FA CUP SEMI-FINAL
SUNDAY 11TH APRIL, 2010
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) PORTSMOUTH 2 (0)
(after extra time)
Boateng (pen), 117
Assistants:- Mr. P. Kirkup & Mr. D. Richardson
Fourth Official:- Mr. S. Atwell
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson (Capt.), Bassong, Bale; Bentley (sub Kranjcar, 79), Huddlestone (sub Gudjohnsen, 102), Palacios, Modric; Defoe (sub Pavlyuchenko, 59), Crouch
Subs not used:- Alnwick; Ekotto; Livermore, Rose
Booked:- Huddlestone, Palacios, Bassong
Portsmouth (4-3-2-1):- James (Capt.); Finnan, Mokoena, Rocha, Mullins (sub Hughes, 119); Yebda (sub Utaka, 87), Wilson, Brown; Dindane, Boateng; Piquionne (sub Diop, 112)
Subs not used:- Ashdown; Basinas, Smith, Kanu
Booked:- Dindane, Boateng
It hurts me still, and probably always will
It was a week-end of sporting fairy tales including Tony McCoy’s first Grand National win, and Ross County’s cup win over Robbie Keane’s Celtic, but at Wembley yesterday these were capped by Portsmouth’s achievement of reaching the FA Cup Final after a season of adversity, relegation and financial disaster. Whilst I take my hat off to Avram Grant’s tactical nous, and congratulate the Portsmouth fans on their fairy tale coming true, my need is to mourn the shattering of Spurs season as we come to the crunch. In theory, we still have that Champions League place in our own hands, but on this form and performance and lack of belief and desire are we going to do it? The answer is a resounding “No”, and Harry Redknapp will soon feel the anguish of Spurs fans who feel so let down by defeat at Sunderland and now against Portsmouth, where we were strong odds-on favourites to go through to the final. It was Spurs fifth consecutive FA Cup semi-final defeat.
This report is written without the benefit of any TV viewing, and is written from the heart and what I believe I saw with my own eyes. There were several ironies to consume about this defeat. Former Spur Ricardo Rocha (miraculously recovered from a fractured cheek-bone) was announced as man of the match. Former Spur Kevin-Prince Boateng took great delight in planting Pompey’s second goal beyond Gomes from the penalty spot. Jamie O’Hara is a Spurs player but was apparently rooting for his loan team so he could play in the Final. Perhaps the greatest of them all was that in recent weeks, Spurs have been pussy-footing around trying to protect Wilson Palacios from a tenth booking on or before yesterday’s amnesty day. Then in the dying minutes of extra time, Palacios gave away the deciding penalty, and saw Mr Wiley’s yellow card. My belief is that Palacios will now miss both the Arsenal and Chelsea games, as bookings now take immediate effect.
The rumours that we had heard about team selection were correct, as Harry picked Vedran Corluka, Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone. Whether they were all really match fit is another question. Tom Huddlestone made a couple of excellent early passes, and brought James’ best save of the first half with a great left foot effort across the goal, but with Palacios playing off the pace to try not to get booked, and Tom sometimes just not being there, Spurs were surrendering too much space and initiative to their supposedly inferior opponents.
Avram Grant seemed to have adopted a Chelsea style strategy, with Piquionne the front man supported from either side by Dindane and Boateng. Yebda was getting forward to good effect as well, whilst Wilson and Brown held the fort in front of the defence. Reports say that the poor Wembley turf had a lot to do with the result, but that was the same for both teams, wasn’t it? Dawson’s slip for the first goal, and one or two bookings were attributed to players losing their footing at vital moments.
Portsmouth’s support has a worthy reputation, and theirs was the most vocal throughout proceedings yesterday, with Spurs fans rarely being inspired by their charges. Overall, I’d say that Spurs dominated possession and chances, but they failed to truly test David James sufficiently, whereas Gomes had to make a number of challenging saves from the Pompey breakaway attacks.
