Tottenham Players Who Shone in Preseason Friendly vs. Sunderland

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2013

Tottenham Players Who Shone in Preseason Friendly vs. Sunderland

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    Tottenham Hotspur lost 3-1 to Sunderland in their preseason Barclays Asia Trophy semifinal on Wednesday.

    Gylfi Sigurdsson opened the scoring with a deflected effort from around the penalty spot. Sunderland equalized six minutes later when Jozy Altidore took advantage of poor control from Tom Huddlestone to tee up Cabral.

    Wes Brown gave Paolo Di Canio's team a second-half lead when he caught Zeki Fryers asleep to head in from a corner. In the final minute, Danny Rose allowed David Moberg Karlsson to race unmarked onto a ball from deep—the Swede calmly finishing past Brad Friedel.

    Kickoff at the Hong Kong National Stadium had been delayed by 30 minutes due to torrential rain.

    Conditions improved sufficiently for the match to take place, but it was still shortened to 40 minutes each way as a result of the weather and the second semifinal following directly.

    As preseason friendlies go, the Premier League opposition made for a match that was livelier than most.

    Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas allowed more of his first-team squad a longer run-out. Concessions were still made to the relatively early stage of preseason however, with several second-half changes made.

    Emmanuel Adebayor improved as the match went on, getting increasingly involved and testing Vito Mannone with a curling effort the Italian did well to tip over.

    Clint Dempsey and Jermain Defoe occasionally threatened too.

    Others had some decent moments, but despite losing 3-1, it was a trio of defensive players who particularly shone for Tottenham.

Michael Dawson

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    This time a year ago, Michael Dawson was anticipating becoming Andre Villas-Boas' captain for the latter's first season in charge as manager.

    The central defender had served as Ledley King's deputy in the role for a few years. In the process, he had become a reliable figure at the heart of the Tottenham defense.

    Villas-Boas decided against playing Dawson early in his tenure. Through his own solid, sporadic contributions and the failures of others, the player was able to convince the manager to pick him.

    Dawson's performance against Sunderland was that of a man eager to cement his position as early as possible this time around.

    Typically committed, he set the tone for his teammates from as early as the seventh minute. After Steven Caulker was caught out by a deceptive bounce, Dawson reacted quickly to avert the danger.

    Thereafter he provided solid resistance when Sunderland were able to get close to goal. With Spurs' midfield occasionally being bypassed by their opponents' quick and direct approach, Dawson was often first on the scene to make a block or clear with a header.

    An injury to Caulker's replacement, Jan Vertonghen, saw the Belgian replaced by Zeki Fryers. It typified a position which is clearly a work in progress for Tottenham right now.

    Villas-Boas has considerable options in central defense. In looking to convince his manager he should be on the team-sheet when a decision is made come the start of the season, Dawson did himself no harm here.

Brad Friedel

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    Heurelho Gomes' starting place against Sunderland was likely a reward for his continued hard work in training despite the unlikelihood of him seeing any action come the start of the season.

    Gomes was largely quiet in his 45 minutes in goal against the Black Cats. His replacement, Brad Friedel, was a lot busier.

    The American was called on to make several good saves from shots within the penalty area. The pick of the bunch saw him claw out a Connor Wickham header that looked destined for the top corner.

    Friedel may be number two in goalkeeping pecking order, but his display was a reminder of how fortunate Spurs are to have such a strong backup to Hugo Lloris.

    At 42 years old, Friedel remains a consummate professional and a talented shot-stopper. Even here in a preseason encounter in less than pleasant conditions, he was able to pull out a terrific performance.

    There was little he could do about either of the goals he conceded. Despite the disappointment of the defeat, Villas-Boas will be pleased he is still able to call on his veteran goalkeeper to do a job for the team.

Kyle Walker

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    Kyle Walker's refreshingly aggressive performance against Colchester United stood out among the more typically measured preseason performances on show on Friday night.

    Against Sunderland the right-back tired late on, but, for the first half especially, he was a determined presence in the Spurs side as he left his imprint on the game—and a few opposition players too.

    In only the second minute, Walker was alert to a ball going out of play. He dashed to reach it and promptly back-heeled it back in.

    That effort did not let up.

    Defensively, he won some terrific challenges. Notably, Emanuele Giaccherini was given his introduction to the English game when Walker beat him to a tackle with considerable conviction.

    Up the other end, he made a fine assist for Gylfi Sigurdsson's goal.

    Racing past several Sunderland attempts to usher him away from the penalty box, Walker glided past them and pulled back a well-weighted cross which Sigurdsson gleefully put away.

    As noted, Walker tired somewhat and a couple of mistakes slipped into his game. On one occasion, he tried to be too clever in clearing, and it led to a chance for Altidore.

    Minor quibbles aside, the 23-year-old was at it in a way that bodes well for his desire to take his performances up a level this season.

    He must be careful not to exert too much energy in these efforts. A potentially long season lies ahead for the England international.

    But after a challenging 2012-13 campaign, it is evident Walker is working hard to be a better, more consistent performer for his team this year.