Monday 18 December 2017

Redknapp joy at late mugging

Newcastle Utd 1 Tottenham 1

After being mugged in Madrid on Thursday, the last thing Harry Redknapp needed yesterday was to see his defence pick-pocketed by an Argentinian centre-half temporarily moonlighting as a striker. The Tottenham boss will not have cared to reflect that Fabricio Coloccini's elusive advance into the area and technically accomplished finish were surely as skilful as any illegal manoeuvre a Spanish pickpocket could pull off.

Although Newcastle subsequently had enough chances to win, Spurs contributed the superior passing and movement. Justice was arguably when done Aaron Lennon grabbed a stoppage-time equaliser, leaving Alan Pardew looking as if he, too, was the victim of a mugging.

"It was a strange game," Newcastle's manager said. "We ain't a good team yet and we were up against a great team. Tottenham kept the ball unbelievably well at times and their movement and quality knocked the stuffing out of us. Then, in the second half, we were a lot better and, for all their class, the bigger threat."

If Pardew's side were collectively second-best for long periods, Newcastle possessed the game's outstanding individual in Coloccini. The Argentinian is so comfortable on the ball he could easily operate in midfield and showed why during a second-half left-sided advance.

After stepping inside Alan Hutton, Coloccini chested down Danny Guthrie's superbly lofted long pass, adjusted his body shape and, having created the most favourable shooting angle, unleashed a seamless, superlative half-volley to which Carlo Cudicini was unequal.

If that was eye-catching, two earlier immaculate, impeccably timed, goal-preventing tackles on Steven Pienaar and Jermain Defoe from the Argentinian were probably just as important. Coloccini's goal could swiftly have been followed by a second had Cudicini not performed wonders to repel strikes from first Peter Lovenkrands and then Shola Ameobi.

Thwarted, Pardew's side turned nervous. First they began dropping far too deep and then, remembering that could be a risky tactic, Newcastle went jaw-droppingly gung-ho, throwing bodies forward at every opportunity.

Suitably encouraged by Joey Barton's untypical concession of possession, Spurs pounced with Luka Modric unleashing a powerful shot that rebounded off the bar. Failing to heed this warning, Pardew's men left themselves similarly exposed and defensively ill-positioned when, in stoppage-time, Michael Dawson, Peter Crouch and Defoe combined on the counter to set up Lennon. The winger dodged the attentions of Mike Williamson and Danny Simpson before shooting home the equaliser.

"We opened Newcastle up without scoring, we got in some great positions," said Redknapp, whose side stay fifth, two places above Pardew's. "But, considering we were losing that late, it's a point gained."

The outcome might have been different had Gareth Bale, deployed at left-back, not succumbed to an 11th-minute back injury, necessitating his replacement by Sebastien Bassong. "With Joey Barton on the right Newcastle play very narrow in midfield and I thought Gareth would have run them ragged," Redknapp said. "His departure left a big hole."

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