Monday, 25 February 2008

Carling Cup Final Review

On cup final day, the result is more important than the performance. Tottenham Hotspur provided both as they deservedly won their first trophy this century after outplaying CSKA Fulham at Wembley today.

While the game wasn’t the most exciting as a spectacle (when are cup finals ever?), a heroic Spurs fightback saw them peg back the holders after going 1-0 down to a Didier Drogba free-kick in the first half.

CSKA have not had their full compliment of players for some time. Today saw the return of ‘Fwank’ Lampard (Lumpo’lard?) and John Terry. Add that to the fact the club’s African contingent were all back gave Avram Grant with one of those selection headaches that managers up and down the country would love.

The CSKA bench consisted of Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Alex. The term ‘embarrassment of riches’ has never been so apt.

Spurs started like a house of fire (if a house on fire is considered a good thing...) with Keane almost opening the scoring after just 25 seconds. Only a typical John ‘No regard for my own well-being as long as we don’t concede’ Terry block prevented the Lilywhites taking the lead while the national anthem was still ringing in everyone’s ears.

The first half continued in this vein. Tottenham were dictating the play as CSKA struggled to find their feet. I say this in the most literal sense as players falling over almost habitually. The over-zealous groundsman at Wembley had clearly over-watered the pitch beforehand. Of course, some players don’t need any such invitation to hit the deck. Didier Drogba was a frequent victim of the sniper in the crowd and I’m also sure I saw Jermaine Jenas rolling around clutching his face after bumping into Ricardo Carvalho. I was later assured that I was wrong as English players don’t dive apparently.

The Drog’s inability to stay vertical won his side a dangerous free kick on the edge of the Tottenham penalty area following a reckless challenge by his fellow countryman Didier Zokora. CSKA had missed 2 free kicks just minutes earlier so you’d think Zakora would have known not to make a silly challenge.

Then again, this was Didier Zokora!

The good Didier made him pay as he curled his shot around the wall into the bottom corner of Paul ‘Not as fat but equally not good’ Robinson in the Spurs goal. ‘Robbo’ was one of the few Spurs players not to come out with much glory. Having flapped at many a corner I’m going to quite harshly suggest he could have at least attempted to save the free-kick. He was on that side of the goal and shuffled across leaving the area exposed for Drogba. Not taking anything away from the free kick mind.

There wasn’t much to write home about either side of half time as CSKA reverted to the containment strategy that has become the norm at The Kremlin (Stamford Bridge) in recent years.

Tottenham were in control but struggling to find the breakthrough. Ramos tried to change this up by introducing Tom ‘Slim’ Huddlestone to add something extra to his attack. This proved to be a success but before that, a word on the substituted Pascal Chimbonda. There’s disappointment and there is being a twat. Chimbonda skulked off down the tunnel without so much of a glance at the bench. Lo and behold, when his side won, who was there in the middle of all the celebrations? You guessed it. Far be it from me to reinforce negative borderline racist stereotypes but what is it with the French moaning and sulking this weekend???

Back to the game and it was ‘The Hud’ who was directly involved in the Spurs equaliser. Having controlled a cross into the box, the bouncing ball struck Wayne Bridge on the arm. The linesman frantically waved his flag signalling the offence and Mark Halsey pointed to the spot. It may have been slightly harsh on Bridge but after his theatrics (2:12 – looks for the linesman before falling over) in last year’s final which resulted in Arsenal’s Emanuel Adebayor being wrongly sent off after a case of mistaken identity, you have to feel it was a form of poetic justice for the England man.

Berbatov rolled the ball into the net from the spot and the Tottenham half of Wembley stadium was rocking. 1-all and the north Londoners were in the ascendancy. They were unfortunate not to get a winner in normal time thanks to the ineptitude of, shock, horror, Didier Zokora. The Ivorian found himself bearing down on goal with just minutes to go. His touch let him down and he struck a weak shot straight at Cech. However good fortune saw the rebound fall back at his feet but with the goal at his mercy, he struck high and wide. Didier Zokora has never scored for Tottenham and if he can miss chances like that, he probably never will.

So to extra time. Within four minutes, Jermaine Jenas floated a free-kick into the box where a poor Pter Cech punch rebounded off the head of Jonathan Woodgate and bounced oh so slowly into the goal to give Tottenham a deserved lead. The marking by CSKA was amateur. I’m still not prepared to buy into the recent hype around Jermaine Jenas but I had to admit he did make ‘Fwank’ look quite average in the middle of the park during the course of the game.

Even the introduction of Ballack and Joe Cole wasn’t enough to inspire a fightback. CSKA dominated as they tried to find an equaliser but couldn’t penetrate the Spurs defence. The final whistle eventually came and Junde Ramos reinforced his reputation as a cup specialist.

People will cynically tell you that the Carling Cup doesn’t matter. That Tottenham’s jubilation at the end of the game was unwarranted.

This is slightly unfair as the win (despite Zokora) means Tottenham are guaranteed a place in Europe once again next season – something they can’t be sure of obtaining via their league position. Also, for a club so starved of silverwear every trophy is important. Beating CSKA and making John Terry cry must have also been quite enjoyable.

1 comment:

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