WORTHINGTON CUP FINAL
(at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)
SUNDAY 24TH FEBRUARY, 2002
BLACKBURN ROVERS 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Referee:- Graham Poll
Blackburn (4-4-2):- Friedel; Taylor, Berg (Capt), Johansson, Bjornebye; Gillespie (sub Hignett, 76), Hughes, Dunn, Duff; Cole, Jansen (sub Jordi, 73)
Subs not used:- Miller; Curtis, Mahon
Spurs (3-5-2):- Sullivan; King, Perry, Thatcher; Taricco (sub Davies, 78), Poyet (sub Iversen, 83), Sherwood, Anderton, Ziege; Sheringham (Capt), Ferdinand
Subs not used:- Keller; Gardner; Rebrov
Booked:- Sherwood, Taricco, Ziege
Spurs failed to grasp their best chance of a place in Europe, as they frittered chances, and failed to control the midfield, allowing Blackburn to win their first Cup Trophy for 74 years in the first indoor cup final in Great Britain. The roof was closed at the magnificent Millennium Stadium, making the occasion a gigantic indoor football match in front of a capacity crowd. Most pundits agreed that this was the best Cup Final seen for the last ten years, but that is no consolation to the Spurs team and faithful, who really fancied their chances before this game.
Blackburn were missing Flitcroft, Tugay and Short through suspension, but Graham Souness pulled the strategic master-strokes, as he foiled Glenn Hoddle's 3-5-2 system, using his own flank men to attack with pace, and to counter most threats offered by Spurs. Simon Davies was unlucky not to start, as Hoddle fielded his predicted team, with the notable exception that Ben Thatcher got the nod over Anthony Gardner, who stayed on the bench. Now, perhaps Gardner had not quite regained match fitness, but he has played such a great part in this Worthington Cup run, and his pace was missed on the left side of defence. Only Ledley King seemed to play with confidence (and he too was to make a crucial mistake for the Blackburn winner), whilst Perry too often returned to his hoofing clearances. Anderton, Sherwood and Poyet failed to get a foot on the ball in the middle, and Sheringham had one of his worse performances in a Spurs shirt. Spurs wore yellow shirts with navy trim, and their plan to wear the traditional kit for the presentation if they won, was not required.
Brad Friedel was named man of the match, as he pulled off a number of great saves, although on most occasions, those trying to score should have left him stranded. Les Ferdinand will be criticised by many fans for his missed chances - a one on one before Blackburn took the lead, a free header before half time, and then a close range effort in the closing stages, but I think Les and Ziege were our two best players. Ferdinand won a lot of ball, and put himself about effectively. Ziege scored our equaliser, and only seemed to be neutralised in the second half. Even then, he was one of those who had good scoring opportunities.
The build up to the game was terrific, and a Spurs team did win something on the day, as they won the five a side tournament. A Cup Final is a Cup Final per se, and it was great to be present (up to a point of course!) There were early chances for Les Ferdinand (a header from a free kick) and Ziege (a long shot), before Blackburn showed their mettle with Damien Duff creating some havoc down the left. He got to the bye line and Sullivan could only parry his low cross, before the ball was cleared for a throw. Indeed Sullivan's touch was somewhat lacking today, as he misjudged crosses on more than one occasion. No doubt the ball carried further in the indoor conditions, but Freidel had no such qualms.
Ziege was getting lots of space on the left, and found Poyet on the right with a great long ball. Gus's cross looked dangerous, but was cleared. After 19 minutes, Gus sent Les away on the left. Ferdinand had beaten the offside trap and had time and space to beat Friedel. He chose to carry the ball to the right and his opportunity fizzled out, as Friedel was able to save. Sheringham did put a lovely ball through a defender's legs for Ziege, but Christian's shot was blocked. Spurs had not looked comfortable in defence, and yet Blackburn had had few chances until they took the lead after 25 minutes. Spurs failed to carry the ball out of midfield, with Anderton struggling to reach the ball, Gillespie seized the opportunity, and his shot hit the back of a defender falling to Jansen who fired home. Sullivan nearly got his legs in the way, but not enough to stop the goal.
