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Spurs v Arsenal, 22.01.08

(Aggregate 6-2)

Spurs scorers:-
Jenas, 3
Bendtner (o.g.), 27
Keane, 48
Lennon, 60
Malbranque, 90

Arsenal scorer:-
Adebayor, 70

Referee: - Howard Webb

Attendance: - 35, 979

Spurs (4-4-2):- Cerny; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Lennon (sub Huddlestone, 73), Jenas, Tainio, Malbranque; Berbatov (sub Defoe, 63), Keane (sub Boateng, 63)

Subs not used: - Robinson; O’Hara

Booked: - Malbranque, Jenas

Arsenal (4-4-2):- Fabianski; Sagna, Hoyte, Gallas (Capt.), Traore (sub Eduardo, 64); Hleb, Denilson (sub Fabregas, 18), Gilberto, Diaby; Walcott (sub Adebayor, 64), Bendtner

Subs not used: - Mannone; Flamini

Booked: - Hoyte, Adebayor

Five Star Tottenham

Words cannot hope to describe the atmosphere and the marvellous feeling within each and every Spurs fan during and after this game. The streets of Tottenham were joyous for hours after the Tottenham squad paraded before an adoring crowd to take their deserved applause for their simply fantastic effort and the great achievement of a first win over Arsenal since 1999, and the biggest such win since April 1983, when Spurs last scored 5 against this team. I toyed with alternative headlines of “Scumbusters”, “Oh how we danced”, “Hot shot Tottenham” and “Oh what a night”, but have settled for a title linked with the five goal finish by our beloved team.

Arsenal will of course point to their “we only fielded the kids” theory, but of course, Mr Wenger reneged somewhat upon his faith in his youngsters, by enhancing them with regular first teamers Sagna at right back, skipper Gallas next to Hoyte, Hleb on the right wing and remaining players who have all got first team experience. Then you must consider that Cesc Fabregas replaced the injured Denilson after only 18 minutes, and that when he was 4 down, Wenger threw on re-inforcements in the shape of Adebayor and Eduardo. Despite Adebayor’s 70th minute goal, and the fact that Spurs were in their own half for a lot of the time after that moment, nothing can take away the warm, warm glow of satisfaction that will energise Spurs fans for a long time to come.

Read my report of the 5-1 defeat of Chelsea at the same stage of this competition in 2002. I wrote of that game: - “It was beyond our wildest dreams! We got to sing "We want six"! Spurs ARE on their way to Cardiff for their second Worthington Cup Final in three years, and it is at the expense of the team we had not beaten at home for fifteen years, and not at all for 12, and by five goals to one! It was so sweet!” In my view, this victory over Arsenal was even better.

Why do I think it was better? The performance by Spurs (sustained throughout the 90 minutes) consisted of supreme effort, moments of great skill, clever goals, threatening attacks on the break and so much more – including the heroic defending of the back four especially Ledley King and Michael Dawson. Cerny had one or two challenging saves to make, but by and large was not at much risk. However, when the ball did come his way, he generally took command, and not this, he does catch the ball quite a lot! He does give me more faith currently than Paul Robinson.

The Spurs midfield was set up initially in the same way as it had been at Reading, in last week’s FA Cup replay, with Tainio at the back of a diamond shape, and Jenas at the head. This strategy worked a treat within three minutes, as Jenas raced onto Berbatov’s short pass, and despite the attentions of 4 or 5 red shirts, made space for a shot from just on the edge of the box hitting a right footed effort across Fabianski and into the net off the far post. It was of course the perfect start to boost the players and to ensure that the atmosphere remained hot for most of the game. It truly was one of the great nights in the wrap-around stadium, and by far eclipsed the noise levels in the away leg two weeks ago.

Arsenal had their first clear chance after 10 minutes, with Hleb getting the better of Lee to take the ball to the line, before pulling it back to Bendtner waiting on the edge of the box. Bendtner hoisted his shot over Cerny’s bar into the Paxton Road stand. Denilson had already taken a knock, and we sensed that Fabregas was going to get on early. Before that though, Lee passed to Malbranque with a short clearance and Steed sent a great ball down the left channel for Robbie Keane. Keane got into the area and sent a dangerous ball into the 6-yard area but it was cleared. Lennon was cynically fouled by Hleb near the half way line without punishment and Denilson went to ground again, which might have distracted Mr Webb. Fabregas got on then, and the challenge for the Spurs midfield became greater. Spurs had been closing down well, and by and large they did a good job on Fabregas, although it has to be recognised he is a world-class player and he did have moments of inspiration, along with uncharacteristic errors.

