Nobody expected a repeat of last week's score-line, but had Tottenham
taken all their chances, they could have almost doubled their tally, but
they didn't and that left Reading's second string to cash in on an FA
Cup Third Round replay, no doubt hoping it is their last involvement in
The fans did not
seem to share their unenthusiastic approach to the famous old
competition, as they greeted the draw with cheers which might have
indicated that they had just won the trophy outright. With their
players almost doing a lap of honour, you wondered what Reading are all
Obviously, the players selected for the
tie wanted to show that they are perhaps worth more than a supporting
role and some of the early physical challenges indicated that they were
there to rough Spurs up a bit. Duberry especially took getting the
ball by going through Berbatov to new levels and referee Clattenberk let
him have three goes, before finally putting him in the book.
It should really have been all over by
then. Although Lita looked lively early on, Ledley King soon
showed that the presence he brings to the defence makes a difference and
he kept the striker pretty quiet. It was Jermaine Jenas though who
tracked back to block Lita when he cut in from the left to hit a shot
and from that Spurs released Aaron Lennon down the right, but his cross
was too far ahead of Keane and Berbatov. Tottenham were buzzing,
with a good high tempo early on, hassling Reading into mistakes and one
lead to the ball being fed to Steed Malbranque, who played a one-two
with Dimitar, but the Bulgarian hit his shot horribly wide.
Five minutes into the game, Tottenham
should really have been 1-0 ahead. Steed put Berba away on the
right and his low cross into the box found Robbie Keane coming in at the
far post and from the edge of the six yard box he lazily put his left
foot shot wide of the unkept goal. It was a horrendous miss and
one which I am sure would have seen Spurs go on to win comfortably.
However, with a hatful of chances in the half, it was slack finishing
that was to cost us our progress from this match.
Jenas hit a weak free-kick that Federici
caught on the first bounce as it pitched in front of him, then Lennon
hit a weak shot from the edge of the area and while the game lost it's
way a bit, Reading surprisingly took the lead on 25 minutes. With
a free-kick given away for a soft foul by Lee about 35 yards out, Hunt
stepped up to take it and rather than clinging it into the middle of the
area to exploit Tottenham's uncertainty in the air, he hit it towards
the top corner, with Robinson badly positioned on the edge of the
penalty area. Robbo ran back to try and take it, but the pace on
it meant he could not push it over and he was running backwards as he
tried to catch it. Suddenly, he was in the back of the net and the
linesman was waving his flag for a goal. It wasn't possible to see
from my position in the ground where the ball was in relation to the
line, but Robinson did not think it was a goal.
Not that the Reading lead lasted long, as
it became a little reminiscent of last week's "you score, we score"
game. Aaron Lennon took the ball along the edge of the penalty box
from right to left, before flicking it through to Berbatov on the right
side of the area and from 12 yards out lashed the shot past Federici and
made it 1-1 just two minutes after the ball was adjudged to have crossed
the Spurs line.
Spurs looked rampant at this stage of the
match and should have secured their passage to Round Four by taking a
handful of the chances they created. Berbatov turned to hit an
acrobatic volley wide of the net, then Keane's back-heel past a square
defence opened up an opportunity for Jenas, but his shot hit the
advancing Federici. Then Malbranque got too excited when he was
set up by Berbatov and struck his shot way over the bar and then could
not get sufficient strength in his shot when played in by Keane.
Into injury time of the first half, which passed very quickly, Lennon
put Jenas through on the goalie and again, the Spurs midfielder's shot
was along the ground, when a little elevation might have beaten him.
However, the bounce dropped for Keane and he tried an airborne scissors
kick, but it went wide of the far post.
So, the teams swapped ends with the score
at 1-1, just like last week and Tottenham were attacking the Paxton Road
end, just like last week. But that was about where the similarity
Spurs did get a second half penalty, when
Keane was once more upended as he was about to shoot from the left hand
side of the box, following a well weighted ball from Michael Dawson.
Rosenior was the culprit and while there was another defender alongside
him, there was no card for the foul. Having missed a couple. Keane
left it for Dimitar to take and although the keeper guessed right, the
shot had too much pace on it for him to keep it out and Tottenham were
This obviously annoyed the annoying Hunt,
who decided to rough up Chimbonda off the pitch and surprisingly only
got a yellow card for it ... more of which later. But Tottenham
kept going forward and Keane got the ball into the net only for the
linesman to rule it out for a foul by Chimbonda before he knocked the
ball down to the Irishman. The low ball into the goalmouth was
working a treat, but the finishing touch could not be applied.
Keane failed again, when Berba and Chimbonda had worked a good move on
the right. It was Robbie's last action, as Adel Taarabt came on
for him to try and make something happen.
Dawson and King were comfortable at the
back, glad to be back in harness together no doubt, with Chimbonda and
Lee doing well outside them. They used the ball out of defence,
with Ledley often bringing it out himself and started attacks, like the
one that saw Lennon turn Duberry one way, then the other, before once
more knocking a low ball into the near post area. This time
Dimitar was on it, but instead of turning it into the goal, he managed
to stand on the ball and the opening was closed. Federici was
called into action when Taarabt cut in from the left and from 22 yards
out, he hit a low shot, but there was not enough on it to trouble the
Hunt sliced a shot from 25 yards a long
way wide and then at the other end, Bikey got involved with a through
ball and managed to slice his clearance up in the air and luckily for
him, it landed on the top of his own net. But once more Spurs were
undone by a slack piece of defending. A ball to the left was
picked up by Lita and he cut inside the area, running across King and
got his shot away, which Robinson dived full length to parry. No
defender reacted quickly enough, with Hunt nipping in to hit a shot
across the keeper and Dawson to net the equaliser with 12 minutes left.
From that point, Tottenham were more or
less out of it. Tommy Hud came on for Steed with a view to using
his passing to open the Reading defence. Unfortunately, it looked
like he came closer to opening Convey's forehead with a but as the ball
ran out of play on the Spurs left. It was uncharacteristic and the
Yank got a yellow card, so there must have been some provocation, but it
was on the opposite side of the pitch from my seat, so it was hard to
work out why he saw red.
There was one last chance for Spurs, when
Cisse floored Taarabt, but Jenas played the ball into the part of the
visitors area where there was no Spurs man.
The final three minutes of added time
were backs to the wall stuff. Jenas brought down Lita when he
robbed Zokora of the ball 40 yards out and bore down on goal, then the
Ivorian got a yellow card for not retreating ten yards from a corner.
This may have been planned, as this was his last game before he goes off
to the African Nations Cup and this may have given him a suspension,
which he can serve in the games he misses while he is away with his
country in Ghana.
A late free-kick was blocked by Zokora as
he raced out of the defensive wall and an even later corner, the source
of so many goals against, was this time headed out and cleared upfield
by Michael Dawson.
So, we have to do it all over again.
At a time when games are coming thick and fast, it was probably not the
best result, but at the end we were hanging on to the result, when we
should have been well out of sight much earlier.
I suppose, that even despite the
superiority we had in attacking terms, we should be glad to still be in
the Cup and having taken the three points in ten goal game, perhaps the
end results were the right way around. However, the shooting boots
need to be packed for the Madejski on 15th January.