Parker pulls the strings for scintillating Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Queens Park Rangers 1
It is telling that in a Tottenham Hotspur team of schemers and passers, of fleet-footed wingers and tricky midfielders, and even with Spurs playing some of the best football in the Premier League, it remains impossible to ignore the contribution of Scott Parker.
He does not do much that is spectacular but everything that is good about Tottenham starts with the English midfielder who tackles, distributes and controls the game for the benefit of his team. For periods yesterday this Tottenham side were playing so well that you had to wonder, Manchester City apart, whether there is another team in the division on quite such a level, especially going forward.
Two of the goals came from Gareth Bale, who looked back in the kind of form that made him one of the most awe-inspiring wingers in world football last season. But he is not the only one in the zone. Luka Modric is playing as if he is over his Chelsea infatuation. Rafael van der Vaart, who scored the second goal yesterday, looks sharp. Tottenham are up to fifth place and have a game in hand over Chelsea who lie third.
It was those three who played such a key role in propelling Spurs to the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season, but it is Parker whose industry has taken them up a notch again this season. Harry Redknapp is fond of telling the story of how he persuaded Daniel Levy to sign the player from West Ham in the summer despite the Spurs chairman's fears that the £8m fee was "dead money" and yesterday he was no different.
Redknapp said: "I told the chairman 'There's only one player I want at this club'. People don't understand. It's not always about a £35m superstar. Sometimes it is about good characters, having good people in your club as well as them being a fantastic player. He's a proper, proper old school footballer who loves playing.
"He gets on with it. He wants to win, wants to play, he is a good person, lovely family, comes in every day and works hard, trains hard, good in the dressing room. That's what you need if you are going to be a successful team. He gives you all those qualities."
Levy must be sick by now of hearing about how Redknapp had to battle against the odds when it came to signing Parker. "I said to him: 'OK, there ain't a sell-on [value] but what he [Parker] gives you on the pitch in three years is worth its weight in gold," Redknapp said. "And that's has been proved. It's what he gives you on the pitch."
Point taken. There will not be many days when Spurs play as well as they did in the first half yesterday. Touch, vision, team-work – it was all there. Just a little more certainty from them in front of Paddy Kenny's goal and it would have been embarrassing for Neil Warnock. Having lost their previous away game 6-0 to Fulham, Warnock will have feared the worst. Redknapp said at half-time that he heard a lot of noise emanating from the away dressing room – "it was all kicking off" – and little wonder. Queens Park Rangers had taken a battering in the first half and drastic action was required.
Even in the first two minutes, Kenny kept his team in contention with a double save, the first from Van der Vaart. Then QPR lost Fitz Hall to injury and Warnock was forced to put on Danny Gabbidon, who has been out for five weeks. "In the first half I thought we brought it on ourselves," Warnock said. "We gave the ball away in silly areas but we were playing against a top side."
From two goals down at half-time, and having made all their substitutions by the time the second half kicked off, Warnock's side did manage to rescue some dignity from the game. "I thought we were fabulous second half," he said. "At half-time it would have been easy to look at the game and think: 'How many are Spurs going to score here?'." Redknapp's team should have been ahead when finally they did score on 20 minutes in a move that went across the pitch from right to left like a smartly executed try. Van der Vaart picked out Lennon in the middle and he allowed Bale to make his run before feeding the ball left to the winger. He drilled the ball past Kenny.
Bale might have had another when Adebayor bustled down the right side and crossed to the back post where Benoit Assou-Ekotto hooked the ball back. Bale could not swivel in time to keep the ball low enough to stay on target.
Spurs' second goal was painfully simple. Gabbidon's half-hearted clearance found Ledley King who was encouraged to shoot immediately by the home crowd. The deflected effort was heading weakly astray when Van der Vaart intercepted it himself just inside the area, turned sharply and clipped it precisely past Kenny.
The changes Warnock made at half-time altered the game quite considerably for a 20-minute spell. Shaun Derry, whom the game was rather passing by, came off. So too did Adel Taarabt who, the QPR manager later said, was still in the dressing room at full-time. With the traffic on Tottenham High Road, he would not have got far on a bus anyway.
It was Jay Bothroyd, one of Warnock's two half-time substitutes, who scored QPR's goal on 62 minutes, and the away side were good value for it. They did not allow Tottenham the run of the park as they had in the first half and they put some decent pressure on at set-pieces which is where the goal came from. Heidar Helguson nodded Joey Barton's corner back across goal and Bothroyd headed it in from close range.
There was more urgency and more pressure, but just not enough of the vision and technique in the positions that mattered for QPR. Back came Spurs. With 18 minutes left Van der Vaart fed the ball into Bale on the edge of the box and twice he exchanged passes with Lennon. When it came back the second time he swept the ball into the top corner with his instep.
Good teams conjure those moments which just knock the stuffing out of opponents and this was one of these moments. Adebayor, who was excellent in everything apart from his finishing, had another chance which he scuffed wide of Kenny's goal. Parker came off to a standing ovation with three minutes left, looking shattered. Redknapp almost carried him to his seat.
10 Robin Van Persie (Arsenal)
9 Sergio Aguero (Man City)
9 Edin Dzeko (Man City)
9 Wayne Rooney (Man United)
6 Rafael van der Vaart (Spurs)
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