersen. That latter change meant sacrificing the industrious David Dunn, much to the vocal displeasure of many of Rovers' supporters.
Diouf went close again, with frustration growing in the home side all the while. A free-kick conceded by Vedran Corluka's foul on the edge of the area gave them one of their better chances, especially with the dead-ball expert, Pedersen, to take it. He duly beat the wall, but almost inevitably, there was Gomes again to once more preserve his side's advantage.
On came Benjani, but still Blackburn could find no way through. Gomes had made it one of those days that was destined not to go their way. One last chance came when Hoilett put in Benjani, but the Spurs keeper was straight down at his feet. For a team with several defenders out – and Ledley King missing an appointment for an operation in Germany yesterday because he could not find his passport – Spurs defended well in front of him. Jermaine Jenas blocked Samba's last-minute effort, but it was Gomes who truly earned the three points.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Olsson; Dunn (Pedersen, 67), J Jones (Nzonzi, 64), Andrews, Hoilett; Roberts, Diouf (Benjani, 81). Substitutes not used Bunn (gk), Kalinic, Grella, Hanley.
Tottenham (4-4-2) Gomes; Corluka, Bassong, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto; Van der Vaart, Jenas, Palacios, Lennon; Crouch, Defoe (Sandro, 76). Substitutes not used Cudicini (gk), Pavlyuchenko, Kranjcar, Khumalo, Woodgate, Pletikosa.
Man of the match Gomes.
Match rating 6/10.
Referee A Marriner (W Midlands).
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