What turned out to be a comprehensive defeat for Spurs was perhaps not
as bad as it might seem on paper, with Arsene Wenger fielding a strong
side for this Cup tie that doesn't matter to his fans and Spurs set up
with a defensive midfield and lacked attacking options until Harry
changed things at half-time.
Tottenham then looked a different proposition and took the game to
Arsenal, before succumbing 1-4 in extra time, when the subs had been
used and three players were carrying injuries or suffering cramp.
Oh, yes ... and the referee once more fell for Wenger's mind games.
It took a side that started with more
players with first team experience than Spurs and had to be bolstered by
Chamakh and Arsharvin to finally overcome Tottenham, even though they
had set the pace in the first half with their tempo and passing.
But for all that they only had one goal
to show for it and that almost cost them. Much has been made of
Arsenal's obsession with passing and not for killing teams off.
That was certainly the story in the first 45, with the Spurs midfield
containing three defensive midfielders in Livermore, Palacios and Sandro,
leaving only Bentley to add some forward momentum, although he looked
way off form and that cost Spurs on a number of occasions.
The game had started with a minutes'
applause for the sad passing of Bobby Smith and so often when a Spurs
legend has been celebrated, the atmosphere is not quite as heated as it
Early exchanges saw Vela blaze well over
and Bentley do the same from a free-kick, which needed to be on target
to test Fabianski or at least find a Spurs head. Arsenal's quick
passing opened Spurs up a number of times, but when Bassong slid in to
stop Denilson's pass, the Arsenal player got the ball back off the
Tottenham defender and hit his shot over Pletikosa's bar. In the
15th minute, Arsenal did get one on target to open the scoring.
Naughton got drawn infield and there were two Arsenal players outside
him, with Wilshire's low ball across the six yard box slid in by
Lansbury as the Tottenham defence failed to cut out the cross.
Five minutes later, Tottenham had a good
chance to get level, with the ball played up to Bentley and he turned
away from a diving in Djourou and ran at goal. He had Pav to his
right and Gio well place dot his left, but he chose to shoot and the
ball didn't go on target, missing by a yard or so.
Rosicky's shot from just outside the box
took a flick off a Spurs defender and went just wide, while debutant
Sandro took the ball out of the back and ran a long way with it before
playing it left to Pavlyuchenko, who drilled in a shot but it went the
wrong side of the post and hit the side-netting. Spurs also raided
up the right with Caulker joining in and his fierce cross took a
deflection off Koscielny, flying just over the bar, with Fabianski
Pletikosa didn't have a shot to save in
the half, as he was not at fault for the goal, so for all Arsenal's neat
passing and long sessions of possession, they failed to make it tell.
So at half-time, Redknapp brought on Lennon for Livermore and Keane for
dos Santos to spark a bit more attacking style. And it started
straight from the kick off. Immediately, Arsenal found themselves
pushed back, as Spurs held the ball a lot better than they did in the
first half and moved on the Arsenal goal.
In the fourth minute of the half, Kyle
Naughton moved up the right and came inside, waiting for the right time
to release the ball through a square Arsenal defence and finding Robbie
Keane, looking suspiciously offside. Arsenal reverted to type and
stood right arm raised for the offside decision but the flag stayed down
and Keane went through to hit shot that looked too near Fabianski
and without enough power in it, as he reached the 18 yard line.
However, the Arsenal keeper proved his "dodgy" tag, when he flapped a
weak wrist at it and the ball went in to make it 1-1.
The goal seemed to shake Arsenal's
confidence and boost Tottenham's, with Keane playing in Pavlyuchenko,
who hit his shot from a narrow angle too high. Eboue shot wide
after playing a one-two with Vela, then the Mexican headed Rosicky's
cross over when he had got beyond Bassong and was five yards out.
