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Match Reports
Spurs v Middlesbrough, 17.12.03

(A.E.T - Middlesbrough won 5-4 on penalties)

Spurs scorer:-
Anderton, 2

Middlesbrough scorer:-
Ricketts, 86

Referee:- Mike Dean

Attendance:- 25,307

Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Richards (sub Doherty, 46), Gardner, Taricco; Anderton (sub Poyet, 77), King, Ricketts (sub Dalmat, 96), Konchesky; Keane, Kanoute

Subs not used:- Burch; Postiga

No bookings

Middlesbrough (4-3-1-2):- Schwarzer; Mills, Southgate (Capt.), Cooper (sub Nemeth, 79), Quedrue; Mendieta, Boateng, Zenden; Junhino; Ricketts, Maccarone (sub Downing, 46)

Subs not used:- Jones; Davies

Booked:- Mills

A night which started so brightly for a Spurs team desperate for Carling Cup success, ended miserably on two counts. Firstly alleged striker-target in January (and misfit for most of his time at Middlesbrough) Michael Ricketts popped up with an equaliser four minutes for full time, then, after Gus Poyet and Mauricio Taricco had failed with their penalty kicks, left-back Frank Quedrue fired home the decisive kick to give the visitors the plum semi-final tie with Arsenal. Almost as soon as extra time had started, most Spurs fans knew who the semi-final opponents would be, and it gave them the impetus to will the team on. Much as the players tried, it has to be said that overall, the visitors probably edged the game with the quality of their possession and shots on target, which must have made Kasey Keller a man of the match contender, as he kept Spurs in the game at the end of normal time, and extra time.

Our Ricketts - young Rohan - made a welcome return to the team, with Poyet being relegated to the bench. Otherwise the team was unchanged. Middlesbrough of course came to White Hart lane on the back of a marvellous run of league clean sheets, with their defence marshalled with class by Gareth Southgate, but Spurs pierced their shell after only 64 seconds. The goal as a result of some slick accurate passing, with an early cross by Carr, being half cleared from the feet of Robbie Keane, but only as far as Darren Anderton, who slotted home with his left foot for his third goal of the season. All of these goals have come from open play, and it has to be said that under Pleat, he has been given a different role, primarily on the right, but with licence to roam the middle. Unless he had an injury, it is a mystery to me why Darren was replaced with 13 minutes left, as he was the one to inspire the best from Spurs.

Middlesbrough had a fair deal of possession after the Spurs goal, but their long range shots were woefully wide from Mendieta, and Zenden, with a flighted ball from Quedrue being overhit for his forwards. After 17 minutes, Maccarone did have a good right foot effort on the turn, but his shot dipped after it had gone over the bar. Spurs had plenty of forays into Boro territory, but failed to make best use of the ball. Robbie had a frustrating game overall, but he did have to watch his ankles as the referee was perhaps too keen to let the game flow, allowing a number of infringements to pass.

Spurs best chance after their goal came from an Anderton corner in the 19th minutes, met by a great glancing header from Ledley King, but tipped over by the impressive (as ever) Schwarzer. Spurs next decent attack came seven minutes later, with a good move out of their own half, penetration down the left by Taricco and Konchesky, then a ball from Anderton to Keane, slid inside for Ricketts who did not have his shooting boots on. In a frantic run-up to half-time. Michael Ricketts failed to make use of a poor ball back to his area by Keane. Keller had to come to the edge of his area, but Ricketts was round him, but only shot into the side netting when he really should have scored, even though the angle was fairly sharp. There was some good end to end excitement, as neither Robbie or Konchesky wanted to go for a 50/50 ball in the middle, the ball reached Maccarone inside the Spurs area, and his shot was blocked. Robbie was then advancing upon Schwarzer, hitting a good shot, met by a great save to push the ball round for a corner.

