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Burnley v Spurs, 21.01.09
Carling Cup Semi-Final, 2nd Leg

CARLING CUP SEMI-FINAL (2ND LEG)
WEDNESDAY 21ST JANUARY, 2009
BURNLEY 3 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0)
(a.e.t. Score after 90 mins 3-0
Spurs win 6-4 on aggregate)

Burnley scorers:-
Blake, 34
McCann, 73
Rodriguez, 88

Spurs scorers:-
Pavlyuchenko, 118
Defoe, 120

Referee:- Mark Halsey

Attendance:- 19,533

Teams:-
Burnley (4-1-4-1):- Jensen; Alexander (Capt.), Carlisle, Duff, Jordan; (sub Kalvenes, 39) Gudjonsson (sub Rodriguez, 81); Eagles, Elliott, McCann , Blake; Paterson (sub Akinbiyi, 100)

Subs not used:- Penny; K. McDonald, Mahon, A. MacDonald

Booked:- McCann, Duff

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Alnwick; Gunter (sub Taarabt, 94), Dawson, Woodgate (Capt.), Ekotto; Bentley, Huddlestone, Zokora, O’Hara (sub Bale, 63); Modric (sub Pavlyuchenko, 64); Defoe

Subs not used:- Cesar; Rocha; Giovani, Campbell

Booked:- Bentley

Glory to Burnley as Spurs escape disgrace by a whisker.

Spurs ARE on their way to Wembley, but the glory of this second leg belongs to Championship side Burnley, who made a dramatic comeback from 4-1 down to take the tie into extra time. The “Clarets” were literally two minutes from Wembley, as their away goal at White Hart Lane would have ensured their passage to Wembley, had the score remained at 3-0 on the night. Spurs had dominated extra time though, but left it till the 118th minute before substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko squeezed a shot underneath Brian Jensen for the goal that took Spurs through. Jermain Defoe added a last minute goal to flatter the visitors with a two goal aggregate advantage.

Words cannot really convey the drama of this fantastic cup tie played in freezing, windy, and wet conditions, with the rain being driven so hard that it was wet underneath the stand covers, let alone on the pitch. Harry Redknapp made six changes to the starting personnel after Sunday’s game, with Gunter at right back, Dawson next to Woodgate and the return of Benoit Assou-Ekotto after his four match suspension. If you wanted to know why Heurelho Gomes has been forced to play through injury, the evidence was only too visible in the performance of Ben Alnwick, making his club debut in goal. Alnwick’s one notable save came from one of his own men, as Ekotto over-egged a back pass that really was a good shot on goal. Sadly, Alnwick was culpable for Burnley’s first and third goals scored from a Robbie Blake free kick, and by substitute Rodriguez, after Alnwick dropped a long cross into his path.

Judging by the amount of dirt on their shirts, Bentley, Dawson and Zokora were the Spurs players trying hardest in the first half. Bentley got the predictable stick from the home crowd, but battled away well for this half at least. Dawson was Mister 100% throughout, and if every player gave the effort and had the pace of Didier Zokora, Spurs would surely have no problem. Didier chased all over the pitch, and his workload was probably all the greater because of the anonymity of Tom Huddlestone. The stage should have been his to dominate, but he had a clean kit and in my view gave little to the game overall.

Robbie Blake was a thorn in Chris Gunter’s side throughout, as most of Burnley’s penetration came through Blake down his flank. Spurs’ first task was to prevent an early goal, and this they did successfully, leading us to believe that there would be no major problem on the night. Despite the lack of a big man up front (with Modric supporting Defoe), Spurs did hold their own for over 30 minutes, and even when Blake gave Burnley a first half lead, they were still two goals behind, and Spurs should have been comfortable. However, this IS Spurs we are talking about!

