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Spurs v Bolton (FA Cup 6th Rd), 27.03.12

(7.45 P.M – Kick-off delayed)

Spurs scorers:-
Nelsen, 74
Bale, 77
Saha, 90

Bolton scorer:-
K. Davies, 90

Attendance:- 30,718

Referee:- Howard Webb
Assistants:- Mr. S. Beck & Mr. S. Long
Fourth Official:- Mr. C. Foy

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Cudicini; Walker, Nelsen, King (Capt.), Assou-Ekotto; Livermore, Parker (sub Defoe, 71); Van der Vaart (sub Rose, 80), Modric, Bale; Adebayor (sub Saha, 79)

Subs not used:- Friedel; Kaboul; Kranjcar, Giovani

No Bookings

Bolton (4-1-4-1):- Bogdan; Ricketts, Boyata (sub K. Davies, 76), Knight, Alonso; Reo-Coker (Capt.); Miyaichi (sub Tuncay, 79), M. Davies, Pratley (sub Ream, 28), Eagles; Klasnic

Subs not used:- Jaaskelainen; Petrov, Vela; Ngog

Booked:- Pratley (foul on Bale)

The goals came – bring on Chelsea!

It took a long time for a rampant Spurs to force Bolton into submission, but a goal by a former Blackburn player, Ryan Nelsen, soon led to a second by Gareth Bale and a convincing win by Spurs who had numerous shots, too many off target, many of which were saved by Adam Bogdan, who made not one but two double saves too! Substitute and club captain Kevin Davies got a late goal to give the visitors half a chance, but Spurs went on the attack again, and Louis Saha scored with literally the last kick of the game to restore the two goal difference. It was the least that Spurs deserved.

The game was preceded by more celebration of Fabrice Muamba’s survival, with the players wearing appropriate T-Shirts, and the crowd drowning out the announcement of a one minute applause with spontaneous applause around the ground. The applause was also a tribute to the medical staff who had performed so well, doing what they do, but doing it so well. Muamba’s name was also chanted around the ground towards the end of the game.

Spurs made four changes after the Chelsea game with Cudicini in goal, Ledley King and Ryan Nelsen taking over as centre backs, and Jake Livermore replacing Sandro. Livermore partnered Scott Parker behind the trio of Van der Vaart, Modric and Bale, with Adebayor up front. Owen Coyle brought in Mark Davies for Muamba, and Chris Eagles for Petrov, compared to the side which had started the original game on 17th March. Skipper Nigel Reo-Coker was the defensive midfielder behind four, but Miyaichi and Pratley had the task of supporting Klasnic when possible. Bolton didn’t get forward much until Spurs scored. Then the game opened up, as you’d expect.

Spurs then were making all the running, and it just seemed as if it would be a matter of time before they would score, but things didn’t work out that way. Bale had the first shot on goal after 4 minutes, following a Modric ball. Bale took two touches before firing low and powerfully, but straight at Bogdan. After 7 minutes, Adebayor touched the ball onto Livermore, who had his shot saved. The ball ran to Modric, whose effort was tipped over by Bogdan for his first double save of the night.

Five minutes later, Bale made a run through the middle, exchanged with Adebayor, before passing to Van der Vaart, whose shot was held. Some great quick passing play featuring Modric, Bale and Adebayor led to a corner, but that was hit straight at the keeper. Van der Vaart was shining at this stage, and not just in forward positions. Some great effort and skill from him on the touchline in his own half was followed by a ball to Livermore, who just lost control on this occasion.

Bolton started to show a little in attack, but Kyle Walker was playing some good defensive headers. In my opinion, Walker had one of his best games in a Spurs shirt, making the extra half yard of effort that wins favour, but defending well, as well as attacking as swiftly as we know he does. Adebayor had a shot saved by Bogdan after an Assou-Ekotto cross. The shot didn’t have enough power, but rebounded to Bale and his effort was also saved by the Hungarian in the orange shirt.

Darren Pratley over-stretched in making a cynical foul on Gareth Bale who had been released by Modric’s pass, after an Assou-Ekotto clearance. Howard Webb booked Pratley as he was stretchered off. He had to be replaced by Ream. Eventually Luka Modric had the final touch after the free kick, which was typically wasted by Spurs. There was good effort and skill by Modric on the left flank to win and retain the ball. He sent a ball down the channel for Adebayor, who pushed the ball onto Bale. Gareth took one touch, before hitting a left footed fizzer that was just outside Bogdan’s right post.

