November 24, 2011
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Jack Barthram (18) Milos Veljkovic (16) Jake Nicholson (19) Kevin Stewart (18)
Massimo Luongo (c) (19) Laste Dombaxe (17)
Kudus Oyenuga (18) Harry Kane (18) Alex Pritchard (18)
Souleymane Coulibaly (16)
Ronnie Hawkins (17) for Laste Dombaxe, 60.
James Yeboah (17)
Billy Granger (16)
Cameron Lancaster (19)
Spurs secured qualification to the quarter-finals of the NextGen Series with a 1-0 win over FC Basel. The result was not as comfortable as the previous two home games – 7-1 against Inter and 4-1 against PSV Eindhoven – and, in truth, we made quite hard work of this against a physical and talented Basel team.
Spurs set up in what was effectively a lop-sided 4-2-3-1 formation, with the right-footed Stewart at left back, Luongo and Dombaxe in deep midfield, Pritchard towards the left, Oyenuga primarily on the right but very advanced, and Kane playing in behind the Ivorian Coulibaly.
The opening to the game was quite frantic, with a lot of congested play in the middle of midfield, and a few hefty challenges from Basel players. Our first chance came after just a couple of minutes, when Luongo broke forward and swung in a shot from the right hand side of the penalty area which flew just wide of the far post. Soon after this, Alex Pritchard darted through and rounded the goalkeeper, only to be pushed wide and the shot to be saved.
Basel were quick to press our midfield, often going to ground in the challenge, but our centre backs were having a fair amount of time on the ball, with Tim Sherwood encouraging them to bring the ball out from the back (“Take it forward, Milos”).
Coulibaly crossed well for Oyenuga, but he wasn’t able to bring it down cleanly, and it was cleared, whilst Miles made a solid save from an effort from left winger Vuleta. Luongo made a superb bustling run past a number of players, only for the final player to nick the ball away just as he was opening up to shoot.
With Basel keen to challenge, Spurs were winning a lot of free kicks in similar positions – first, Kane slipped as he looked to strike one, and then Pritchard picked out Coulibaly beautifully at the back post. Unfortunately it took an awkward bounce, and he could only knee it into the hands of the goalkeeper. At the other end, a dangerous cross narrowly evaded the Basel striker, before Spurs took the lead through another Pritchard free kick. He flighted it superbly to the back post, where former Basel player, Veljkovic had found some space, and powered a header in from close range.
Soon after, Harry Kane charged forward and was fouled from behind – Pritchard spotted the ball, paced out his run-up, and hit the target, but the goalkeeper saved well. The action moved straight to the other end, and Zarkovic played in Zwimpfer, but he was too close to Miles and the goalkeeper smothered. Zwimpfer had another great chances minutes later – a Veljkovic error let him through, and he rounded Miles, but Kevin Stewart anticipated brilliantly and slid in to clear off the line.
Dombaxe dummied cleverly on the edge of the box to create space to shoot, but his low left-footed effort was saved. I felt sure that Vuleta would go into the book after hacking down Barthram, but the referee gave him a final warning, before Pritchard had another effort saved after he was found by an excellent Kane pass.
Basel made a substitution at half-time with the imposing Sulejmani coming on, whilst Spurs made a slight adjustment, with Kane playing primarily from the left, Oyenuga more central, and Pritchard from the right (although they rotated). We started on the front foot, with Coulibaly shooting over from the edge of the box, and then Kane putting his effort well over after we’d worked the ball into a good position.
Jevtic got forward into a great position on the break, but his cross was fortunately wasteful. Miles made the first of his really top saves from Sulejmani, and the resultant corner was headed harmlessly over.
Harry Kane’s slide rule pass found Pritchard, who teed up Oyenuga, but he dallied and his shot was blocked. Sherwood made the decision to freshen up the midfield, bringing on Ronnie Hawkins (an excellent passer of the ball), for Laste Dombaxe, who was starting to tire.
Kane was the instigator again, this time picking out Stewart, who was arguably fouled in the box. The ball came back to him once he was back on his feet, but he put it over on the turn. Then came what could have been a costly miss – Kane was again the provider, getting free down the left and putting the ball on a plate for Kudus Oyenuga, who was about a yard out – he got his feet into a bit of a mess, and the ball came off his ankle and ran out to Luongo, who had a bit to do with defenders converging on him, and he blasted over when accuracy was required.
Basel’s nearest miss yet soon followed – Miles came out to claim a corner, but missed the ball and Corbaz headed beyond the keeper but on to the post. Barthram had an excellent chance to add to our lead at the far post, but put his shot wide after he was well found by the industrious Pritchard. Miles redeemed himself with a solid save from the impressive Nimely, before the substitute Sulejmani, who was a real handful, out-muscled Barthram, and powered beyond Veljkovic, only to be foiled by a fantastic save from Miles with his legs.
Kane won another free kick with a driving run, but it came to nothing, and Oyenuga had one final chance before the referee blew for full time. The first half was a fairly scrappy affair, with the second being much more open once Basel started chasing the game.
Jonathan Miles 8 – one error when he failed to claim a corner, but excelled with some great saves, especially the one with his legs towards the end of the match.
Jack Barthram 6 – had a tough time in the second half up against the very physical substitute Sulejmani, but coped well throughout and made constant bursts forward when Pritchard tucked in (although was rarely picked out).
Milos Veljkovic 7 – really strong, composed showing from a player who plays like he is ten years older than he is.
Jake Nicholson 6 – a steadying influence at the back, and someone who constantly talks to his team-mates. He made me laugh with one comment – Stewart had the ball at left back, and needed to play it forward with his left foot. Oyenuga tried to spin in behind, with Nicholson shouting “where you running to Kudus?!” Ferdinand (I think) chimed in – “it’s on his left foot, he’s hardly going to drop it in there!”
Kevin Stewart 6 – a solid display from a player who is not naturally left-sided.
Massimo Luongo 8 – if you’ve read my reports before, you’ll know that I enjoy watching him play. Breaks up play, has good one and two touch passing, gets forward well, and is a strong, calm influence in the middle of the pitch.
Laste Dombaxe 5 – having seen him play so well on Saturday morning, I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t keep up his performance levels – made a few early mistakes and looked nervous, but after the odd arm around the shoulder from team-mates, he improved as the game went on and used the ball much better.
Kudus Oyenuga 4 – as hard-working and strong as ever, but he still doesn’t quite know when to release the ball, and he does make some odd decisions – Sherwood and Ferdinand both focused a lot of their attention on him throughout!
Harry Kane 7 – he didn’t seem to have a particularly great match but, in writing my report, I realised just how many times he threaded others in with cleverly-weighted passes. He could have had three assists on another day.
Alex Pritchard 8 – a real clever, quick-footed, schemer, who had an excellent first half in particular. His set piece delivery caused a lot of problems, and he is very dangerous when cutting in from the flank.
Souleymane Coulibaly 5 – he is a work-horse, but not much came off for him – kneeing his best chance straight into the goalkeeper’s hands. Made good runs, but often chooses to shoot when he has better options. Didn’t get much change out of Kofi Nimely.
Ronnie Hawkins – came on and helped us to keep the ball, with some intelligent passing.