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Newcastle v Spurs, 11.04.99

FA Cup Semi - Final at Old Trafford
Sunday 11th April, 1999
NEWCASTLE UNITED 2 (0) - TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)

(after extra time; 0-0 after 90 minutes )

Newcastle Scorer:-
Shearer 108 (pen), 119

Referee:- Paul Durkin

Attendance:- 53,609

Teams:-

Newcastle (4-4-2):- Given; Griffin, Howey ( sub Hughes, 36 ), Dabizas, Barton; Lee, Hamann, Speed, Solano ( sub Ferguson, 75 ); Ketsbaia ( sub Maric, 106 ), Shearer

Subs not used:- Harper (GK); Saha.

Booked:- Griffin, Maric

Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Young, Campbell, Taricco; Anderton ( sub Sinton, 50, sub Nielsen, 82 ), Freund, Sherwood, Ginola ( sub Iversen, 75); Ferdinand, Armstrong

Subs not used:- Baardsen; King ( squad number 26 )

Booked:- Sinton, Taricco, Campbell, Young

Why did Spurs lose this game ? Ultimately it was the difference between two strikers; one a strong experienced international, who whilst not playing to his peak, is still capable of holding the ball effectively, and passing efficiently; who can confidently score from the penalty spot; and who can still score when given the chance, as shown with just one minute to go in this match. The other; with plenty of pace; but grossly lacking in strength to force his opponent off the ball; an inability to control the ball with his first touch; and crucially too many failures in front of goal. I am of course referring to the differences between Shearer and Armstrong. If Shearer had been given the number of opportunities to score as had Armstrong today, then he would have had a hatful of goals. The other vital turning point against Spurs was Durkin's refusal to penalise Dabizas in the 57th minute, when he rose and handled Sinton's free kick in the area; whereas the official was quick to blow against Sol Campbell in the second period of extra time.

It was somewhat ironic to be passing the ManU fans heading south, and queuing for their Villa Park venue, as we headed for their ground another 80 miles up the motorway. My theory that the allocation of three sides of the ground would work in our favour was completely blown as the toons occupied the three tier north stand at Old Trafford, and were so vocal at times, that I swear I saw the top tier bouncing. We were out-sung for much of the game, and whilst I am aware that some pundits feel we were unlucky, I also feel we were out-played, and out-smarted in the middle of the park, where Hamann had a telling influence, and Griffin, and Lee double marked Ginola into relative obscurity. Our style was to soak up the Newcastle pressure, and too often to boot the ball to the front two. Sadly, this did not work well, as neither Ferdinand, or Armstrong were holding the ball well enough, and the defence came under pressure too quickly.

Graham sprang one surprise by introducing Ledley King on the bench. His line-up was otherwise much to be expected, although Iversen may feel aggrieved that he did not start. As for the Magpies, they were almost at full strength in midfield, and up front, and were even able to introduce Ferguson for the later stages. There was a minute's silence before kick-off in memory of the Hillsborough disaster 10 years ago, which was well observed by all but one or two louts in both sections.

Spurs had the first chance, after some good work by Carr on the right led to the ball breaking to Anderton about 25 yards out. He hit a powerful shot that Given managed to tip over the bar. Armstrong had his first chance from the corner, but missed the target. For much of the first half, Newcastle's front two seemed to be working down the flanks, and the ball was reaching the danger zone, but no-one was there to convert. Speed had such a chance on 13 minutes.

For me, Steven Carr was our man of the match, as he defended well, getting just as many vital interceptions in as Sol, but he also displayed some wonderful passing skills with several cross field long balls to Ginola. Speed had another chip shot, after Barton, and Ketsbaia combined on the left. Ginola was getting some crosses in, but either Ferdinand, or Armstrong would let him down with ineffective touches at the vital moment. There was some anxious defending for Spurs after a dangerous cross from Hamann, and Solano was also in a shooting position, but went well wide of the mark. Sherwood had a looped headed chance from an Anderton cross after 33 minutes. At this stage, Howey was stretchered off, and Spurs put Newcastle under some pressure as they were a man down, and waiting for Hughes to get on.

