Tottenham Hotspur 6 Reading 4: Ramos aims to rebuild defences in support of Spurs' fluent attack

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The Independent Football

Dimitar Berbatov went home to reflect, he claimed, not on his quartet of goals, but his mistakes. And, no doubt, with just a thought to his future. His visiting counterpart Dave Kitson, a Tottenham man by heart if a Reading goalscorer by profession, will have departed to get his head around the surreal experience of scoring twice and not being quite certain whether to feel euphoric or somehow deflated.

Steve Coppell, the Reading manager, will be thanking the heavens that, in forthcoming games, his team have sufficient goalscoring potency to compensate for a fragile defence. And Juande Ramos? Having digested the truth that his rearguard, even reinforced by Ledley King, remains horribly fallible, the Spurs head coach will have learnt something of the power of the Premier League to yield the absurd.

"Ramos, Ramos, give us a wave" the refrain intensified towards the end from a crowd seemingly coming round from an anaesthetic after suffering an afternoon of agonies. It was the only occasion when his men appeared entirely confident of securing the three points. The Spaniard had to refer to his assistant, Gus Poyet. Once translation had assured him that it was a benign tribal ritual, he consented; though it was, understandably, a rather self-conscious gesture in reply.

As Ramos was to agree later: "It is inexplicable how a home team can concede four goals, three of those from set pieces. We have to find solutions." That may include investing a reported 8m in Lazio's central defender Guglielmo Stendardo.

The belated approval had emanated from a Tottenham faithful, who, while concurring readily with the coach's assessment, will also harbour concern that Berbatov might have won it for their team, well, just a tad more discreetly. With January sales imminent, what they did not need was this kind of shop window for the Bulgarian striker's prowess.

It was a performance that confirmed all of Berbatov's attributes: sublime close control, an unerring eye for goal, utilising power and finesse, and strength, as he demonstrated when outmanoeuvring Reading's Ivar Ingimarsson before thrashing home his fourth and Spurs' sixth. It was an object lesson in execution to Kitson.

On another day, the striker whose performance brought strains of "Kitson for England" from the away section would have been creating the headlines. He scored twice, admirably aided by splendid delivery from Nicky Shorey and the assistance of Stephen Hunt, but spurned at least four other half chances. Berbatov was brutal with just about everything that came his way.

However, the Bulgarian stressed: "If you make mistakes it means the game is entertaining but, for me, I will go home, keep running the game over in my head, thinking about what I and the team can do better next time. The defence should always start from the front and from the strikers backwards. That's why everyone has to look at how they can improve."

Within a theatre that has witnessed quality drama down the years, there was a real old-fashioned pantomime quality to this show. "Behind you!" you wanted to shout as players of both sides were blissfully unaware of opposition runs. We should not have been too surprised. Spurs' home games and Reading's away fixtures have collectively resulted in 95 goals in those 20 games. At one stage Poyet stood with arms spread wide in a gesture of bemusement; an emotion surely shared by Coppell on the Royals' bench.

Spurs led early, through Berbatov, but Kalifa Ciss equalised. Then came a second half of eight goals including six in 14 minutes. It was as freakish as Reading's 7-4 defeat by Portsmouth in late September. Except that Coppell's men could have won this, or at least claimed a draw their efforts deserved. But on Saturday you felt they were always as likely to lose a lead as a government department the public's identity details. For a visiting side to establish an advantage not once but three times and end up losing is unforgivable.

Coppell took it hard. "You feel there's something missing in your life because you've gone there and did more than enough to win a couple of games," he said, describing his defence in which Ibrahima Sonko was particularly errant, as "Jekyll and Hyde". Coppell added: "Obviously, if it's like that every week there will have to be significant changes but some games they are terrific strong and well connected. Our best way of winning games is to score goals and attack. You just hope that four is enough... "

Still, for all the talk of "second-season syndrome", Reading enter 2008 with just four points fewer than this time last year, having played a game less. Not bad for a collection assembled for considerably less than Tottenham laid out for Berbatov alone.

Goals: Berbatov (7) 1-0; Ciss (16) 1-1; Ingimarsson (53) 1-2; Berbatov (63) 2-2; Kitson (69) 2-3; Berbatov (73) 3-3; Kitson (74) 3-4; Malbranque (76) 4-4; Defoe (79) 5-4; Berbatov (83) 6-4.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Kaboul, King (Defoe, 61), Lee; Lennon (Boateng, 67), Jenas, Huddlestone, Malbranque; Berbatov, Keane (Tainio, 80). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Taarabt.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty (De la Cruz, 71), Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Hunt, Ciss, Harper, Convey (Long, 84); Doyle, Kitson. Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Lita, Bikey.

Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).

Booked: Reading Ciss, Shorey, Long.

Man of the match: Berbatov.

Attendance: 36,178.

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