Soldado strike seals victory for Tottenham

Swansea pay the penalty in tight match

The good thing for Tottenham Hotspur about not having Gareth Bale on the field is that they can at least get penalties.

Referees would sooner book Bale for diving than award him anything inside the area and a curiosity of Tottenham’s season last time out was their lack of a single penalty. It has been a different story this season. Two Premier League matches; two penalties; six points. Tottenham and Roberto Soldado, the club-record signing from Valencia, who has twice converted, are up and running.

Soldado once again showed that ice runs through his veins, his stutter-step and finish outfoxing Michel Vorm, as it had done Julian Speroni of Crystal Palace in the previous weekend's 1-0 win. Bale, or more precisely, his absence, had provided the sideshow.

The Wales forward is primed to complete his world-record transfer to Real Madrid, most likely on Tuesday, and he was in Spain before the big day. André Villas-Boas, the Spurs manager, squirmed his way through the post-match press conference, saying that Bale had not been obliged to attend White Hart Lane as he had “that” foot injury and, having been given a couple of days off, it was up to him how he spent it.

Controlled performance
"Hopefully you can have more news in the next couple of days," said Villas-Boas.

But there were reasons for the Portuguese to be cheerful after this controlled performance, and they went beyond the imminent arrival of the centre-half Vlad Chiriches from Steaua Bucharest for €9.3 million and the possibility of other signings, chief among them the Roma forward Erik Lamela. Etienne Capoue and Paulinho, the new additions in midfield, were impressive; Soldado got his goal and Andros Townsend, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Queens Park Rangers, stole the show.

Townsend ought to have had a penalty at the end of the first half, when he was tripped by the hapless Jonjo Shelvey inside the area. The officials ruled that he was outside it and awarded only a free-kick. Townsend, though, went at Shelvey again early in the second half and, when the Swansea midfielder made another ill-advised challenge and Townsend went down, referee Neil Swarbrick was compelled to act – on the totting-up procedure, if nothing else.

Michael Laudrup was not happy. The Swansea manager stopped short of calling Townsend a cheat but he made it clear that if the first penalty should have been given, the second should not. Laudrup took an age to answer the question about whether he felt Townsend had dived.

“I don’t know him enough to say,” he said. “But he fell both times quite easily. On the first time, there was some contact but I don’t want to judge him on one game. If you start to say someone is cheating or falling lightly, I know things start a debate, as it has with other players. I don’t want to do that. They got the penalty . . . one out of two, I guess. It was a very light penalty.” *

Tottenham, though, deserved to win. They restricted opposition that normally hogs possession, they created the majority of the chances and they watched Swansea come to life in an attacking sense only in the final 20 minutes.

Pablo Hernandez curled narrowly past the far post while Chico Flores caught a volley on the run impossibly sweetly, only for Hugo Lloris to make an excellent save. Hernandez had another sighting but, after a Michael Dawson tackle and a ricochet, Lloris gathered. Where Capoue was imposing, Paulinho was thrusting and skilful – he dumped Jose Canas on his backside after one trick and nutmegged Shelvey with another – and he might still be asking how he did not score.

He thumped a shot from eight yards at Vorm, after Ashley Williams had headed against his own post, while he also fluffed a volley in the first half and was thwarted by Vorm when clean through at the very end.

The Swansea goalkeeper also tipped over in acrobatic fashion from Mousa Dembele on 35 minutes. Townsend was dynamic throughout and, on this form, the injured Aaron Lennon will not walk back into the team. Lennon has a slight foot problem, although a big-money move to Madrid is not in the offing for him.

Townsend had fizzed a left-footed drive over the crossbar in the 54th minute before he tore into the area to see Shelvey nibble at him. Shelvey instantly regretted it but the damage was done. "Andros has one objective when he receives the ball and it is to take on the man and beat the man," said Villas-Boas.
Guardian Service