Dean Richards was replaced at half-time by Gary Doherty, and Steve McLaren introduced Downing (recently back at Boro from loan), who played on the left. Effectively a 5 man midfield was supporting the lone Ricketts, but Junhino chiefly took on the attacking role. The game continued to be played at a high tempo, and the crowd was up for a night of continuing excitement. However, both sides made plenty of mistakes in the middle with the defences being generally resilient. Stephen Carr lost out as he tried to get out of his half, and the cross reached Ricketts, whose header was cleanly held by Keller. Junhino was then fouled on the edge of the box, but his effort ricocheted around the box, before being cleared.

There was one lovely move down the right hand line, as Kanoute was sent away by Rohan Ricketts, but Spurs first real chance of the half, came when Ledley King sent Keane away down the left. Neither Robbie's pass, nor Kanoute's shot were hard enough to bother the Boro keeper. A cracking Junhino shot from a corner was blocked by Gary Doherty, and then Zenden's free kick found its way through the defence, but was picked up by Keller.

Having replaced Anderton, Poyet did set up Konchesky as the ball was passed right to left across the edge of the box, and Konchesky hit a flighted shot outside the target. The visitors were committed to attack, and Nemeth replaced defender Cooper. It was Junhino again who nearly scored, as a Spurs attempted clearance bounced at his feet off Rohan Ricketts, but Keller saved magnificently from the Brazilian.

The equaliser had been on the cards if we are honest, but it came after Spurs lost possession deep in the Boro half. It was Keane who failed to collect a throw, and in no time the ball was at Michael Ricketts feet inside the area, with a sharp angle. This time he made no mistake and fired home in front of the half full away section. In injury time, Nemeth had a good run and a shot saved by the keeper, before Ricketts headed from close range, only to find our Kasey in the way again. There was more defensive scrambling for Spurs, and another close range save from Keller before we reached extra time.

It was end to end stuff, and whilst not of the highest quality, the cup-tie atmosphere was evident. The quality of chances were not so good, but Poyet had a good attempted overhead kick after Kanoute had headed down a Taricco cross. Dalmat replaced Rohan and played a few tricks, but it was Downing who came closest to breaking the ice in this period. Ricketts' deep cross was fired across the goal and only a foot in front of the far post.

Into the final 15 minutes, and Dalmat teed up Poyet, outside the box, with time to measure a shot. Gus hit the ball well over the bar. Ricketts then had the ball in the net, but was ruled offside, and then as Spurs wanted a free kick in the middle they were out-numbered at the back, and Junhino shot wide. A Boro cross from the right was landing just in front of Keller and he did just enough to keep the ball away from the menacing Ricketts. Then Kasey made a great flying save from Nemeth as the final whistle approached.

Then came the heart-breaking penalties. Spurs had the first kick, and they were all taken in front of the Paxton Road crowd. This was the sequence of events:-

Robbie Keane confidently shoots to the right of Schwarzer. 1-0.
Ricketts steps up, and despite the howls of abuse and whistling, emulates Robbie. 1-1.
Stephen Carr takes responsibility, and also scores to the right of the keeper. 2-1 to Spurs.
Junhino scores confidently. 2-2.
Paul Konchesky is the first to shoot to the left of the keeper and fires just inside the post. 3-2.
Zenden scores in the same area, but Keller did get a touch. 3-3.
Poyet tries a shuffle, then hits the ball into Schwarzer's arms, having committed the keeper and failing to take advantage. 3-3.
Advantage Middlesbrough, as the competitive Danny Mills hits rocket that almost burst the net. 4-3 to Middlesbrough.
Kanoute steps up and keeps Spurs in the game. 4-4.
Mendieta's shot is saved by Keller low to his right, and although Mendieta puts the follow-up away, it doesn't count. 4-4.
Taricco sends Schwarzer the wrong way, but agonisingly, his shot rebounds out off the right hand post. 4-4.
Coup de grace delivered by Quedrue to Keller's right. 5-4 to Middlesbrough.

This, I believe was the first penalty shoot-out involving Spurs since March 5th 1996, when we lost at White Hart Lane to Stuart Pearce's Nottingham Forest in the 5th Round of the F.A Cup.

The next battle royal at The Lane is this Sunday when we entertain a certain Manchester United! I am not confident:(

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