That save from Alnwick came after 5 minutes, when he had to tip over Ekotto’s back pass to concede a corner. Defoe had a shot on target and saved after being fed by Modric, who as always was managing to squeeze between two or more defenders and carry the ball. Bentkey got an early booking for a foul on Chris Eagles. McCann’s effort after cutting in from his left flank was not a problem for Alnwick. Although they were playing with one man up front, Burnley’s commitment was to attack through Eagles, McCann and Blake, with Elliott supporting Gudjohnsson when necessary. Spurs had been making some progress down the flanks through the efforts of O’Hara and Bentley, but of course they had little outlet with only Defoe up front. It wasn’t too long before Spurs started to kick the ball aimlessly out of defence, only to see the ball coming straight back in their direction. It really irks me to see how even a Championship side is able to feed the ball successfully to feet, and then develop the play.

McCann had another decent run inside and this time his effort was blocked for a corner. Then came Burnley’s first goal. They had a free kick nearly 30 yards out, and Alnwick and the defence set up for a cross, rather than a shot. Blake saw the opportunity, and deceived Alnwick with a great shot inside the left post, with Alnwick stranded and diving desperately. The strong Spurs support had been crowing up to this point, but now the home crowd sniffed a come-back and roared their team onto further success. Spurs had one chance before the break. After a foul on Modric and a free kick, Bentley put in a decent cross which was headed by Woodgate and saved comfortably by Jensen.

After the break, Defoe passed inside to Modric who fired over, and Modric fed Bentley whose shot was well wide. Jamie O’Hara was crocked and replaced by Gareth Bale who had a decent game on the left wing. In fact Bale had an early chance after a pass from Huddlestone, but he put it outside the target at the near post. Modric was replaced by Pavlyuchenko, and Spurs reverted to a traditional 4-4-2. Defoe was prevented from scoring by the determination of Carlisle’s tackle and Jensen’s smothering save. Then Burnley demonstrated that ability to clear the ball to their own player, as Elliott carried the ball initially, which then reached Blake down the left flank. Blake dazzled and bemused the Spurs defence, before putting in a low cross which was converted by McCann, with 17 minutes of normal time remaining. Cue roars of support from the home crowd, and plenty of dismay and nail-biting from the travelling support.

Pavlyuchenko had a good chance having received a decent cross from Bale, and really should have scored, but put his shot wide. Bale exhibited great control, collecting Alnwick’s kick, and went off on a goal-bound run. His shot was parried and Defoe tried to follow up, but Burnley cleared. High drama followed as Burnley were awarded a free kick just inside the Spurs half, which was floated in and dropped by Alnwick for Rodriguez to slot home in front of his ecstatic fans. The noise being generated by the home section of the 19,533 crowd was fantastic.

Extra time loomed then, and because of the away goal, Burnley would go through, if the score remained at 3-0 on the night. It was largely one way traffic in extra time though, but Spurs were not finding penetration. Bentley and Gunter worked the ball in from the right flank, giving Huddlestone a chance, but his shot was saved comfortably. Gunter was soon replaced by Adel Taarabt, who excited with most of his efforts, when he successfully beat players and carried the ball forward. Occasionally he fell foul of his trait to try and beat a man twice, but this was the exception. Bentley put a ball in, and Pavlyuchenko had another shot saved.

After the interval, Pavlyuchenko acted as provider for Bale, but his shot was held. Spurs were making progress against the Burnley right back though, and it was from this quarter that the dramatic 118th minute goal came. Defoe passed outside to Bale; Bale passed forward to the advanced Ekotto who was on the inside left channel. Somehow, Ekotto managed to pass inside to Pavlyuchenko who hit a good strength shot that beat Jensen inside his right post to make it 5-4 on aggregate, and ensure Spurs passage at a stroke. There was even time for Defoe to flatter the scoreline, when he received the ball about 30 yards out, and had the upper hand on his defender who he beat at will, slotting home a powerful left foot drive.

At last, the Spurs support could sing again, but it was with visible sighs of relief that the Spurs team sloped off the pitch, knowing they are on their way to Wembley to defend their Carling Cup. They have a rehearsal on Saturday at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, but Harry has already said he will send a “mish-mash” side due to injuries and the need to prepare for next Tuesday’s crucial league game. The trouble is that we got a “mish-mash” performance last night!

For Burnley fans, it was a night to remember, and one for which they deserve great respect. Their players did them proud.

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