After a long break from Premier League, Reading welcomed Tottenham Hotspurs by fielding their best XI, who impressed in the loss at Stamford Bridge, apart from first choice goalkeeper Federici, who is replaced by debutant Alex McCarthy. Guthrie played behind Pogrebnyak and the 4-5-1 had to be at their best to contain Tottenham's wingers Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, especially Chris Gunter and Ian Harte are not the best defending full backs.
Still in search for their first win, Andre Villas-Boas dropped Jake Livermore and the injured Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Dembele, who scored at White Hart Lane in his debut, and versatile full back Kyle Naughton got the nod to start. Sigurdsson, still yet to impress the Yids, supported the confident and in-form Defoe. Lloris and Dempsey started the match on bench.
Reading attempted to repeat the success of West Brom and Norwich by playing counter-attack against Tottenham, but they could not get the basics right. The defence could not make Tottenham's life harder. Alex McCarthy's heavy touch was nearly punished. Ian Harte's first half was terrible as well. They struggled throughout the match to catch up with the pace of Tottenham. At the same time, Pogrebnyak did not have the speed to outpace Gallas and Vertonghen. Substitutes Robson-Kanu and Noel Hunt caught their opponents out in a typical counter-attack. Other than that, on a day when Ian Harte's set pieces were not sharp enough, Reading was only slightly better than toothless.
Tottenham left with a smiling face and their first league victory this season, but there is more work to be done if they are to challenge the top four. Another late goal conceded did not boast the confidence of the defence, who was otherwise solid, or more accurately, unchallenged. Besides, they failed to make opponents pay for their mistakes. Lennon and Sigurdsson could not extend Tottenham's lead in the first half. This led to an anxious five minutes spell in the second half when Reading threatened to pull level. Bale's goal was with a bit of luck, as his right foot shot could not cleanly hit the ball.
The first goal was a typical Tottenham style, with Lennon released at the back of Ian Harte and found Defoe with a cut back pass. It proves that when the wingers get going, Tottenham is a way better team. The midfield dominated the tempo, but was not very organised in attack. Sigurdsson continued to look nervy, despite his brilliant pass leading to the first goal. Sandro's active forward run kept Dembele on the back foot, and the Belgian did not really get into the match until the second half. Andre Villas-Boas needs to find the right balance in the midfield combination, especially with Dempsey already itching to join the starting lineup.
Player of the Game: Jermain Defoe continued his hot form with a brace. His eagerness for goals is perfect for Tottenham, who lacks a finisher at the moment. His shot choice occasionally frustrates his teammates, but his hard work in pressing the defenders deserves appreciation. Defoe seldom disappoints his manager when facing average centre backs. Now he needs to bring this quality display to big matches.
Flops of the Game: In a match where the midfield had been overpowered, Danny Guthrie posed little influence without the ball at feet. He has been more used to dropping deeper to help build up an attack, but with Pogrebnyak alone up front, McDermott wanted to utilise Guthrie's attacking wisdom and played him as trequartista. It did not work in this particular match, especially in the first half when Reading hardly got the possession. McDermott might have to rethink where to position Guthrie in order to get the most out of the creative midfielder.
What if Robson-Kanu and Noel Hunt came in earlier? Has Brian McDermott regretted of not bringing in the two substitutes slightly earlier? He may well have. The pair spent less than ten minutes in the field and exposed Tottenham's defence in a counter-attack, with another substitute Le Fondre supplying the assist. The trio had the speed to unlock Gallas and Vertonghen. McDermott did not continue piling the pressure on when Reading was dominating in the second half. Soon after, Bale got the best of luck and sealed the game. Should McDermott be more determined, the story of the match could be completely different.
What if Gareth Bale was content to play on the left? The Linesman has not once stressed that Tottenham is the most dangerous when Bale hugs the left flank. This match is another strong evidence to be presented to the Welsh winger. He has the speed and footwork, but his decision-making in the final third does not make him a better player in the centre, while his pinpoint passes make him a world-class winger. It would definitely be more beneficial to Tottenham if Bale begins his personal training after he helps the team clinch the victory first.
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