Russian roulette

Slipping to a narrow defeat is worse against a team like Tottenham than most others. Still this 1-0-loss att White heart lane was not a loss that hurted more than others this time. We lacked too many of our best players, still we played OK and were not much worse than Spurs with all their best players ready to play. You can beat Sunderland without our two dominating players this year, Cole and Parker as well as Collison, and Behrami. But not Tottenham. At least not with Ledley King in the team. Still: It was just a lovely taken goal from a substitute and natural goalscorer that differed the sides this Saturday. While Tottenham had Bale, Chimbonda, Cudicini, Dawson, Zokora, Pavlyuchenko and Bentely on the bench we had Lastuvka, Payne, Lopez, N'Gala, Sears, a still not ready Dyer and Savio. So when both teams needed a push of energy, well... our bench was not as powerful as theirs... Still I'm very, very proud of having three 19 year old players there, as well as Stanislas and Tomkins on the field. And at least this was a real effort - as opposed to last game against Spurs, from our boys.

But no points against Tottenham this year either. It may be crucial to reach 7th spot in the end. But as I promised Joppe, we will at least take a point from Villa next week.

My ranks:

Green 8 - Probably our best player today with some really good saves. Could do nothing on Pavluchenkos goal.
Tomkins 5,5 - Had to play RB, which is not his place on the field, so he had some problems with Keane and Assou-Ekotto just because his unaccostomed place on the field. But surprised me by goin forward and doing it quite well. May have to be satisfied with a place on the bench next game which is very unfair, but could Zola drop Collins or Upson now? Tomkins would probably be better than Neill as a RB in just a few games, but Zola won't drop his captain.
Collins 8 - Great game, even if he was one tiny micro-second to late when Pavluchenko feinted him in the box and then scored. But our ginger Welsh did very well otherwise, blocked shots as usual, won headers and cleared tha ball of the goalline.
Upson 7 - You don't see much of Upson in the games and sometimes you winder if that's becuase he is doin his job so well or if it' cause he let's Collins take more responibility? Missed an important header but played with big confidence and did it well.
Ilunga 6,5 - Besides an misjudged tackle on Corluka he played very, very well in defence (and Lennon had to change flank). But get's less possession goin forward nowadays. Could have had the ball a couple of times from his teammates to put a cross in, now he just had to stay there and watch. Something for Chadwell heath Tuesday morning!
Boa Morte 6,5 - Very important for us today, as he dig in and never stops running. Was great help for the defence today - at a numerous of times. And teased the Tottenham players with his rough play. Liked that. Still, he needs to provide something going forward as well. We did not see any good passes to Stanislas today ;-). I disliked to see him subbed first.
Noble 7 - His first half was excellent and then probably our best player as he found his teammates over and over again, worked hard and stole the ball. Seemed to show Huddlestone who is the better of the two young midfielders. Seemed more tired in the second half and becuase of the fatigue he misplaced far to many passes.
Neill 6,5 - I prefer to see him as a defensive midfielder rather than RB, and the idea from Zola was not bad. Involved a lot which triggers him. His rough style suits him better as a defensive midfielder. Still very immobile. Specially sideways. And will not be the one to find us fast counterattacks. Will be dropped to the benefit of Parker next game.
Stanislas 6,5 - Showed we he should be in the team, once every tenth minute or so. Was not as dominate as last time, but agin showed great versatility and workes hard as well even if he disappered sometimes. But O God if Di Michele had tried to pass him instead of taking that bad sht, Stanislas could have been our Saviour this time around too.
Tristan 4,5 - Yes, he had a beuatiful run when he tricked himself past three players in the midfield. But that was about it. Let Savio or Dyer - or Bajner - start next game. He does not provide our team enough right now.
Di Michele 5 - He have promised us goals but if his effort free with Gomes is his best shot... forget it. Runs well, has energy works hard, and do sometimes find the gaps between the opponent defence, but far to self-absorbed. Looses the ball far to easy and misjudges his passes. As he is not a natural goalscorer he should be able to look up and see where his teammates are even close to the box. He could have found Stanislas at two occasions instead of a shoot at every (bad) opportunity. Not pleased with him today.

Subs: Dyer 5 - (n for LBM) I wanted to see him from the start. We all now that he can't last for a full game yet, but couldn't he have more than 20 minutes now? Came in to late and in an hard situation which did not do his qualities any favors.
Savio 5 - (On for Tomkins) Also too late sub. Was not able to find his feet.
Sears 4 - And this man had lost his shoes? Used his few minutes on the field to fall all the time.

I think we really could have had a draw here, and that wouldn't have been unfair. In the end the opportunities could have gone our way, but the hosts were the lucky guys on the roulette wheel this evening. All thanks to the expensive Russian sub. But let's face it: if one team should have won this game it was - sad to say - the right team that won. With Cole on the pitch, he or someone around him would have scored that equaliser we never were close to get.

The loss of Cole (and Parker) may be too much to bear from now on. I don't see that the 7th spot is crucial in any way. I think this season will be considered as terrific anyway. But if the team really want to hold on to that we needs at least one point from Villa and one from Chelsea in our next two games. Not impossible att all, but we need to play better than this and to be able to create our own chances. We all know that we have a really strong defence, but to cope we need to push forward as well. I would continue to play Stanislas and Boa Morte too (if we need), but Tristan? No way. Rather Hines! We could have done with a clever player like Modric though...

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