CARLING CUP SEMI-FINAL 1ST LEG
WEDNESDAY 9TH JANUARY, 2008
ARSENAL 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Attendance: - 53,136
Referee: - Mike Dean
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Fabianski; J. Hoyte, Djourou (sub Sagna, 46), Senderos (Capt.), Traore; Walcott (sub Randall, 90), Denilson, Gilberto, Diaby; Bendtner, Van Persie (sub Eduardo, 46)
Subs not used: - Mannone; G. Hoyte
Spurs (4-4-2):- Cerny; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Lennon, Jenas, O’Hara, Malbranque (sub Boateng, 77); Keane (sub Defoe, 82), Berbatov
Subs not used: - Robinson; Stalteri; Taarabt
After a great performance in the Premier League game here just two and a half weeks ago, it was once again a case of “so nearly” for Spurs, who took a 37th minute lead during a spell when they were clearly on top of the home side, only to be thwarted by an equaliser 11 minutes from time by “World Cup Tourist” Theo Walcott, one of only two Englishmen in the Arsenal side that could be observed by new England manager Fabio Capello. Capello was deprived of the chance to assess his number one goalkeeper, as Paul Robinson had reportedly been dropped in favour of Radek Cerny. There were of course the likes of Dawson and King in the Spurs defence, and Jermaine Jenas in the midfield. Jermain Defoe had a cameo at the end of the game, and had one of Spurs’ best chances to secure the win, which would not have been an injustice. As it is, Spurs do take a result back to The Lane for the second leg that most Spurs fans would have been happy about before kick-off.
The kick off was delayed by fifteen minutes, due to chaos on the London transport system that did its best to keep us away from the stadium! Arsenal had been unable to sell all their tickets, which never went on general sale for safety reasons. Once again, the two clubs had reached agreement which meant that Arsenal will bring just 3000 fans to The Lane for the second leg on January 22nd, whilst Spurs did not take the 9,000 allocation they were entitled too under the rules of the competition. There were 5,000 Spurs fans in The Emirates Stadium though.
Apart from Robinson, the only other change was in midfield, where Ramos brought back Jamie O’Hara next to Jenas. Spurs were up against the Arsenal “League Cup side”, but most if not all their team have some first team experience – especially the midfield, and the strikers. The fact is though that any Arsenal team, at whatever level, plays their football at pace, with accuracy, and with confidence on the ball. In a fast and furious start, Spurs were on the back foot, with probes being made by Walcott and Justin Hoyte, and the pace of Denilson in the middle being complimented by the more experienced guidance of Gilberto. Spurs were allowing the home side too much time and space, but Cerny did not have to deal with a direct threat in the early exchanges.
It was Ledley King who brought the early excitement to Spurs fans, as he made a great run forward, being sent along his way by Berbatov. As he reached the opposition area, Ledley just ran out of options. Cerny did make a great save, diving to his left to push away Bendtner’s header from Walcott’s cross. After 20 minutes, the ball just wouldn’t quite run for Spurs, as Malbranque and Lee combined, before Malbranque put Lennon through. Lennon took the ball all the way to the goal-line, but just could not get a shot in.
Mid-way through the half, Berbatov won a free kick right on the edge of the box, and O’Hara stepped up to curl a free kick on the far side of the wall, missing the outside of the post by a couple of feet. Cerny cleanly held Van Persie’s free kick after Malbranque had been penalised, and overall, you have to say that Cerny’s handling of the ball was very good. Where he did fall down was with his kicking, which too often failed to reach his man. Maybe we need Robbo for the kicks and Cerny for the saves!
Jenas was the front man chasing a long ball by Dawson, and was also the man to retrieve the ball as it was half-cleared by the Arsenal defence. Jenas put the ball through to Keane, who might have scored with a little more deliberation, but saw his shot blocked, before Malbranque pushed the follow-up wide, when he definitely should have scored. Keane used his strength to win a high ball, passing it inside to Berbatov, who hit a great shot with little time and space, only to see Fabianski make a good save with his dive to the left.
The Spurs goal was no surprise, and came after more good work by Berbatov, with a ball to Keane on the inside left channel. Keane passed inside and Jenas had made the run yet again, and this time had an easy straight finish to give us the lead – incidentally in front of the ecstatic away fans.
Two minutes before the break, Berbatov made a great run from left to centre, with the ball sticking to his feet, as he passed a line of defenders. Malbranque’s effort was blocked, and Jenas hit a shot that Fabianski held easily. More quality football followed by Malbranque and Keane, before Berbatov again hit a great shot, well saved by Fabianski. Arsenal surely knew they were quite lucky to be just one down, and Arsene Wenger made two half-time substitutions, with van Persie replaced by Eduardo and Djourou by Sagna. Sagna took on his right back position, with Hoyte moving inside.
Spurs followed a more disciplined path in this half, and succeeded in closing down the attacks of their opponents. When the gooners did get near the spurs box, Ledley King was close to his best pace and form with some good covering runs, and clearances. Chimbonda made a couple of lackadaisical clearances, and Spurs did fall down somewhat because they failed to find Spurs feet with their long balls out of defence.
Still the chances came for Spurs though, and Keane should have increased the lead after 52 minutes, when he was a little slow onto Jenas’s header over the defence. Hoyte closed Robbie down, and he hit his shot wide. 20 minutes from time, Lennon got into the box, but Berbatov’s attempt on goal failed.
Spurs had needed to defend quite desperately at times, without the need for a difficult save by Cerny, except for him claiming high balls from dead ball situations and crosses. The equaliser when it came was lucky in one sense and not in another. It was a good penetrating ball by Eduardo that sent Walcott on his way to goal, but Lee made the challenge and got a strong touch on the ball. Unfortunately, the ball flew up, and really I rebounded off Walcott over Cerny and into the net. The final irony was that the ball flew off Walcott’s hand, but Arsenal and their fans didn’t care about that!
Jermain Defoe replaced Robbie Keane, and within two minutes had Spurs best chance of the game. Defoe had led the Spurs break from his own half, then made a run forward, as Berbatov passed to Lennon who was racing down the left channel. Lennon passed across the defence, and Defoe fired over from close range, to be greeted by derision from the home fans. Defoe also played too fairly, when Walcott went down injured, as Spurs had an attack on with an overlap. Defoe stopped, and Walcott got up, although he did have to be replaced in added time.
So there is all to play for in the second leg at White Hart Lane. Spurs ARE capable of beating Arsenal for the first time this century, and making the Carling Cup Final, but we all know that it will be a tough game. Now for Chelsea on Saturday!
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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