Spurs opened up the Arsenal defence again, when Keane sent Lennon away,
but when he got into the box, he hesitated and Koscielny got back to
slide in to block his shot. It was a good opening that needed a
first time shot to test the keeper,
Arsenal brought on Chamakh and Arshavin
to try and win the game, but they failed to make much of an impact in
regulation time. With ten minutes left, Spurs won two free kicks.
One for a crude and cynical challenge on Sandro by Lansbury, but Bentley
hit his shot through the wall, but straight at the goalie, then he swung
on in from the left and as it dropped to the far post with two Spurs
players closing in, Robbie Keane shot from point blank range and hit the
post. The ball bounced away, but the flag was up for offside
anyway. It was a poor return from Bentley, who, if he does nothing
else, is expected to deliver a string of quality balls into the box, but
one in 120 minutes is just not enough. His control let him down
and he didn't chase back, so it hard to see where he fits into Harry's
future Spurs team.
Pletikosa made his first real save in the
85th minute, when he had to knock down Lansbury's drive from the edge of
the box and fall on it at the second attempt. Palacios, who had a
poor game too, lost the ball cheaply and Denilson was played in and hit
another shot off target. Stipe came into action again a minute
from time, when Denilson fired in a shot on target this time and the
keeper did well to get down to it and he had a little good fortune to
see the ball bounce out in front of him, but it went far enough towards
the edge of the area to confound Nasri, as he looked for the rebound.
The Spurs keeper had a rush of blood in
the last minute, when Wilshire's free-kick eluded him and Steven
Caulker, who had an impressive debut, despite suffering from cramp for a
long period of the second half and extra time, headed off the line and
Sandro hacked the ball away to safety as it dropped, causing him to
seize up with cramp.
At the turnaround before extra time
started, Arsenal were standing up and Spurs were on the floor. It
was perhaps a little obvious what would come and a minute inside the
extra 30 minutes, Nasri ran into the box and as he was challenged by
Bassong, he went down and the ref blew the whistle. It appeared
that the ref might have given offside, but he ran to the spot and
everyone stood amazed, as no Arsenal player had appealed for the
spot-kick. Nasri got up to shoot past Pletikosa and did the same
three minutes later when Chamakh took a fall when bumped by Caulker.
Clever maybe, but there wasn't a lot in it and as Caulker was the past
man, it was somewhat surprising that the referee failed to give him a
card of any sort.
Sandro was reprieved after struggling on
with a hamstring pull, with Spurs almost making a last bid to get back
into the game. Kyle Naughton, another cramp victim, put in a cross
to the far post from the right wing and found David Bentley unmarked
running onto the ball. With all the goal to aim at and only
Fabianski to beat, he thumped his header wide of the post from about to
105 minutes in and the game was over.
Arsenal won a free-kick for Naughton's foul on Arshavin and with the
Spurs defender struggling, they took the free-kick quickly (Wenger
wouldn't have been happy if that had happened against him) and Arshavin
was through into the box to shoot low past Pletikosa, who once more had
Not willing to give up, Tottenham almost
had a goal straight away, but when Keane seize don a loose ball from a
melee in the goalmouth following a corner, Fabianski stuck out a leg to
block it on the goal-line at the end of the first half.
The second half was open with players
tired, with Arshavin twice missing the target with dragged shots and
Roman Pavlyuchenko cutting in from the left to hit a shot that flew off
for a throw-in.
So, in the final look back at the game,
it looked on the face of it a simple win for Arsenal and while it should
have been, it wasn't. Spurs did put up a bit of a fight, but ceded
too much space to Arsenal in the first half, sitting far too deep and
allowing the visitors to keep the ball. The same happened in the
second half of extra time, but by then it didn't really matter.
So, the Cup that was derided as Mickey
Mouse, when we beat the "Arsenal kids" 5-1 in the semi-final, was now
something that brought a great amount of joy in the away section.
"Shall we make a DVD ?" the Arsenal fans chanted. They probably
will, but it won't be a best seller down N17 way.