Change of tactics sees Spurs get it half right

 

SOCCER/Tottenham 4 Burnley 1:TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR should get their chance to try to retain the English League Cup at Wembley. Such a statement will be scoffed at primarily by their fans. It is impossible for them to take anything for granted in the return leg at Turf Moor when their side is still in a volatile state.

That was obvious when Burnley were in front and wholly at ease prior to the interval. Tottenham, all the same, are engrossing as a team in transition. Manager Harry Redknapp eventually dragged out the better qualities of these footballers. The transformation had been essential.

Neither line-up was at its strongest, but Burnley, with no anxieties to burden them, had a spring in their step. It was Tottenham, and in particular left-back Gareth Bale, who seemed weighed down by care when Chris Eagles darted inside him before placing the low cross that allowed Martin Paterson an elementary finish in the 14th minute.

The returning Jermain Defoe, following the completion of his move from Portsmouth for around €17 million, emerged beforehand to be feted by the White Hart Lane crowd, but he and other signings are craved on the field without delay.

Nonetheless, Tottenham had come this far in their defence of the trophy and suggested, at least, that they had an intent to cause Burnley alarm when they occupied territory for prolonged spells. The trouble for Redknapp lay in the open nature of the game when his line-up's vulnerability couldn't be disguised for long.

Ledley King, as is regularly the case, was resting his bad knee with a view to playing at Wigan in the Premier League on Sunday, but the central defence still did not look as if it had got used to operating without him.

It would be unjust, all the same, to pretend Tottenham had been quaking throughout the first half. They started to dominate possession and Burnley had to tolerate other difficulties. Despite eliminating Arsenal with his two goals in the previous round, Kevin McDonald had initially been on the bench, but manager Owen Coyle's apparent conservatism in naming him as a substitute had to be abandoned. With Joey Gudjonsson injured, the Scot was introduced after half an hour.

There was no sign before the interval that Tottenham would silence the visitors. Aaron Lennon, whose crossing had seemed more telling in the past few weeks, disappeared back into his former aimlessness and Burnley's left-back, Stephen Jordan, was ensuring that there was no easy way for his opponent to rediscover self-belief.

Coyle's side should have added to the lead after 24 minutes. Eagles once more delivered from the left, only for an unmarked Robbie Blake to head wide.

Tottenham answered with profligacy of their own. Jonathan Woodgate nodded down a David Bentley corner, but Roman Pavlyuchenko mishit his shot.

Redknapp made an alteration at the interval. The introduction of Jamie O'Hara for David Bentley gave the side natural width on the left. His immediate contribution, however, did not so much balance Tottenham as make Burnley reel for the first time.

His deep corner evaded Clarke Carlisle and was sent into the top of the goal by Michael Dawson's splendid header.

An individual error by Burnley permitted Tottenham to take the lead, but that slip must also have reflected the anxiety being experienced. Pavlyuchenko drove into the right of the penalty area and the ball broke from the head of Luka Modric before dropping to O'Hara. Brian Jensen should have saved the midfielder's drive, but let it squirm past him.

There was a higher tempo to Tottenham's play and Burnley, for a while, could only have felt bewilderment and some nostalgia for the comfort enjoyed in the opening 45 minutes. For a few moments, hints of revival were sighted when, for example, Blake put a curler narrowly off target and, soon after, the Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was in difficulties before at last seizing the ball.

Burnley, all the same, were having their deficiencies illustrated. Following Bale's pass in the 65th minute, Pavlyuchenko slipped past Carlisle as if barely conscious of the centre-back before placing his shot into the net with ease.

The visitors were at the mercy of misfortune as well. Two minutes later O'Hara's inswinging free-kick from the right was headed past his keeper by Michael Duff.

TOTTENHAM: Gomes, Corluka, Dawson, Woodgate, Bale, Lennon, Modric, Zokora, Bentley (O'Hara 46), Pavlyuchenko, Campbell. Subs not used: Alnwick, Gunter, Giovani, Taarabt, Boateng, Rocha.

BURNLEY: Jensen, Alexander, Duff, Carlisle, Jordan, Gudjonsson (McDonald 30), Eagles, Paterson (Akinbiyi 86), Elliott, Blake (Rodriguez 75), McCann. Subs not used: Penny, Kalvenes, Mahon, MacDonald. Booked: Duff.

Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).