SUNDAY 21st MARCH, 1999
WORTHINGTON CUP FINAL ( at Wembley Stadium )
LEICESTER CITY 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Spurs scorer:- Nielsen, 90
Referee:- T. Heilbron
Leicester ( 3-5-2):- Keller; Taggart, Elliott, Walsh; Ullathorne, Savage ( sub, Zagorakis, 90 ), Izzett, Lennon, Guppy; Cottee, Heskey ( sub, Marshall, 74 )
Subs not used:- Arphexad (GK); S. Campbell, Kaamark
Booked:- Elliott, Savage
Spurs ( 4-4-2 ):- Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh; Anderton, Freund, Nielsen, Ginola ( sub Sinton, 90 ); Ferdinand, Iversen
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Young; Dominguez, Armstrong
Sent off:- Edinburgh
Allan Nielsen, who can't even hold down a regular first team place these days, was the man who claimed the ultimate credit for bringing glory back to the lane, with his dramatic injury time headed winner. This was his third goal of the tournament, and no doubt his most memorable contribution to Tottenham's cause so far.
Typically, after all the hype, this was another cup final that did not live up to expectations. The first half was a fairly neutral affair, with neither goalkeeper being firmly tested. The drama increased with the sending-off of Justin Edinburgh for retaliating to a Savage challenge, after 63 minutes. I wonder what odds Bet365 Canada would have given on this happening? Spurs obviously felt they were unfairly treated at this juncture, and seemed to step up a gear. I felt they were the better team in the closing stages, and the only likely winners, although Leicester will claim most of the possession over the game.
If you don't mind, I shall make this report a little more personal, as many of you will have seen the TV pictures of the game, and probably had a better view of much of the action. I have reviewed the latter stages on video, but whilst enjoying the electric atmosphere from being in the heart of the Spurs fans, I was still miles away from the action at the tunnel end. Having paid £40 for my tickets, I wonder where the cheap seats were ?! I arrived in good time, and enjoyed a leisurely stroll up Wembley Way. Fans from both sides did not exactly mingle, but there was a generally friendly banter between the opponents. I encountered one Leicester fan chanting "You've only got one man", and I responded with "That's one more than you mate !".
Gregory, my son, and I were lucky enough to meet Gary Mabbutt on the way in, and he graciously signed as many autographs as he could ( including one for Greg ) before having to get into the ground for his media commitments. "God bless you, Gary", I said. "Enjoy the game" was the response. As much as Wembley is the dream venue for every footballer in the English game, when you get close to the framework, it is easy to see why it being rebuilt. The woodwork was rotting as we entered the turnstiles, and the seats do not compare favourably at all with most premiership grounds They also do not allow for people like me with 34 inch legs !
Believe it or not, but the very lovely Elaine, and Bruce were within 5 yards of me, and I also met Matthew Goodyear for the first time. It was nice to meet you, Matt! The pre-match entertainment featured a Worthington Dream team with Aleksic in goal, and both Paul and Clive Allen. The players got a mighty reception both when treading the turf in their suits, and when entering for their warm-up. It was nice to see Segers, as well as Walker, and Baardsen on the pitch at this stage. Both Stewart Houston, and Chris Hughton took part in the warm-up. Chirpy was on the periphery, together with various stilt-walkers, jugglers, etc..
The England supporters band led both sets of fans in the build up with their songs. In my view, the Spurs fans easily out-sung Leicester in the build up, and during the game. The national anthem was well observed, and we were off !
Spurs started quite well, but it was Leicester who had the first potent attack. Heskey looked offside, as Vega appealed, but was allowed to push towards the goal, and a corner followed. There was a shot on goal from Taggart, which was blocked at short range, and the Leicester team appealed for hand ball, but were turned down.
Some good work by Carr on the right led to a Freund cross which reached Anderton, but he ran the ball out of play. Ginola was being chiefly marked by Ullathorne, who was assisted by Savage for much of the time. Ginola was not getting too much change from his opponents in the first half. After 20 minutes, Savage put through a pass, which Sol Campbell uncharacteristically missed, and it was left to Ramon Vega to make a saving tackle at the feet of Heskey within the area.
