Tottenham Hotspur 3 Fulham 1
Tottenham Hotspur dumped their London neighbours Fulham out of the FA Cup last night in a match fraught with football clichés. ‘On paper’ Tottenham had the players to win the game, but it in ‘a game of two halves’ Fulham looked like the more dominant side for much of the first half. However, ‘it’s a funny old game’ and ‘at the end of the day’ Harry Redknapp’s substitutions at half time turned the game on its head, as super-subs Tom Huddlestone, David Bentley and Roman Pavlyuchenko led Tottenham to Wembley for the third year in a row.
Tottenham began the match brightly enough, with Modric and Bale linking well in the early stages, whilst Palacios’ effort from long distance was not far wide. However, Fulham grew into the game, soaking up Tottenham’s early pressure with relative ease, and passing their way out of defence incisively. Bobby Zamora attached himself to Benoit Assou-Ekkotto for much of the first half, and after a neat exchange of passes with Damien Duff, Simon Davies found time and space to draw a smart save out of Gomes, as Spurs struggled to get to grips with Fulham’s passing.
The visitors took the lead on 17 minutes, the goal again coming from Tottenham’s left side. Assou-Ekotto and Bale struggled to cope with Duff and Zamora for much of the first half, and Duff rolled back the years to dribble through the Tottenham defence and release Bobby Zamora with a clever through ball, who coolly slotted home with his left foot. Dawson played Zamora on, but Bassong and Assou-Ekotto were caught napping as Zamora got in-behind the Tottenham rearguard with relative ease. Fabio Capello, who was in the crowd at White Hart Lane, could not have failed to be impressed with Zamora. He constantly worked the channels for Fulham, bringing his teammates into the game, and when called upon, had the composure to finish off a delightful move.
Fulham could have been two or even three up at half time. Brede Hangeland’s headed over from a Danny Murphy corner, and after a series of Fulham passes once again down Tottenham’s left, Gera released former Tottenham right-back Stephen Kelly, who only had to pick out the unmarked Bobby Zamora, but over hit his lofted cross.
Tottenham huffed and puffed thereafter, with Gudjohnsen at the heart of most of Tottenham’s better football. The Icelandic international was unlucky with a back-heel which was saved by Schwarzer, whilst Modric should have done better with a volley after good work by Bale and Crouch. As the half time whistle sounded, Tottenham trudged off the pitch to a chorus of boos.
Redknapp claims that he did not read the riot act at half time, but made his feelings clear by ringing the changes. David Bentley replaced the ineffective Niko Kranjcar on the right, whilst Huddlestone replaced Assou-Ekotto with Bale moving to left back, Modric shifting to the left of the midfield and Huddlestone returning to the centre of Tottenham’s midfield. The improvement was instantaneous. Tottenham, pressed Fulham from the outset, preventing Fulham from slowing the tempo. In fairness, Hodgson had probably warned his players to keep it tight for the first ten minutes, but just two minutes after the restart, Spurs were level. Bale, who looks far more dangerous from left-back, ran at the Fulham defence and earned a free kick after being felled by Kelly. The resulting free-kick was curled in from the left and, alluding everyone, bounced of the rain slickened surface to nestle in Schwarzer’s net.
Worse was yet to come for Fulham. Corluka injured himself whilst defending a Fulham break-away, and Redknapp signalled his intent by sending on Roman Pavlyuchenko. Tottenham’s team resembled the ‘famous five’ formation employed by Ossie Ardiles, with Crouch and Pavlyuchenko up front, supported by Modric, Gudjohnsen, Huddlestone and Bentley in midfield, as Palacios covered at right-back. Pavlyuchenko scored his ninth goal in seven matches on the hour mark, beating Schwarzer at his near post with a half volley from a David Bentley cross.
Five minutes later, Tottenham secured the two goal cushion their attacking play warranted, as Crouch and Modric linked well to release Eidur Gudjohnsen, who rounded the keeper to bundle home under pressure from Aaron Hughes.
Tottenham weathered the remaining 25 minutes, with few heart stopping moments as Fulham failed to find the energy and momentum that saw the brush Juventus aside at Craven Cottage last week. Duff volleyed straight at Gomes, whilst after the lively Okoka wriggled past Dawson, Palacios came hurtling in with a diving header to clear the ball.
Fulham will be disappointed not to have won the game in the first half, but will have bigger fish to fry in this seasons Europa League. Tottenham, buoyed by Manchester City and Aston Villa dropping points in the league, had a night to remember at the Lane. An insipid first half, a scintillating second and the Spurs go marching on in what was ‘at the end of the day, a game of two halves’ … Sorry.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2)
H Gomes – 7, V Corluka – 6 (sub 55min), M Dawson – 6, S Bassong – 6, B Assou-Ekotto – 4 (sub 46min), N Kranjcar – 6 (sub 46min), W Palacios – 6, L Modric – 7, G Bale – 7, E Gudjohnsen – 8, P Crouch – 7
R Pavlyuchenko – 8 (55min), T Huddlestone – 7 (46min), D Bentley – 8 (46min)
Substitutes not used
B Alnwick, D Rose, J Livermore, A Townsend
M Schwarzer -6, S Kelly – 5 (sub 69 min), A Hughes – 6, B Hangeland – 6, P Konchesky – 5, D Duff – 7, D Murphy – 6, D Etuhu – 6, S Davies – 6, Z Gera – 6, B Zamora – 7 (sub 78min)
C Dempsey – 6 (69min), S Okoka – 7 (78min)
Substitutes not used
P Zuberbühler, C Baird, B H Riise, C Smalling, J Greening
S Kelly, B Zamora
Star man: David Bowie. No obviously that’s just a song. Eidur Gudjohnsen was at the heart of Tottenham’s best moves, and looked dangerous as a centre forward and when dropping into midfield. Took his goal well. Looking like becoming a shrewd signing for Harry Redknapp’s men.
Semi final draw:
Tottenham Hotspur v Portsmouth
11 April 2010, 4pm
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