In very difficult conditions for the opening match of the Barclays Asia Cup in Hong Kong, Tottenham and Sunderland took the game seriously with no quarter given by either side. Michael Dawson revelled in the conditions as Tottenham took a first half lead but were quickly pulled back and in the second half, two goals saw Sunderland progress to Saturday’s final.Team: Gomes; Walker, Caulker, Dawson, Rose; Huddlestone, Lennon, Parker; Dempsey, Sigurdsson, Adebayor
Subs: Friedel, Lloris, Assou-Ekotto, Fryers, Naughton, Vertonghen, Carroll, Townsend, Defoe
For their opening match in the Barclays Asia Cup against Sunderland, Andre Villas-Boas continued to give game time to as many players as possible. Heurelho Gomes started for the first time this season and Clint Dempsey was back after a delayed return due to international duties during the summer. Aaron Lennon returned to the team after injury but Gareth Bale was again absent due to an injury picked up in training. The team was a mix of first choice regulars with squad players.
The absence of other players not included in the squad was explained by this tweet.
Bale, Kaboul, Sandro, Holtby and others are still not fit. Paulinho remains on holiday and Chadli failed to register in time for #BAT2013.
— Talking THFC™ (@TalkingTHFC) July 24, 2013
Mousa Dembele is also out with sinus problems, although he is with the squad and watched the match from the stands.
The torrential rain in Hong Kong put the match in doubt but a decision was made to delay kick-off by thirty minutes with the unusual decision to reduce the game to 40 minutes each way.
The pitch was very wet with a lot of surface water especially in the centre of the pitch. Within two minutes, Spurs had a free-kick for a foul on Dempsey. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s shot went just past the post.
In a quick break by Sunderland after 6 minutes, Steven Caulker misjudged the bounce of the ball from the clearance but Michael Dawson got back to cover and the final shot went well wide. Sunderland played the more constructive football in the early stages but Dawson showed his usual total commitment as he blocked a shot that looked goal-bound.
After 12 minutes, the rain returned to make the conditions even more difficult. On 17 minutes a free-kick from Dempsey went straight into the wall after shirt pulling on Adebayor.
Michael Dawson was in his element in the conditions, winning the ball and obviously determined to show he deserves his place in the team this season. A good run and cross from Danny Rose was cleared as there was no Spurs players up in the penalty area. A shot from Tom Huddlestone was blocked as Spurs put a few passes together with Adebayor involved in the build up.
The wet surface continued to make passing football difficult, holding the ball up but after 27 minutes, Spurs took advantage of the drier pitch in the final third. Huddlestone found Walker wide on the right and he got forward to put a cross in from the bye-line towards Sigurdsson whose shot took a defection on its way into the net.
After 32 minutes, Gomes rescued Spurs with a block when Sunderland broke quickly but a minute later he had no chance when Huddlestone was dispossessed by Altidore and presented Cabral with a chance to equalise.
On 37 minutes Gomes saved low from Gardner’s free-kick as Sunderland troubled Spurs in a very competitive game.
Half-time: Tottenham 1 Sunderland 1
Second Half Team:
Brad Friedel took over in goal with Jan Vertonghen and Jermain Defoe came on for Steven Caulker and Aaron Lennon.
Poor defending in the opening minute by Spurs presented Altidore with a chance in the six yard box but he missed the ball and Friedel collected it safely. A corner at each end caused few problems. Vertonghen went down after a challenge and had to be replaced after only five minutes on the pitch. Zeke Fryers replaced Vertonghen. Again poor defensive work presented Altidore with another chance but he put his shot across the goal.
A quick break by Defoe on the right but his shot was blocked with Sigurdsson looking for the ball to be played across to him. Fryers first contribution was a good headed clearance. On 54 minutes good link up play between Defoe, Dempsey and Adebayor ended with a chip by Adebayor being pushed over by the goalkeeper. A minute later they again linked with Rose on the left but Adebayor’s shot went well wide.
Tottenham were making better use of their possession and Defoe had a shot well saved by the goalkeeper after 59 minutes, when he got to a cross from Rose. Again good passing enabled Sigurdsson to cross towards Defoe but the goalkeeper punched clear, although Defoe was off-side. A minute later Dawson, cleared for a corner but the defence left Brown unmarked to put Sunderland ahead after 64 minutes with a header.
A poor clearance by the Sunderland goalkeeper fell to Defoe but he was unable to put in a shot. For the final ten minutes, Tom Carroll and Andros Townsend replaced Huddlestone and Dempsey but it was Friedel who kept Spurs in the game with three great saves. A long run by Townsend was blocked by the Sunderland defence and in the final seconds, Carlson scored a third.
Always disappoinbting to lose but it’s apreseason friendly with the main issue of getting players fit. It was a very competitive match in difficult conditions but it was very much a second string team who played today, plenty of top players to come back in future games. So there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming days.