CARLING CUP FINAL – PLAYER RATINGS
Don’t let the frantic last 15 minutes fool you. We deserved to lose because we showed little desire to contribute anything to the game. We were negative from the start and only looked like we had any passion after Spurs took the lead.
The match facts are that Cech made another big game mistake to cost us the winning goal, but we lost this in the team selection. The decision to play Anelka wide left, leaving Joe Cole on the bench was disastrous.
The new signing looked completely lost like most of the rest of his team mates and it was Spurs who made the majority of the running throughout, creating chances and forcing us into hopeful punts up field.
Despite Essien, Mikel and Lampard in midfield, Spurs controlled play from the opening whistle when Belletti contrived to double kick a simple pass into the path of Keane who had his shot deflected by Terry for a corner.
As we waited, and waited, for the game to settle down and our passing game to pick up, Spurs created and missed chance after chance. We couldn’t string three passes together and our only threats came from free kicks 25 to 30 yards out created by rash Spurs challenges. From the third of them, Drogba slotted it in with Robinson trying to hide behind his wall.
An injustice to Spurs, but so typical of us and you expected us to make a decent fist of the second half and probably catch them on the break for a decisive second.
It wasn’t to be, although we seemed much more comfortable than in the first and it was a chintzy penalty that undid us. Bridge twice touched the ball with his arm, although the first was clearly ball to arm.
Game on and in fairness we did pick up our game a bit. But Spurs should have won it when Zokora raced through with only Cech to beat. The goalie blocked the initial shot with his face, but that left Zokora now with a goal guarded only by two defenders. The man who has never scored in 70 games for Spurs showed why with a blast over the bar.
Surely we’d start to click in extra time when Thursday’s UEFA Cup game would sap the strength from Spurs’ legs? The answer came quickly when Anelka bundled over a Spurs player completely unnecessarily. The curling free kick left Woodgate and Cech on a collision course. Woodgate missed with his head but Cech punched the ball straight at the Spurs defender and the rebound bounced slowly into goal.
All our three subs did pretty well, although I question why it was Kalou who replaced SWP after the Spurs equaliser and not Cole. Cole finally saw the pitch after we went behind and we went to 4-4-2. Spurs responded by taking off Keane and bringing on Kaboul as a third centre half, a decision that would have been questioned by Spurs fans if they had failed to win.
The double switch gave us a monopoly of the ball and we had several good chances to tie it up with Kalou shooting against Robinson’s foot and Cole just failing to get enough steam on a left-footer, allowing Robinson to make a comfortable save.
The last kick of the game saw Kalou breaking into the Spurs area and it was fortunate for Mark Halsey that his shot rebounded from the post because had it gone in there would have been many questions about the timing of the final whistle, which is usually blown with the ball in neutral territory.
If this disaster is to mean anything, it must serve as a wakeup call to Grant that more positive football isn’t an afterthought, but a necessity. If we’re going to play Anelka and Drogba together, we’re going to have to change our formation to 4-4-2, something we can afford to do most games at home. Away from the Bridge, we need real wingers, not a square peg in a round hole.
CECH – 6. Our last loss was at Arsenal when Cech missed a cross. Ironically, we would have been better off had he missed the cross today. The ball would have gone wide. Apart from that, he stood tall and made several excellent saves.
BELLETTI – 5. Set the tone from the kick off with an atrocious pass to Keane and struggled for the first half hour as Berbatov moved to his wing. Settled down thereafter, but hardly ever got forward.
CARVALHO – 6. Failed to pick up Berbatov in the first half and the Bulgarian should have scored from a Lennon cross. Like Terry he struggled in the air against Berbatov, but did a decent job of sweeping up the danger.
TERRY – 6. One of his more subdued displays and had big problems in the air with Barbatov winning most of the punts up field. Seemed to be orchestrating the negative play with orders to his colleagues to pass back to Cech for a hopeless hoof up field.
BRIDGE – 6.5. Wanted to give him a half-point extra because of his attacking intent. Slightly unfortunate with the penalty, but generally coped well with threats down his wing, which were few as Spurs obviously had targeted Belletti. He was lucky they did because Anelka wasn’t the best at tracking back.
MIKEL – 5. Has to take a lot of the blame for giving the ball away and wasn’t the influential presence in front of the back four that Makelele has been most of the time for the last months.
ESSIEN – 6. Seemed a bit unsure of his role, which isn’t that surprising since it mostly involved chasing around midfield trying to get the ball.
LAMPARD – 6. Linked play quite effectively and seemed happier to have Drogba to aim at. But most of his duties were defensive as we were constantly on the back foot. Got his corners right in the second half after several dreadful deliveries in the first.
WRIGHT-PHILLIPS – 3.5 Infuriatingly lax with his ball control and managed to lose the ball most times that he did gather it successfully. A mystery how he survived for 72 minutes.
ANELKA – 4. OK, he was in a strange position, but he achieved nothing. Caught SWP disease in the second half when he let a ball under his foot when promisingly placed in the penalty area. Has to be played in the middle or not at all.
DROGBA – 7. Was our best player, even if we could do without some of the dramatics. Despite being controlled in the air by Woodgate and King, he was always a threat when the ball was played to feet or chest. How did we manage without him?
KALOU (for SWP, 72) – 6.5. Looked confident and dangerous on the ball. Should have tied up the game, but shot too close to Robinson. Was 200 per cent more dangerous than Anelka coming in off the left wing. Seems to have discovered his left foot in Africa.
BALLACK – 6. We took over midfield when he came on, but that may have been more due to a tiring Spurs.
J. COLE (for Mikel, 98) – 6.5. Why oh why did Grant wait so long? We desperately needed his trickery to raise our game earlier.