Hamann sent Ketsbaia clear with a measured long ball, but Sol was too strong for the Georgian, as he shepherded the ball safely out of play. Anderton tried a 35 yard low shot just before half time, which Given safely collected. Anderton's withdrawal early in the second half is still a bit of a mystery to me. Sinton did not last too long, as he was clattered by Griffin, as he got booked for his challenge. It was left to Sherwood to be the main source of creation for Spurs. He lofted a free kick to the back post, where Sol headed with power, but just wide of the post. A header across goal would have caused chaos. Freund got a vital block in on a Solano shot, and then came the free kick that led to the Dabizas handball. Armstrong had been blatantly held just outside the area, and Sinton took the kick. Durkin waved the Spurs protests away. Things certainly did not seem to go our way in the decision game, as Shearer was allowed to push on Young's back at the other end. I saw several offsides from my vantage point that the linesman missed as well.

Steve Carr seemed to be clearly fouled on the edge of the are after 65 minutes, but once again, Durkin snubbed the claims.

Duncan Ferguson's introduction for a midfield player made Gullit's intentions clear, and the gangly, but strong forward certainly caused some problems for Spurs. Iversen was introduced at the same time for Ginola, who looked as if he had taken a knock from one of Griffin's challenges. Ian Walker was called more and more into action, as the game wore on, and he held a Shearer free kick cleanly. With ten minutes left, Freund had a good shot across and just wide of the goal, from a Sherwood corner.

Both crowds chanting built to a crescendo as full time beckoned. The toons chanted "Rudi, Rudi", and ( wait for it ), the Spurs fans responded with "Georgy Graham's blue and white army". Spurs enjoyed some pressure, but it was Shearer who forced another fine save from Walker just before the whistle.

Clearly, neither side wanted a replay, and extra time was end to end stuff. Ferguson headed down to Shearer, who shot on the turn, but Walker was his equal. Hamann found Ferguson, who ran powerful forward, and got his shot across Sol, but just wide.Iversen put Armstrong through, but his lack of strength let him down, when he should have got himself into a scoring position.

Hamann shot at one end, and Taricco at the other. His shot was blocked and fell invitingly to Iversen, who shot wide. The Ferguson - Shearer combination led to another Shearer chance. Even Griffin, with Ginola gone, was getting in on the act, as he picked up a bad ball from Freund,and ran for goal. Ferdinand had one of his most telling chances, when he ran and shot; Given saved, and Armstrong dithered. Nielsen gave Iversen another shooting chance.

So came the second period of extra time. Armstrong had one more headed chance wide of the mark, before the penalty that turned the game. Ferguson chipped the ball towards Speed, and Sol dangled his arm in the air to touch the ball. Some think he was appealing for offside. Ferguson ran and protested to the referee without realising that Durkin had given the decision against Campbell who got booked for the infringement. The prayers of Spurs fans were not answered, as Shearer coolly sent Walker the wrong way, and crashed the ball home. He wheeled away to the Toon army, but there were a significant number of Geordies revealed amongst the 45 seats ( south upper tier ) who could not resist the opportunity to celebrate. I should also mention at this point that the attendance suggests that Spurs failed to sell all of their tickets. You can't knock the Toon army for their passion for the game.

Spurs gallantly tried to level the scores. Taricco crossed, Ferdinand headed down, and Nielsen was in front of goal, but shot weakly into Given's hands. Walker had to make a fine save from another Griffin shot, and then Armstrong missed another clear opportunity with only the goalie to beat, after Ferdinand headed down for him.

The match was conclusively settled when Maric passed to Shearer at the back of the area, and the England captain hit a powerful right foot drive into the top corner, that was a goal from the moment it left his foot.

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