SUNDAY 11TH MARCH, 2001
AXA F.A. CUP 6TH ROUND
WEST HAM UNITED 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1)
West Ham scorers:-
Rebrov, 32, 57
Referee:- Andy D'Urso
West Ham (3-5-2):- Hislop; Dailly, Stimac, Pearce (S); Schemmel (sub Todorov, 67), Lampard, Carrick, Cole, Winterburn; Kanoute, Di Canio (Capt.)
Subs not used:- Forrest; Song, Pearce (I); Moncur
Spurs (3-5-2):- Sullivan; Perry, Campbell (Capt.), Doherty; Iversen, Freund, Clemence, King, Young; Rebrov, Ferdinand (sub Korsten, 88)
Subs not used:- Walker; Gardner; Davies, Etherington
Booked:- Sullivan (Dissent), Clemence (Foul), Doherty (Foul), Ferdinand (Dissent)
What a match! Filled with tension for the partisan spectator, whether at the ground, or watching the live screening, and entertaining and enthralling enough to keep the most neutral viewer happy. Spurs, who dominated the first half, and who should have had at least a two goal lead at the interval, did manage to create such a cushion by the 67th minute. Then the Hammers threw everything at them, got one goal back, but just failed to break down the stalwart defence. Neil Sullivan won the Man of the Match award from Sky, but every team member was a hero.
Spurs then, are through to their fifth FA Cup semi-final in 10 years, and their third in that time against Arsenal. Amazingly, in a season where away wins have been so rare, we have managed three in the Cup, and this is one of the most memorable for quite a while! Despite all the psychology going into this game, West ham managed to field their first choice side, including the influential Stuart Pearce, and it was Spurs who missed another key player, as Tim Sherwood failed to pass the fitness test. Clemence was put into midfield, and Luke Young switched to left wing-back, whilst Steffen Iversen returned on the opposite flank. Chris Perry was also welcomed back, and Ledley King had another storming game in the middle, demonstrating coolness at such a young age, in this high pressure situation.
The game started quietly enough, as both sides put the feelers out. Neil Sullivan got needlessly booked after 9 minutes, for giving the linesman stick over a throw-in decision. Then two-goal hero Sergei Rebrov latched onto a miscue from Stimac, but fired his shot well over the target. He was, no doubt just getting his sights sorted out for later! Almost immediately, Sergei put Les Ferdinand through, and hero Pearce got in a timely block. (Pearce gets a lot of stick from Spurs, but I for one would have welcomed this man in our side when in his prime. He still does a good job for West ham at 39.)
The first real threat from the home side came when Di Canio reacted quickly to a throw down the line, and although he was chased by Perry, the Italian put a low cross over from the left, and Kanoute was closed down by both Campbell and Doherty, as he shot. There were penalty appeals from the fans, but these were not justified, or heeded by the referee. Les Ferdinand received the ball near the left touchline, and showed pace as he cut inside and hit a low powerful shot to Hislop's right. The goalkeeper nudged the ball round the post, and Les was injured in the process of shooting, but thankfully recovered. Since his return from his last injury, I think we are seeing what we missed through much of Les's first three seasons, as he was out for so long injured. He could even be found covering at left back at times today - such was the degree of effort.
The chances kept coming for Spurs, and all West ham could manage were speculative long shots from Lampard and his midfield partners. Luke Young had a decent long shot go just wide, before some sharp build up play led to Steffen Iversen sending a short pass to Clemence at the far post, whose left foot shot was pushed round by Hislop, who was easily the busiest keeper in that first half. On the half hour, Les and Steffen Freund combined on the right. Freund lobbed a cross and Luke Young headed it onto the outside of the post with the keeper struggling.
The deserved lead followed. Iversen just failed to reach a Freund long throw, which reached the unmarked Rebrov, who hit a fantastic volley into the top right corner, to reach double figures this season in all competitions. West Ham then asserted themselves more, but their equaliser still came out of the blue. Kanoute was fouled 25 yards out on the right side of the box, which was perfect territory for Pearce. Sure enough he stepped up, and with a little touch from a team-mate, sent the ball rocketing to the bottom left corner (Sullivan's right), despite the efforts to line up the wall correctly. The half time scoreline flattered the hosts, and Spurs had to start all over again.
The second half nearly began with a nightmare, as Clemence gifted the ball to Kanoute, who somehow managed to send the ball miles wide, despite only having Sullivan to beat. This one incident may have shown how West ham were perhaps too anxious about the result, whilst for most of the game, Spurs were eager but more controlled. Despite this gaff, and one or two failed passes, Clemence generally had a better game in the middle, where he is, after all, more comfortable.
West Ham were improved for the break, and were finding more space in the middle, and particularly on their right flank, where Luke Young did not seem to be always getting the support he needed. Sullivan was down well to a Cole shot, and was to repeat his sharp actions throughout the second half. Hislop though had to make yet another save as Gary Doherty headed down a Clemence fee kick, for Sol Campbell to hit a powerful drive just inside the post.
The lead was increased with a route one goal. Les Ferdinand headed on Neil Sullivan's clearance, and the eager Rebrov hit a low right foot shot across the keeper. The Hammers could afford to throw the kitchen sink at Tottenham, and Dailly started to appear more and more in the Spurs area. Sullivan's safe hands thwarted one of his efforts. With half an hour still to go, Gary Doherty popped up at the back post to head home a Rebrov corner. The ball sneaked in low down to Hislop's left, and Joe Cole was getting some criticism later for deserting this location.
Harry Redknapp increased his strikeforce with the Bulgarian player Todorov, and really, from here on in, it was a backs to the wall job for the Spurs. Sullivan did well to adjust and save a deflected Cole shot, but the lead was reduced with 20 minutes still to play, when a Cole pass rebounded into the path of Todorov, off Luke Young, and the substitute made no mistake from close range.
That Spurs exposed left flank enabled Di Canio and Dailly to get the ball to Cole, but again the keeper saved. Steffen Iversen did force a flying save from Hislop as he hit a right foot cracker towards the top right corner, but the tension was soon back on Spurs, as Di Canio gave Perry the slip, but fired wide from a tight angle. Sullivan had more saves to make in the late stages from Kanoute and Todorov, but all the team defended well, and deserved the little bit of luck that went their way, as there were times when I didn't know how the ball did not go in the net!
At the end , the celebrations were loud and proud. Freund climbed into the crowd to join in, and Sullivan, Rebrov and Clemence in particular were ecstatic. These were the players that showed the most passion about the result, whilst of course, all the team was so happy! They might not have known about the semi-final draw that had been held before the game started, but we did!
For the moment, this win is to be savoured, as our season is kept alive. We can look forward to the encounter with those from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road tomorrow!
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