July 31, 2012
By Adam Burrows
SPURS UNDER THEIR SADDLE
Red Bulls fall to Tottenham 2-1
Special to Big Apple Soccer
HARRISON, NJ---Second-half goals from Gareth Bale and Gylfi Sigurdsson overcame an early Kenny Cooper penalty kick as Tottenham Hotspur concluded its three-stop US tour with a 2-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls to claim the 2012 Barclay’s New York Cup before a spirited crowd of 21,701 at Red Bull Arena.
|Kenny Cooper's seventh-minute penalty kick was about all the offense the Red Bulls could muster againt Tottenham Hotspur Tuesday night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The difference would have been greater had it not been for three top-shelf saves by Red Bull goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, while New York only managed only one shot the entire evening.
“The way that he’s been playing has been 100% for us,” said Red Bull coach Head Hans Backe of Gaudette. “He’s been playing great. Outstanding. Even when we lost against Montreal he was our best player. He kept us in the game.”
As the match started, a soot-stained New Jersey sky gave way to clear blue with temperatures and humidity far more conducive to soccer than those that paralyzed play for Tottenham and Liverpool in Baltimore on Saturday.
Tottenham supporters behind goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes started up a lusty “When the Spurs Go Marching In” that was answered with equal fervor by the hometown crowd at the opposite end.
Through the early going, the action on the patchy pitch matched the intensity in the stands; play slowed down as the half progressed then picked up again after the break.
Tim Cahill, no stranger to Tottenham, having scored two of his 56 Everton league goals against Spurs over an eight-year career with the Toffees, wasted no time in his Red Bull debut, chesting down a seventh-minute long-ball from Connor Lade over the top of the high Tottenham line favored by new manager Andres Villas-Boas and getting dragged down from behind in the box by Jan Vertonghen.
Cooper stutter-stepped to the spot and as Gomes dove left, the big striker calmly slotted the penalty into the opposite corner for an early Red Bull lead.
Bale, back at full speed after a hard challenge from Liverpool’s Charlie Adam on Saturday, nearly equalized in the 12th minute, curling a free kick from just outside the box that a leaping Gaudette just managed to tip over the bar.
Five minutes later, Bale found Tom Huddlestone making a run into the box, but Gaudette knocked aside the big midfielder’s uncontested left-footed drive.
Huddlestone, who was hobbled by injuries last year, looked fit in his deep midfield role and appeared ready to challenge left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto for the biggest hair at White Hart Lane this season.
After intermission, Gaudette came up big again in the 54th minute, touching away an Aaron Lennon volley with an outstretched right hand after Bale wove through the box from the left and sent a cross through traffic.
Bale finally found the equalizer for Tottenham five minutes later, easily out-leaping Dax McCarty to head a Sigurdsson corner kick into the upper register.
It took Tottenham only five more minutes to take the lead, their second goal a product of individual brilliance from Sigurdsson.
The Icelandic international, signed in early July from Hoffenheim after a successful loan spell with Swansea, traveled left from the top of the box, then cut inside a badly deceived Markus Holgersson before delivering a carefully directed right-footed curler inside the far post.
“He had a tremendous impact,” said Villas-Boas of Sigurdsson. “Today his quality was proven once again. His shooting precision like it was when he finished at Swansea where he had a tremendous record. He tries to get into positions to finish and tonight he found that small gap and he put it the back of the net.”
Michael Dawson nearly added to the visitors’ lead two minutes later, but his close-range chip off a corner kick was rejected by the crossbar.
For New York, Thierry Henry had the night off and Rafa Marquez was a late scratch due to calf discomfort during warm-ups.
Cahill played the opening forty-five minutes, before giving way to Victor Palssen.
“I’ve seen Tim so many, many years in the Premiership, I’m not surprised," noted Backe of Cahill's role in the lone Red Bull score. "He’s a huge, huge signing for us. Just picking up that penalty, the way he organized the midfield, the shape first half. Phenomenal.”
With an Emmanuel Adebayor permanent transfer deal still being worked out and Jermaine Defoe back home following the death of his cousin, Villas-Boas had few conventional options up top, choosing to deploy Bale as a lone striker and Sigurdsson in the hole to start the game.
19-year-old academy product Harry Kane came off the bench after intermission at forward, the muscular youngster impressing with his movement off the ball as well as his ability to draw and hold off defenders, while Bale moved to the flanks.
“We’re still looking at the best place to play him,” acknowledged Villas-Boas of Bale after the match. “This was only his second game as striker. He played well in the second half though, drifting to the center off the wing.”
Villas-Boas looked comfortable and relaxed in his new job as he worked the Tottenham touchline in white polo, blue track pants, and white sneakers, crouching in his characteristic squat then popping up to exhort his players and give instructions.
“The most important thing for us is obviously the response that we had from the first half to the second half,” said Villas-Boas of the exhibition win. “It was an emotional response to keep cool in our minds to continue to make good decisions. When you have this emotion even though it’s a friendly and preseason, you want to try to win games and do good things.”
Tottenham returns to England to start its Premiership campaign against Newcastle at St. James Park on August 18th while the Red Bulls resume MLS play against Houston at Red Bull Arena on Saturday.