The quality and passion of the game was not enough to lift the atmosphere for prolonged periods of the game. Huddlestone had an early shot well over the target following a Bentley free kick, and then after a Bentley corner, Bassong headed down where Defoe contrived to scoop his shot over the bar from close range. There was a deflection for another corner though. Spurs had a further series of corners after 10 minutes, but James was on top of the situation in his natty pink jersey. Portsmouth had their first effort after 11 minutes, as they broke through the middle with pace, and Piquionne’s deflected shot was held by Gomes.
Spurs cleared after a little uncertainty in the box from Dawson, and then Modric created a shooting opportunity with great skill, but fired over. Over the course of the game, I’d say that Modric and Bale played out of their skins, whilst Gomes was reliable in goal. There was plenty of effort from Peter Crouch too, but it just never seemed to work out for him and for Spurs, where a number of other players did not match the effort of those mentioned.
Gomes held a shot by Piquionne after a Portsmouth corner, before Modric tried a shot with his right foot that landed without power on top of the net. After 25 minutes, Bassong was harshly penalised just outside the Spurs area. Wilson ran over the ball, and Boateng took the kick, for which Gomes dived to his right but saw the ball pass wide anyway. David James had probably won the toss, as Pompey played towards their fans in the first half, when Gomes was facing the sun. Huddlestone hit a good left footed cross after 27 minutes, and Crouch put some power into his header but James saved.
After 36 minutes, Pompey made one of their fast breaks into Spurs territory. Gomes saved from Piquionne, then also saved from a follow up effort too. Huddlestone hit a left footed shot from 30 yards towards James’ top left corner, but the keeper managed to push the ball round the post for a corner. In first half added time, Crouch and Bentley had efforts deflected and Spurs won a corner, but that was all.
In the first minute of the second half, Crouch headed down a long ball by Huddlestone and Defoe’s shot was blocked. There was one of those Portsmouth breaks after 55 minutes, ending in a cross by Dindane and a header by Piquionne, saved by Gomes. A Bale cross was headed down by Crouch for Defoe again, but his shot was easy meat for David James. Defoe was soon replaced by Pavlyuchenko, who worked hard without really achieving any more than had Defoe. After some great effort by Modric and Bale, Bale’s cross seemed to hit a Pompey hand, but the referee waved away any thoughts of a penalty. Corluka had a shot after making room for himself, using his weaker left foot to fire over. Pavlyuchenko had a try from 25 yards out, but went wide, and Crouch headed a Bentley cross wide. Crouch forced another corner after 68 minutes, after a good move from Huddlestone, Modric and Bale. Even Corluka tried to get in on the act again with a cross/shot that won another corner.
After some great play through the middle by Palacios, and a pass to the ever industrious Bale, the cross to the back post was met by Crouch, who headed into the side netting. Bentley was replaced by Kranjcar who was predictably booed by the Portsmouth fans, who had also consistently booed their other former charges, and manager of course. In added time, Crouch was on the end of more Modric/Bale creativity, and Modric had a pop at goal himself, but 90 minutes arrived without a goal.
Piquionne had the first chance of extra time, with a right foot shot into the side netting, and then Modric fed Palacios who fired wildly from outside the box. James held a Kranjcar effort before Portsmouth took a devastating 99th minute lead. It came from a free kick taken by Wilson, headed down by Boateng, with an apparent slip by Dawson, leaving Piquionne with the goal at his mercy. He did not fail to beat Gomes. Modric, Bale and Pavlyuchenko were involved in the build up to another chance for Crouch, which went wide. Then, after a herculean effort by Bale to take the ball down the line and to reach it and cross, Crouch did have the ball in the net, but the referee decided that Kranjcar had impeded James. This was the first of the major injustices felt by Spurs fans.
The second came in the second half of extra time, as Bale crossed powerfully and the ball seemed to be handled. If Kyle Walker was penalised at Sunderland last week, why did Pompey get away with it this time? The Spurs disaster was complete when Palacios committed the foul on Dindane (some observers say he got the ball), and Boateng converted the penalty to his great delight and that of all Portsmouth connections.
Spurs fans left in droves contemplating a shattered dream and a season that lies potentially in tatters. They need to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and beat the gooners on Wednesday night. Can it be done? I might still be hurting, but I’ll be there to see my beloved Spurs!
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