Mr Webb seemed to allow inconsistency in his decision making, as Malbranque took an early booking for a foul, but Gilberto was not punished for a worse challenge on Lee. Arsenal were soon punished though, as Jenas took the free kick following a foul on Keane by Hoyte, and with Michael Dawson up for the header, it was Nicklas Bendtner who headed powerfully past his own keeper to give Spurs a two goal lead. There was a little justice in that event, as it had been Bendtner who had scored Arsenal’s winner in the League game with his first touch as a substitute.

Berbatov had a great chance to put Spurs three up after 29 minutes. Cerny received a back pass from King, and hit a direct ball towards Jenas, who chested the ball in to Berbatov, who got behind the defence and with only Fabianski in his way, hit the shot past the keeper, but saw it rebound into play off the post. It should have been three. Now Cerny had to make a decent save, tipping over Diaby’s header from a Fabregas free kick. Diaby was proving quite a threat, hitting a couple of shots before the break. One went wide from 25 yards, and the other went over the bar after he cut in from the left inside Chimbonda, before launching his shot.

Spurs were defending the ball well in their opponents half, and after Lee won a challenge in this area, Chimbonda chipped the ball to Lennon who got deep into the Arsenal area, but saw his cross cleared. Jenas had a chance just before the whistle, with a shot into the side netting.

After the break, Spurs were initially pinned in their own half, and this became a pattern for much of the second half, to be honest. However, Spurs made several breaks with such skill and pace that they were as dangerous on the attack as any team could be. I overheard the last Spurs manager to win a League Cup semi-final (Glenn Hoddle) say on TV that Spurs scored their goals the “Arsenal way” This was certainly how the third goal came about, as Lennon sent a great ball to Robbie Keane who hit a sweet shot very early which sailed past Fabianski’s left hand and hit the net to the rapturous cheers of the home crowd. Arsenal nearly got one back straight away, as Walcott cut the ball back for Bendtner whose over head kick hit the bar, bounced out to Fabregas, whose follow-up was held by Cerny.

Despite the three goal lead, the home crowd could not relax. This was Spurs after all! Spurs made another break after 50 minutes, thanks to excellent physical effort by Keane and Malbranque. Keane was the supplier this time for Steed, whose shot was parried. Berbatov tried to score from the follow-up, but he was blocked.

A dream of a four-goal lead was achieved on the hour, thanks to another quick-fire Spurs break. Chimbonda passed inside to Keane who sent Lennon away down the right with a neatly angled pass. Lennon was around the defender and hit a great right footed shot across the keeper into the net – 4-0!

Now Hoyte got booked for a foul on Keane, and from Jenas’s free kick, Berbatov’s glanced header went over the bar. Ramos anticipated Wenger’s thinking, by taking both Berbatov and Keane off (there is a big FA Cup game on Sunday, don’t you know!), introducing Defoe and Boateng. Boateng did a good job, making plenty of successful incisive tackles, and also providing a creative outlet too with advances down the right wing. For Arsenal, Walcott and Traore were replaced by the big guns of Adebayor and Eduardo. Eduardo played from the left flank, but that did give the gooners three strikers. Gilberto (not the one that Spurs are rumoured to be signing!) fell back to assist the defence.

Adebayor soon added to his tally and scored in the 70th minute after a successful run from left to right across the edge of the area, hitting a good right foot shot to Cerny’s left. Despite the three goal lead, Spurs fans could not relax until the clock suggested that even the gooners could not come back from such a deficit. The away end started to empty, and the home crowd’s support built to a crescendo, with every stand joining in the chants of “Spurs are on their way to Wembley” and “Que sera, sera”. Even most of the West Stand weren’t leaving. (I think I wrote that in 2002 too!)

Even Arsenal seemed to tire towards the end, and as Spurs saw the finishing line ahead of them they made a couple of threatening attacks towards the end. Malbranque passed inside to Huddlestone, who slipped the ball to Defoe, who had the goal at his mercy but managed to fire wide. Cerny held a Fabregas shot right under the bar, before Malbranque delivered the final blow, as Jenas raced down the right and crossed low, beating the keeper for Steed to make an easy finish. It was a fitting end and a deserved goal for a genuine candidate for man of the match. However, such was the effort of all the team that it was difficult to pinpoint one performance. I would personally select Malbranque, but I applaud all.

Most of the Spurs crowd stayed after the final whistle (there was one solitary gooner!) to give the players the recognition they deserved. However, as Jermaine Jenas said when interviewed, there is still a job to be done and that is to beat either Chelsea or Everton at Wembley. In this cup, you get nothing for coming second, but SPURS ARE ON THEIR WAY TO WEMBLEY!

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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