Despite falling behind, one felt that Tottenham would get back into the game, as they had had the better chances. However, Blackburn pinned us down in our half after taking the lead. Poyet was hassled out of the ball by Duff, whose shot beat Sullivan, and was somehow put wide by Gillespie in front of goal, with Thatcher giving him close attention. Spurs equalised after 33 minutes, when Gus sent Les away down the right. Les got to the bye line, then found Ziege unmarked at the back post for an easy finish to the right of the despairing keeper.
Cole was on target at the other end, and was thwarted by Sullivan's outstretched leg, as Gillespie snatched upon Ziege's poor touch 35 yards out. Just before the break, Anderton found Ziege, whose deep shot was headed at the keeper by Ferdinand and saved. One of our main problems was the lack of support for Taricco on the right flank, and the fact that Anderton was often having to cover for the absent Ziege, who did not always fancy the defnsive side of the game. Poyet and Sheringham too often lost the ball in vital areas, as they insisted on doing tricky rather than simple things. Tricky is nice to see when it works, but simple will often suffice!
The first corner of the game arrived after 52 minutes, and this went Blackburn's way as Gillespie forced a cross to be blocked. After 59 minutes, Poyet was through into the area, but his left foot shot bounced out off the corner of the bar and post. Sheringham could get no power on his follow-up. In truth, Poyet only had the keeper to beat, and should have done better with his chance. Another good chance for Spurs came when Ziege chipped a free kick over the defence for Anderton to break through. Darren's shot was blocked for a corner. The corner was hit to the back post, but Ferdinand's header was too weak to worry Friedel.
With 66 minutes on the clock, Ledley King led an attack, carrying the ball into the oposition half, Anderton sent a long ball to Ziege, whose cross found Poyet, but his left foot shot was turned round for a corner. Then came the killer blow as Ledley King first tried and failed to head back to Sullivan, then could only put his second header into Cole's path. Cole's shot was not that well hit, but Sullivan could only help the ball on its way into the net behind his right hand.
Anderton hit a deep cross to find Ziege at the back post. He shot across the goalmouth and wide, when he should have found the net - the story of the day really.Friedel brought off a good save from a Sheringham shot, after Ferdinand had shielded and turned the ball to his Captain. Davies was introduced at the expense of Taricco, and Iversen replaced the disappointing Poyet. With two minutes left, Teddy Sheringham went down in the area, as Ledley again led the attack. Spurs were up in arms, but Graham Poll made a gesture that left us in no doubt he was not having the penalty appeal. However, why did he not book Sheringham for diving? I haven't seen the replay yet, but the opinions on this incident are divided. Sheringham certainly semed to make the most of it, which probably dissuaded the referee to a great extent. The last chance for Spurs came when Iversen headed a Sheringham cross to Ferdinand, but Les could only find the keeper.
A review of this report reveals that Spurs had by far the most chances to score, and yet I had no doubt that the team performance was poor, with Blackburn deserved winners. For most of the game their defence was protected by a vigorous and threatening midfield and attack, whilst Spurs could only produce the goods in spasms. Spurs have failed to end one hoodoo this season, as no team whose fans have occupied the south end of the Millennium Stadium have yet won a cup final. Maybe we'll get another chance in May, as the next game against Chelsea takes on proportions just as important as the last. After all, we did lose the League Cup final in 1982 and go on to win the FA Cup.
Just for a change, in response to requests, I have marked the players as follows:-
Sullivan - 5 - touch unsure at times, and maybe he could have stopped both the goals?
King - 6 - until that vital mistake he had looked the coolest of our back three.
Perry - 5 - too much hoofing for my liking.
Thatcher - 5 - slow to react to danger at times - beaten for pace often.
Taricco - 5 - had his hands full with Duff, and did not get forward enough.
Poyet - 4 - Involved with the goal, but otherwise too often failed with his tricky touches.
Sherwood - 4 - failed to assert himself on the game at all.
Anderton - 4 - lost the ball on countless occcasions. This is where we lost the game, with our playmakers losing the ball too much.
Ziege - 7 - the usual - great going forward, but often absent when needed at the back.
Sheringham - 4 - had an abysmal game. Should have been substituted.
Ferdinand - 6 - missed three good chances, but won a lot of ball for us, and put himself about well.
Davies & Iversen - no mark awarded - not on long enough.
· Brian Judson's Preview for this game can still be read here
· The Road To Cardiff - Spurs Odyssey Feature Page
· Check the current team appearances, cards and scorers in all competitions
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