Soon after this Ginola sent a cross - field pass to Freund on the right of the are, but the German's shot was well blocked. More good play by Carr enabled Ferdinand running down the right to get a cross into the area. Nielsen went down, and their was a penalty appeal from the Spurs following, to no avail. After 39 minutes, Ferdinand won a free kick on the right. Anderton took, and Iversen headed down sharply to the left of Keller, but the goalkeeper was able to collect, by diving low.
I would like to state here and now that the "Paul Smith" who missed a half time penalty, dressed in Spurs kit, is no relation to me whatsoever!
So to the second half, which started much in the same vein as the first. Leicester were gaining a lot of possession, with their swamped mid-field, and they succeeded in harrying the Spurs players off the ball for too much of the game for my liking. I always feel that Anderton is uncomfortable in this type of situation, and he was coming second best until the latter stages of the game. He was woefully beaten by Savage early in the second half. Ginola and Edinburgh did some good work on the left flank getting a cross to the far post for Nielsen. His return cross was inaccurate, however. Ginola stepped up the pace, and had more success as the game progressed.
Ian Walker struggled to hold a shot from Ullathorne, which led to considerable panic in the defence. The game started to open out a bit, with Carr making more forward runs, leading to a headed chance for Iversen. At the other end, Guppy was allowed a decent run and shot.
Then came the drama in the 63rd minute. Edinburgh and Savage tangled in the middle of the park. Savage clearly pulled Justin to the ground. Edinburgh rose, and swung his arm at Savage, brushing his shoulder. Savage's reaction was delayed but exaggerated. The Leicester man got a yellow card, and Justin was sent off for violent conduct. He had to make the long walk to the tunnel, and is one of the few players to suffer the ignominy of being sent off in a major cup final. Hereafter, Savage was roundly booed by the Spurs faithful.
George Graham chose not to make any major adjustment or substitution after the sending off. The double marking of Ginola weakened the threat on the right flank, and Spurs played with three defenders, but with Anderton taking a left sided defensive position.
Heskey was substituted by Marshall, at which point a major part of the Leicester threat disappeared. With 15 minutes to go, Ginola gave his two defenders the slip, and got an effective cross to Iversen who headed down for Ferdinand. The goal-starved ex-England striker's shot was far too wide, and easily retrieved by Keller. Ferdinand was obstructed on the edge of the area, and Anderton took the free kick, but it came to nought.
After 80 minutes, Anderton and Nielsen combined on the right, and worked a cross to Iversen at the far post. He shot and hit the side netting. Nielsen was getting forward more and more in these latter stages, and of course it paid off ! Savage had a bit of a set-to with Freund, and may have been fortunate to stay on the field, although the German may have made too much of the contact made. The last real scare for Spurs came when Walker missed the ball on the left side of his area, and Cottee chipped the ball into the danger zone, but there was no blue shirt to take advantage.
With injury time beckoning, and extra time on the cards, O'Neill removed Savage from the field, sensing that he was on the edge of getting a red card. Within half a minute of this substitution, Spurs had score their dramatic winner. Anderton passed Ferdinand across the half way line; Ferdinand passed to Iversen, who moved forward powerfully, and fired a not too powerful cross-shot at Keller. The American keeper had to dive, and was only able to parry the ball out with his right hand. Nielsen, following up, dived headlong to meet the ball, and head into the net ! Needless to say, this was a highly charged emotional moment for players, and fans! I kissed Gregory, and hugged him. All the fans around me were hugging each other, and roaring our delight, for we knew that the goal had come so late that it was the winner.
Sinton was allowed a brief entry, and then came the final whistle, and the celebrations. We could see how much this win meant to Sol, and all the team, even from the distance. Ginola, and Vega threw their shirts into the crowd, and Sol went up, picked up the Worthington Cup, and we were there ! The celebrations were lengthy. It was strange to see Houston amongst the leaping Spurs players in the midst of the celebrations, but I did see it with my own eyes ! George Graham wore the scarf, and walked over to greet the faithful, and then it happened; the chant was "There's only one Georgy Graham".
Having now seen some of the TV pictures, I noticed that the "Sergeant Major" was actually serving the champagne from the cup. He and Sugar got a bit of a drenching, and took it in good spirits.
On my way out of the complex, we encountered the one and only Bill Nicholson being safely escorted to his transport, and of course being serenaded by the fans. Whatever people say about this trophy, this was a mighty victory for the Spurs, and today will be hailed as the start of a new era of glory under another master schemer. Now to up-date my honours page...........................
· Brian Judson's preview
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