FA CUP SEMI-FINAL
SUNDAY 15TH APRIL, 2012
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) CHELSEA 5 (1)
Referee:- Martin Atkinson
Assistants:- Mr. S. Beck & Mr. M. McDonough
Fourth Official:- Mr. A. Taylor
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Cudicini; Walker, Gallas, King (Capt.), Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Parker (sub Sandro, 90), Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Defoe, 75); Adebayor
Subs not used:- Friedel; Rose, Nelsen; Giovani, Livermore
Booked:- Gallas (foul on Drogba), Adebayor (foul on Cahill), Parker (unsporting behaviour)
Chelsea (4-1-4-1):- Cech; Bosingwa, David Luiz (sub Cahill, 59), Terry (Capt.), Cole; Mikel; Ramires (sub Malouda, 82), Lampard, Mata, Kalou; Drogba (sub Torres, 84)
Subs not used:- Turnbull; Essien, Meireles; Sturridge
Booked:- Drogba (foul on Lennon), Mikel (unsporting behaviour)
Why is it always us?
First it was the Mendes “goal that wasn’t” against Man Utd in January, 2005, then it was the Lampard “goal that didn’t cross the line” at Stamford Bridge in April last year, and now we have the “Mata goal invented by referee Martin Atkinson”. There’s no arguing with the eventual result in yesterday’s game, but surely there is also no doubt that Chelsea’s second “goal” was purely a figment of Mr. Atkinson’s imagination, and that mentally it led to the collapse of Tottenham Hotspur. By losing our sixth successive FA Cup semi-final, we equalled a record held by Chelsea, who also lost six semi-finals between 1920 and 1966.
There is nothing worse than losing an FA Cup semi-final, especially at Wembley, and nothing worse than losing to a club without honour, as demonstrated by many Chelsea fans who chanted abuse during the planned moment of silence in memory not only of the 96 who died at Hillsborough in 1989, but also the Italian footballer Piermario Morosini, who died on the field of play on Saturday. The behaviour of what I perceived as two pockets of several hundred Chelsea fans was an absolute disgrace to their club, and to the game. Liverpool fans will no doubt give them some feedback when the two clubs meet in the Final in three weeks’ time.
Chelsea also had the majority of empty seats in their section.
It was almost as if we saw two games yesterday. There was the first half, where the two sides were closely matched, and where Spurs had two great opportunities, with a Van der Vaart effort cleared off the line, and an Adebayor touch rebounding off the post. The first half concluded with a great goal by Drogba, who got the better of William Gallas, before unleashing an unstoppable left foot shot across Cudicini’s bows. Then, within minutes of the re-start came a Chelsea corner, from which Cudicini made a fine save. Mata fired the ball back in and Cudicini, Ledley King, John Terry and Benoit Assou-Ekotto all competed for the ball on the goal-line, with Assou-Ekotto clearing. The assistant referee was blind-side of the action, and referee Mr. Atkinson gave a goal, when the ball had not even reached the line, let alone cross it. That didn’t stop the ever-lovable John Terry claiming a goal though. Whereas every other goal was thoroughly replayed on the two big screens in the ground, all we got after this “goal” was a massive caption, saying “Goal”. They talk about justice for the 96, but some footballing justice for Tottenham Hotspur would be nice one day.
Spurs lined up in a 4-4-1-1, with the FA Cup goalie, and the best available team, including Lennon playing on the right. Thus Harry Redknapp had decided to forsake his successful 4-2-3-1 that had got us an honourable draw at Stamford Bridge recently. Roberto Di Matteo, who without a doubt has re-enlivened his team, fielded a lively side, with Mikel at the back of a midfield four, every one of whom was available to support Drogba up front. It was tight in the middle in the early stages. Scott Parker was making some heroic tackles, and clearances from the back, whilst when Spurs got forward there always seemed to be two or three blue shirts buzzing around them.
After 4 minutes, Gareth Bale made a good ball-winning challenge in the middle, and the ball was passed to Modric who carried it forward, before giving Adebayor a chance. Cech was out to pick up though. A Drogba cross from the right was headed well wide by Lampard. Parker was penalised and Drogba tried a free kick from long range which again presented no problem for Cudicini. Gallas stumbled when up against Drogba, but he also couldn’t keep his balance properly, and didn’t hit his shot well.
Once again, Gareth Bale was switching with Lennon, and at these times Walker was being left exposed on his flank. In fact the understanding between Walker and Lennon did not look good. Quite often, Walker would be ahead of Lennon on that flank. With Adebayor also coming to the flanks for the ball, Spurs often had few options when in possession in the last third. After a Spurs break in which Bale lost the ball, it fell to Parker who found Lennon on the left. His pass inside found Bale in a central position, but his shot was easy for Cech.
Drogba got an early yellow card for unfairly halting Lennon in his tracks as Modric had sent him clear near the half-way line. A great diving headed clearance by Parker released Bale for a run down the left, where he was effectively policed by Bosingwa and David Luiz, leading to a Chelsea goal-kick. Parker got forward to good effect too, and after one run into the box was blocked he gave a pass to Lennon, whose effort was deflected for a Spurs corner.
Chelsea broke forward after a failed Spurs free kick, and Walker had trouble against Kalou, who tried to feed the ball to Mata, but Cudicini was out to the ball first. Again, Chelsea found space on the left, and when the cross came in, Drogba’s header led to a corner.
Bale had a great run and a great chance after 34 minutes, which could have ended with a shot, but he chose to cut the ball back, succeeding in giving the ball to a defender. Adebayor carried the ball deep into the left of the Chelsea area, and chipped a cross, which Van der Vaart got a head to, but the ball went to Bale on the right. Bale returned the ball with some power, and Rafa also headed with power, only to see his effort saved by Cech. Shortly after that, Assou-Ekotto seemed to have his legs taken away as he entered the box, but there was no foul given. Adebayor got a touch to a Van der Vaart ball and the ball rebounded off Cech’s right post.
Spurs fell foul to a Chelsea ball from deep just before the break, when Drogba won that tussle with Gallas, and fired home for the half-time lead.
I haven’t the heart to give a blow by blow account of the second half. Suffice to say that after the controversial “goal”, the game opened up dramatically, as Spurs had to chase the game. They did get a goal back after Parker’s great ball reached Adebayor who was brought down by Cech inside the area. The referee allowed play-on as the ball ran to Bale for simple finish. Terry was appealing for offside, without realising that if the referee had stopped the game it would have been for a penalty and a red card against Cech. There was scope for much more debate about the referee’s course of action here too.
Ledley made a great saving tackle to deprive Drogba inside the area, and Bale made a great breaking run, which ultimately led to three Spurs corners, but no end result. Van der Vaart was replaced by Defoe, but Spurs were broken in the final 15 minutes. Firstly Ramires got goal-side of Assou-Ekotto to reach Mata’s chipped ball and fired home. Ledley had been drawn forward towards Mata. Three minutes later, Lampard hit a dipping free kick from at least 25 yards that beat Cudicini to his left, just inside the post. This was the cue for many Spurs fans to leave the scene of the disaster and at least beat Chelsea to the tube. I was one of those who did not see the last rites performed by substitute Malouda, again made by Mata.
Now we must see if Harry Redknapp can save our season by retaining a place in the top four. I am not confident in a team that has tired hearts, tired minds, and tired legs.
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