Spurs had a great chance after 38 minutes, but unfortunately it fell at the feet of Scott Parker, whose creative juices were not so good all night. Bale had made the run down the left and passed inside; Adebayor dummied, but Parker’s shot was deflected and went for a corner, when he really should have put the ball away. From the corner there was scramble in the goalmouth, with Adebayor present, but Bolton managed to clear. After 40 minutes, Assou-Ekotto left the right back in his wake before crossing to Bale, whose powerful shot passed wide. The goals had to come in the second half, didn’t they?

Three Cup heroes from different past victories were presented at half-time – Alan Mullery, Paul “Maxie” Miller, and David Howells, still looking boyish after 21 years. A lovely early move featuring Livermore, Assou-Ekotto and Modric led to a foul on Luka just outside the box. Rafa took the kick which hit the top of the bar with power, and went out of play for a goal kick. A Spurs throw from the right was headed by Livermore for Modric, who just couldn’t get the right touch to fire on goal. Livermore sent a beautiful long ball from deep for Walker, who made a great run, before his cross won a corner.

The pattern for the second half became more piercing and long passes for runners such as Bale and Walker. The effort made, and stamina shown at times was terrific to witness. Following a Spurs corner and half clearance by Bolton, Walker made a great run down his wing, and crossed. The ball reached Van der Vaart towards the left and his ball in was headed just wide by Ledley King, who had been up for the corner.

On the odd occasion when Bolton did make a break, there were a couple of times when Ledley seemed to get beaten for pace. However, Ryan Nelsen covered his partner well. Bolton won a corner on the hour and Eagles’ shot was deflected over. Nelsen fed Parker from the back after 62 minutes, and Parker carried the ball for a way, before feeding it to Adebayor, who put Van der Vaart into a good scoring position. Rafa hit the ball straight at Bogdan. Van der Vaart clipped a ball over the defence on the left side to Assou-Ekotto. His cross was headed by Adebayor, but collected by the keeper. A Van der Vaart ball from deep gave Walker another run, but he fired wide. Van der Vaart gave Adebayor a shot on goal, but that man Bogdan made yet another save. After a second corner by Van der Vaart, Livermore managed to head over the bar at the back post from such close range.

Modric sent Walker away and he won his battle with Miyaichi, before his shot was saved by Bogdan. At the other end, Klasnic tested Cudicini with a shot, but Cudicini held the attempt.

Spurs fans had been baying for Defoe and got what they wanted with 20 minutes left, when Jermain replaced Scott Parker, and Spurs sought to attack even more. Defoe almost scored with his first touch too, after Bale made a run and fed him the ball. Jermain turned and passed his marker, hitting a shot that Bogdan saved. Bogdan then tipped over a Bale effort from a corner.

At last the deadlock was broken, and it was a former Blackburn player who scored the goal! Van der Vaart hit the corner towards the back post. The keeper got under the ball, and Nelsen met it with a header back across the goal into the net. Ryan celebrated his first goal for Spurs with gusto, and as swamped by the team. Owen Coyle immediately replaced Boyata with Kevin Davies, but Spurs went two up within three minutes. Adebayor fielded a long ball, and passed to Defoe. Defoe turned and slipped the ball to Gareth Bale who hit a great left footer that beat Bogdan. Bale was at it again within a minute of scoring, receiving from Livermore and hitting a shot wide.

More changes came, with Tuncay replacing Miyaichi, and Bolton, having nothing to lose, seeking to get back on terms. Harry Redknapp made a double substitution of Saha for Adebayor and Rose for Van der Vaart. Bale switched to the right flank, and the game became more end to end in the closing stages, with Cudicini having a bit of work to do. Both Saha and Defoe beat any possible offside decision after 82 minutes, with Saha on the right, passing inside to Defoe. Jermain received with his back to the goal, and couldn’t get the right touch on the ball. Saha and Bale were then providers for Defoe, whose shot was blocked. After a Bolton attack, Spurs made a break, and Saha sent Rose away down the left. His ball into the middle passed too far in front of Defoe.

As full-time approached, Bolton got a goal back when the ball was crossed deep from the right, and reached Kevin Davies at the back post for an easy finish. In added time, Defoe had two efforts, one of which hit the side netting, and the other being saved by Bogdan. After a throw from the left, the ball was passed inside by Assou-Ekotto, and Louis Saha hit a fine right footed shot that was unstoppable to restore the two goal difference, and end a great night for Spurs.

Owen Coyle made a point of applauding all those present at the end of the game. The emotion of the Muamba situation is perhaps over now for Bolton, who can get on with their fight to avoid relegation. On their current form, I think they are likely to succeed too.

As for Spurs, they showed on Saturday that they are more than a match for Chelsea. We are more than capable of beating them on Sunday April 15th (time to be confirmed), in search of our first FA Cup Final since the famous 1991. Bring it on!

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