The last time I had been to a Spurs game was April 21st, 2007 – the day before I moved to NY. The game was a league match against our most hated rival, Arsenal, and had ended in a draw after a last minute equaliser for Tottenham. Thanks to a pre-season tour to the US, I was able to go and see Spurs in action again tonight, this time against NY Red Bulls and their new player, our old foe Thierry Henry. His association with Arsenal will never be forgotten for Tottenham fans and so, a game that could have been a routine tune up game, had that little bit more spice to it.
Travelling with my wife to the game, we arrived at the World Trade Center PATH station a good couple of hours before the game and it was somewhat surreal to hear the familiar chants I’d usually hear at Seven Sisters being belted out in downtown Manhattan. At the stadium, our seats were not far from the main section of Spurs fans
and, though there were plenty of Red Bulls fans
around me also, it definitely felt like home territory.
Henry was introduced to inevitable boos, Spurs players fresh for a new season were cheered on heartily as the teams were announced. We had a relatively strong line up to start, our World Cup players were not yet ready for action so no Defoe, Crouch, King, Lennon or Dawson, but Modric, Krancjar, Keane and Bale all started. In the opening exchanges, Spurs looked comfortable and were passing the ball around nicely – it looked like it was going to be a comfortable and easy night. However, after just 6 minutes Henry was suddenly gifted a golden chance and was one on one with the Tottenham keeper. Thankfully Cudicini was alert and blocked his shot – that could have been a disastrous start. In the next 5 minutes, Red Bulls had two more great opportunites: firstly Henry broke down the left and put a cross in which Cudicini again cut out; then Stammler had an open goal but miskicked and Henry failed to convert the follow up. Less than 15 minutes gone and Spurs could’ve been down 3-0; we needed to get a grip on the game. Nevertheless, it was NY who continued to press and they got their reward after 25 minutes when Lindpere skinned Hutton on the left wing and crossed the ball in for that man Henry to divert into the bottom corner. It wasn’t a great goal, it wasn’t an important game, but letting an Arsenal player (as that’s what he’ll always be to Spurs fans!) score was a real sucker punch. Tottenham looked nervy after that and didn’t create much, although they did have a chance when Modric was played through and rounded the keeper, but the angle was gone and he had to settle for a cross which was cleared to safety.
At half time Henry was taken off for the Red Bulls, not being fully match fit, and Spurs also brought on Andros Townsend and Adel Taarabt – two talented young midfielders who have a lot of promise. Taarabt is actually a favourite of mine as he has precocious skills and isn’t afraid to use them in a game. The lack of Henry upfront for the Red Bulls – we hate him but have to admit he is a class player and always causes us problems – and the new energy in the Spurs lineup, made the second half a completely different game. In the opening 15 minutes of the second half, Krancjar had a volley well saved following a cross from Hutton, and then Taarabt played through Keane who’s one-on-one was blocked by the keeper. Spurs got their reward though just on the hour mark when a corner from Andros Townsend was perfectly delivered to Keane and the back post who finished with a simple tap in. Ten minutes later and Tottenham were ahead – a through ball from Huddlestone, a player who oozes class, sent Bale flying in behind Hall. The defender tried to head it back to his keeper but it wasn’t hard enough and Bale was able to poke it into the net. Red Bulls threw everything forward in the last 20 minutes and were unlucky with a header from Chinn which came off the crossbar. That aside though, the Spurs goal wasn’t really threatened and the game ended with a win for Tottenham.
The match was relatively open and both teams looked to win the game, but looking at Spurs in particular, there was very much a pre-season feel to it. Keane upfront looked lackluster, the midfield never really had a grip on the game with the exception of the ever-brilliant Modric, and the defence was cut open more times than Freddy Kruger’s victims. To qualify for the Champions’ League proper, the qualifiers for which are mere weeks away, we’ll have to start gelling and upping the tempo of the game more. When the World Cup players come back and we have a full strength lineup, a true judgement of this squad can be made. The Red Bulls stadium was nice enough – from the inside it’s an identikit stadium similar to new grounds in the UK – it reminded me a lot of Leicester City’s stadium – but from the outside it looks reasonably impressive. I’ll be back there on Sunday to watch Spurs take on Sporting Lisbon and hope to see the youngsters take charge again and maybe the England contingent make some kind of appearance. Finally, my wife and friends, who’d never seen me at Spurs game before, poked fun at me for how excited/nervous I was, enjoyed the fact that I was singing for most of the game, and visibly cringed on my behalf when Henry scored – all had a great time and enjoyed their first Spurs game.