Spurs' Nightmares Come True

Middlesbrough 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur’s campaign for a Champions League spot got off to the worst possible start today when they stumbled to a defeat at the Riverside against Middlesbrough.

For all of Spurs’ summer signings, their defence struggled to cope with the pace of Middlesbrough’s attacking play throughout the game, and eventually succumbed to the pressure and lost 2-1.

David Wheater opened the scoring in the 72nd minute with a tap in from two yards, after he had a goal wrongfully disallowed in the first half. Substitute Mido added the second goal for Boro towards the end of the 90 minutes, as he directed Digard’s low drive into the net.

Boro defender Robert Huth then completed the scoring by heading into his own net from a Spurs free kick in injury time.

The result would leave Gareth Southgate more than pleased with his erstwhile unfancied team, and Juande Ramos scratching his head, wondering how to make his star-studded side tick.


A host of new signings started for Spurs, with Luka Modric, Heurelho Gomes, Giovani Dos Santos, and David Bentley all in the starting line up. But perhaps more significantly, Dimitar Berbatov didn’t start, giving weight to rumours that his transfer to Manchester United is all but done.

Darren Bent was rewarded for some superb performances in pre-season with a starting spot, with Giovani playing just behind him. For Middlesbrough, Robert Huth filled in at right back following the departure of Luke Young, and Gary O’Neil recovered from a calf strain to take his place in midfield. Afonso Alves, Jeremie Aliadiere, and Tuncay Sanli formed the strike-force for the Teesiders.

The first few minutes saw both teams go at each other without creating any clear cut chances, and the loudest noise the spectators made was when they jeered former Boro defender Jonathan Woodgate.

Ex-Arsenal winger David Bentley took Spurs’ first shot on goal around the five minute mark, and his low drive from outside the box was deflected wide. Another Spurs debutant Giovani Dos Santos then took a shot of his own five minutes later, but his left-footed volley from the edge of the box met the same fate as Bentley’s strike, and went well wide of the near post.

Stewart Downing looked the main threat for the Spurs defence during the opening exchanges, and was involved in Boro’s first real attempt on goal, a right footed shot from the edge of the box which was straight at Gomes, who collected at the second attempt. David Bentley then missed a great chance when he curled his effort wide of the near post in the 15th minute following a wonderful solo run and lay off by Giovani.

Three minutes later, Boro squandered a golden opportunity to take the lead after Tuncay, who was having an impressive half, showed a great touch to race clear of the Spurs defence and squared to an unmarked Alves inside the box. The Brazilian’s first touch, however, was disappointing, and his eventual shot was deflected over the bar, when it seemed easier to score.

Spurs then lit up an otherwise scrappy game with some wonderful one touch passes between Aaron Lennon and Modric before releasing Didier Zokora on the overlap. The Ivorian crossed into the penalty area from the right, but the Boro defenders managed to steer clear and keep the lurking Giovani from reaching the ball.

The first big moment of the game was when Middlesbrough had a goal harshly ruled out at the half hour mark. David Wheater’s header from a corner was disallowed for what the referee said was a foul by him on Michael Dawson. Television replays, though, suggested that it might have been the other way around, as Dawson was having more than just a tug at Wheater’s shirt.

Middlesbrough began to enjoy a good spell, as Aliadiere marauded down the right wing and crossed low for Alves, whose well-struck shot flew just over the bar.

Assou-Ekotto was getting forward at every opportunity, and he curled in a delightful cross from the left for the onrushing Giovani five minutes before the interval. The young Mexican just failed to make contact, and Emanuel Pogatetz, who had his head bandaged following a clash of heads, cleared well to begin a Boro counter attack. Tuncay and Jeremie Aliadiere combined well to find Alves on the right, who had a lot of time and space. The Brazilian’s poor showing in the half continued, as his cross hit the first defender and went out of play.

Alves was involved again in the last bit of action of the half, as he swivelled and struck a weak left footed volley from inside the box, which was saved comfortably by Gomes.


Both managers decided against making any changes at half time as both teams came out of the tunnel to begin the second half, with Middlesbrough looking to continue their dominance towards the end of the first 45 minutes.

Tottenham had a good spell of possession five minutes into the half, and piled the pressure on the Boro defence with some wonderful passing and crossing, but the home side held on bravely. They had another glorious opportunity from a counter attack in the 52nd minute as Dawson’s mistake let Alves run at the Spurs defence, but the Brazilian’s through ball to Tuncay was intercepted just before the Turkish striker could reach it.

The first yellow card of the game was shown to Spurs skipper Jermaine Jenas on the hour mark, for a foul on Tuncay when Boro were breaking clear. There was more controversy when Boro claimed a penalty for handball in the Spurs penalty box, before Tuncay’s shot was heroically blocked by Woodgate seconds later.

Giovani’s impressive debut then came to an end when he was replaced by Dimitar Berbatov in the 65th minute, who surprisingly received a resounding round of applause from Spurs fans. Aaron Lennon also came off, and was replaced by the fit-again Gareth Bale. The switch also allowed David Bentley to switch to his more favoured right wing position.

The two substitutes combined almost instantly, as Bale played to Berbatov on the left flank, but the Bulgarian’s cross was too deep for Darren Bent. Tottenham raised their game significantly after the substitutions, and Berbatov’s brilliant pass found Jenas one-on-one with Jones, but the young stopper kept himself big and blocked the shot effectively. Bent also went close, after a cross from the right almost found him unmarked inside the box.

Then, just as Spurs looked likelier to score, Boro made Spurs’ worst nightmares come true in the 72nd minute, as Wheater put the ball in the back of the net to give his side the lead. Downing’s cross from the left was flicked brilliantly by Alves at the near post onto the crossbar, and Wheater was quickest to react to the loose ball, and tapped it in.

Tottenham were flustered by the goal, and Bentley got himself booked soon after, adding to a disappointing first game for his new club.

Afonso Alves, who improved considerably in the second half, was then substituted in the 83rd minute by Egyptian striker Mido. A former Spurs man, he came back to haunt his old club when he scored his first and Boro’s second in the 87th minute from a counter attack to seal the victory.

Gary O’Neil back-heeled the ball outside the area for the advancing Digard, whose shot was low and went across goal for Mido to flick the ball in from near the penalty spot.

David Wheater then received the distinction of scoring at both ends, when he headed into his own net from Bentley’s free kick to pull one back for Tottenham, but it was to be a mere consolatory goal for the team from North London.

Manager Ramos got his first game of the EPL season off in a wrong start, seeing his side losing 2-1 at Riverside stadium.

71′ D Wheater

86′ H Mido

90′ R Huth (og)

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Spurs' Nightmares Come True Reviewed by admin Ucop on 6:01 PM Rating: 5

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