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Spurs Odyssey Preview - FA Cup 6th Round
Spurs v Bolton - 27.03.12

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Bolton Cup Preview - An account of the night Muamba collapsed

· The original preview for this game is here

Tonight we welcome Bolton back to White Hart Lane, just 10 days after the first match was abandoned after Fabrice Muamba's collapse after 41 minutes. The story of Muamba's "death" for 78 minutes, his resuscitation, and his ongoing recovery is nothing less than miraculous, and has quite rightly won worldwide attention.

Fabrice has recovered to the point where he has even been sitting up out of bed, and eating. All the signs are good for ongoing improvement. Hopefully, he will be well enough to watch tonight's game, although I dare say doctors might have something to say if he gets too excited! The latest news on his condition is on this BBC page

Fabrice Muamba will be with us in spirit tonight, and once again tributes will be paid to him by both teams and the fans.

After the first game, I was asked if I was going to be providing a match report. I decided against it, out of respect for Muamba, his family, and his unknown situation at the time. However, I did prepare an item for personal records. I have since shared my article with a trusted confidante, and have been strongly encouraged to make it a public record of the events of Saturday March 17th, 2012, not so much for the current generaton, but for those who might seek to read an eye-witness acount in years to come.

So, here is my record of that historic night. It was written within 24 hours, and reflects the facts as known at that time.

FA CUP 6TH ROUND
SATURDAY 17TH MARCH, 2012
(5.30 PM)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 BOLTON WANDERERS 1
(Match abandoned after 41 minutes due to serious illness suffered by Fabrice Muamba)

Spurs scorer:-
Walker, 11

Bolton scorer:-
Bale (o.g.), 6

Attendance:- Estimated 31,000

Referee:- Howard Webb
Assistants:- Mr. P. Kirkup & Mr M. Mullarkey
Fourth official:- Mr. C. Foy

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Cudicini; Walker, Gallas, Nelsen, Assou-Ekotto; Van der Vaart, Parker (Capt.), Modric, Bale; Defoe, Saha

Subs not used:- Friedel; Kaboul, Rose; Kranjcar, Livermore, Sandro; Giovani

No Bookings

Bolton (4-1-4-1):- Bogdan; Ricketts, Boyata, Knight, Alonso; Reo-Coker (Capt.); Miyaichi, Muamba, Pratley, Petrov; Klasnic

Subs not used:- Jaaskelainen; Ream; Eagles, Vela, Tuncay; K. Davies, Ngog

No Bookings

Praying for Muamba

It was a day when football came a distant second to life, and when one of the players ended fighting for life itself. After 41 minutes, and when Spurs had the ball deep on the left flank, with Gareth Bale, Fabrice Muamba collapsed face down on the turf, with no other player near him. Players near the Bolton midfielder urged the medics onto the pitch immediately and only an instant before referee Howard Webb officially halted play and beckoned the paramedic team onto the pitch. What initially looked like a routine in-game incident turned into a full-scale medical emergency, as the 30,000+ spectators were horrified to witness Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation being applied to a young fit athlete. Clearly, things had gone very, very wrong, and Fabrice Muamba was fighting for his life as soon as he fell to the ground.

Very soon the fans of both teams started chanting Muamba’s name, applauding and thrusting in time with the medics as they pumped at his body. Meanwhile players of both teams were distraught. They openly prayed and were being consoled by the referee that so many fans criticise, but on this occasion, as one, commended for his prompt and totally correct action in abandoning the game, once Muamba had been stretchered off. The situation was so bad that a defibrillator had been applied on the pitch.

Muamba was taken to a specialist chest hospital (the heart unit) at Bethnal Green Hospital, and obviously would have been given the very best of care en route. These days football stadia have an ambulance on stand-by, and medical teams on the spot are fully equipped and trained to deal with almost any emergency. A day later, Fabrice Muamba is still fighting for his life. The latest information is that Fabrice is still critically ill, in intensive care, and anaesthetised. It has been confirmed that he did suffer a cardiac arrest. On Mother’s Day we all pray for him, and for his family, loved ones and friends. Whatever happens, those medics deserve our full praise for giving the young man a chance of life.

The airwaves were full of no other subject all night. We desperately awaited more information; some sort of formal update, but none came until 9.30 pm, when we were told which hospital he was taken to, and of his critical condition.

Football is united in wishing Muamba a full recovery.

Former Bolton coach Phil Brown was in the stadium, working for Al Jazeera, and was preparing his half-time notes. He had noted how Muamba had played so well in the game, in which Bolton had taken an early lead and played a full part in what had been an open and entertaining game. It seems totally irrelevant to report upon the football element of the evening, and in any case the game, appearances and goals will not stand as part of any official records.

It was refreshing to see Gareth Bale on the left wing, but early on, he was stopped in his tracks by Miyaichi, backing up Sam Ricketts. Incidentally, I have often seen Muamba play as a Junior and reserve for Arsenal, and then at Birmingham, and now Bolton. Somehow he has always escaped the attention of Spurs fans who love to bait former Arsenal players. That was the case here, although current Arsenal loanee Miyaichi did not escape such attention.

Bolton took a surprise lead, after a corner that was somewhat cheaply conceded by Kyle Walker, who could have cleared. Pratley got a touch at the near post and the ball was diverted into the net off Bale. The goal was announced as Pratley’s, but I’ve seen it noted as an own goal.

Bale took a run down the middle and fed Defoe down the left channel. His shot was saved by Bogdan to concede a corner. Spurs levelled in the eleventh minute, after good work by Modric to win a header in the midfield and send Bale away. Bale’s cross went beyond the far post and was met with a firm header by Kyle Walker.

A Saha shot from the right gave Bogdan enough of a problem that he took two attempts to hold the ball, with Defoe following up dangerously. Assou-Ekotto battled to win a throw in the Bolton half, and Bale took another of his recent power throws, with Defoe being the recipient. Jermain got into the box and tried a chip shot, which was easy for the keeper. Bale started a move then got into the box to head over Assou-Ekotto’s cross.

Bolton were getting forward more than expected, and Ryan Nelsen performed an unorthodox high footed clearance for which the referee had “words” after Petrov’s attempt on goal had passed wide of the far post. Bolton were finding too much space in the middle and Alonso, Muamba and Klasnic advanced in unison, before Klasnic hit a shot into the side netting. A dipping shot by Pratley also had Cudicini worried, but fell onto the back netting.

Then came the moment which ended all talk of football on this night, and which has put life itself into perspective. When we start again, let’s hope that Fabrice Muamba can at least be a spectator.

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