Tottenham 2 Blackburn 0: Lessons from a comfortable Spurs victory
What did we learn from Tottenham Hotspur's comfortable 2-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers at White Hart Lane on Sunday?
Often overshadowed by the ever-reliable Scott Parker, the Brazilian midfielder was handed his chance against Blackburn Rovers following an injury to the Spurs skipper. The talented 23-year-old illustrated that there were more facets to his game than being a defensive midfielder as he pushed into the opposition box on a number of occasions. Inside the opening 10 minutes, he made a lung-busting burst from midfield and just moments later, his piledriver crashed against the crossbar. He continued to demonstrate his undoubted ability throughout the game, going back to his more traditional role of breaking up play and shielding a largely untested home backline. The performance will have given Harry Redknapp something to think about in terms of selection when both of his defensive midfield options are available.
Van der Vaart ends his barren run
Normally, four games without a goal wouldn’t have been a worrying statistic for a player, but for Rafael van der Vaart, it must have felt like a lifetime. After notching 16 goals last season and already scoring 11 this term, the stylish Dutchman was keen to end that run against a struggling Blackburn side. It took him just 22 minutes to strike in this one, when he powered home a richly deserved opener for the hosts, after Gareth Bale’s header hit the crossbar. That goal also meant that he became the first Tottenham player to score 10 or more league goals in consecutive Premier League seasons since Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov both did it in the 2007-08 campaign. Although he failed to double his tally with a couple of half-chances, the 29-year-old showed signs that he is returning back to his best.
The Nigerian striker had scored 16 league goals this season and will have been disappointed not to have been given a sniff of goal in this game. Impressive statistics showed that 57 per cent of his shots had hit the target, with 50 per cent of those on-target efforts finding the back of the net, but he was never given the opportunity to show his talent, due to a mix of poor service and an organised home defence. Another goal for the experienced campaigner would also have meant that he would become just the third player in Premier League history to score 16 goals or more for a relegated side, following Fabrizio Ravanelli and Andy Johnson in doing so. Yakubu’s strike partner Junior Hoilett will have also been frustrated at White Hart Lane, as he attempts to secure a move to a bigger club in the summer. The Canadian has the best shots-on-target percentage of any player in the Blackburn squad, with over 70 per cent of his strikes making the goalkeeper work. A miserable day without a single shot for Steve Kean’s side, the first team not to manage one since West Brom’s game against Manchester City in December 2004, wouldn’t have given the visiting Rovers fans any reason to think they can escape the relegation zone.
Wing woes pile pressure onto Blackburn (again)
Danny Rose, Gareth Bale, Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon never gave the Blackburn defence a chance to breathe during the 90 minutes, as they relentlessly terrorised their opponents. Playing in the absence of regular left-back Benoît Assou-Ekottoo, Rose – who will always be remembered for ‘that’ stunning volley against Arsenal – showed that he is capable of playing in the full-back slot, with a solid display. Interchanging seamlessly with the youngster was Bale, who produced a good performance and gave Bradley Orr a torrid time. His role in the first goal showed his abilities stretch further than wondrous wing-play, as his header struck the bar. Walker and Lennon were more impressive on the opposite flank, as they took turns to attack the back-pedalling Rovers defenders. Lennon’s season looked set to be over when he picked up a hamstring tear against Sunderland in December 2011, but the pacey winger made a rapid recovery. His lively outing will have given the next occupant of the England job something to think about. Walker was also outstanding, both in an attacking and defensive sense, as he showed his class and surely cemented his place on the plane to Poland and Ukraine. The highlight was his stunning 72nd minute strike, which left former Tottenham keeper Paul Robinson, with no chance. That goal was the first goal directly from free-kick for the home side this season, and their first since David Bentley did it twice during the 2009-10 campaign.