Why Spurs are not in the FA Cup final

 

Angered, saddened, distraught, dejected; just a few of the descriptive terms I felt as I trudged back down Wembley Way this evening, following the 5-1 defeat at the hands of Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final. This wasn’t how the game was supposed to pan out, but that is exactly how it did and now is a blow-by-blow analysis of how the game was lost to the team from West London.

Drogba goal 1-0

Many believe the goal came against the run of play with the staunchest of Tottenham Hotspur fans arguing the case following two excellent chances for both Rafael Van der Vaart, whose header was cleared off the line, before the Dutchman’s looping cross needed just the faintest touch from Emmanuel Adebayor to turn the ball into the back of the net, subsequently striking the post and bouncing out of danger.

A hopeful punt up field from David Luiz was met by the burly Didier Drogba, who turned William Gallas and rifled past Carlo Cudicini to make it 1-0. Having seen the replays, Gallas, for me, was caught in two minds about whether to get close to the Ivorian or not. He allowed Drogba to bring the ball down and after getting too tight, was turned too easily by the Chelsea striker and allowed the space to pick his place in the Spurs net.

The repercussions of the goal clearly wore off on both sets of players, especially since the goal came on the stroke of half-time meaning Harry Redknapp and Roberto Di Matteo’s respective team-talks were severely altered in time for the second half.

Mata goal 2-0

Following up from the point of the Drogba goal, the team-talks were clearly in the favour of Chelsea who came out in the second half all guns blazing and, after two excellent stops from Cudicini to deny first Juan Mata and then John Terry, the resulting corner, met by David Luiz, was blocked by Ledley King. The ball fell kindly to Mata, who fired goal bound. Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who despite being grounded, touched the ball away from the goal-line only for referee Martin Atkinson to blow for a goal in Chelsea’s favour.

Some have discussed re-writing history in relation to the ‘goal’, but the fact of the matter is; Mata’s strike completely changed the complex of the game. Spurs were happy to deal with the one goal deficit, having performed admirably in the initial 45 minutes. However, the respective team-talks from Redknapp and Di Matteo clearly had an adverse effect for both parties. Chelsea came out all guns blazing in the second half and if it wasn’t for two excellent stops from Cudicini, it would’ve been 2-0 anyway. Spurs were made to pay for a sloppy start, regardless of the controversial decision by Atkinson.

As mentioned, the goal completely altered the shape of the game and Spurs’ game plan changed completely following the Spaniard’s effort so soon after the restart.

Bale goal 2-1

As mentioned, the Spurs’ game plan completely altered and it was hardly surprising to see them back in the affair just six minutes after Mata’s goal. Scott Parker sent Adebayor clean through and despite Petr Cech swiping out the Togolese front-man; Gareth Bale was on-hand to tap into an empty net.

This is where my talking point begins; credit to Atkinson for waving play on and not blowing up for the obvious foul on Adebayor straight away. However, if the incident had been played outfield, involving a midfielder, for example, surely he could’ve punished the offender for a clear foul. Cech denied a goalscoring opportunity by fouling Adebayor and nine times out of ten, would’ve been red-carded, my example being the 2006 UEFA Champions League final when Jens Lehmann was given his marching orders for taking out Samuel Eto’o only for Ludovic Giuly to duly tap into an empty net.

Yet, the Chelsea shot-stopper’s challenge went unpunished when suitable disciplinary action could have been taken. If a player can be bought back for a caution, surely the same could’ve applied to Cech this afternoon? Furthermore, if the option for a penalty and the reduction of men from 11 to 10 be made available, would fans have taken it, knowing full well the resulting spot-kick could’ve been scored and the one-man advantage be on offer? Either way, the goal stood and it brings me to my next point.

Ramires goal 3-1

Mata, central to Chelsea’s attacking threat in the encounter, calmly played the ball through to the marauding Ramires who, having been played onside by Kyle Walker, lofted the ball over the ensuing Cudicini to restore the Blues two-goal advantage.

Once Bale had halved the deficit on Sunday evening, Spurs effectively went gung-ho to press for an equaliser, a move which played straight into Chelsea’s hands. They soaked up the pressure effectively and efficiently looked to catch Spurs on the counter at every opportunity. The game was more open as the 90th minute edged closer and it was hardly surprising to see Chelsea capitalise on a Tottenham side that had begun to push more and more men forward. The introduction of Jermain Defoe for Van der Vaart left the Lilywhites short in midfield as Mata sliced open the midfield and back four for Ramires to net his goal of the evening.

Lampard goal 4-1

An excellent dipping free-kick from Lampard 30-yards rubbed salt into the wounds of the Spurs fans, who had been forced to endure a long afternoon at Wembley.

The build-up play leading to the free-kick was what incensed me the most in this goal. Moments earlier, Drogba had the ball at his feet and was anticipating Gallas to commit to the challenge to easily turn him. The Frenchman didn’t fall for this and, as a result, a possible Chelsea attack failed to materialise.

However, perhaps out of frustration or a lack of concentration, a similar scenario was again involved in the build-up, this time seeing Gallas attempt to rob Drogba of the ball close to the half-way line. Drogba anticipated the challenge and comfortably turned the defender before bearing down on goal. Gallas had little option to bring him down 30-yards from goal and the resulting free-kick from Lampard found its way into the top corner.

Malouda goal 5-1

As if the Lampard free-kick was bad enough, substitute Florent Malouda’s goal, and Chelsea’s fifth, in the dying embers of the encounter was the icing on the cake for the Blues. Having come close just moments earlier, the Frenchman latched on to through ball from Mata to slide past Cudicini and extend Chelsea’s lead.

There is very little to add on this. Spurs had completely shut off at this point and the miserable evening was compounded by Malouda’s late goal.

Final thoughts

First, let me start on the choice Chelsea few who opted to chant ‘murderers’ during the minute silence that was held for the 96 victims that criminally perished 23 years ago today during the tragic Hillsborough incident, along with the hounding news that Livorno’s Piermario Morosini passed away on Saturday evening following a cardiac arrest.

The knuckle dragging Neanderthals clearly had no ounce of respect for their common man and ruined what should have been a touching moment in the footballing world. This brings me on to my next point, credit where credit is due to Atkinson, who opted to end the minute early as a result of the incompetent morons and their shambolic behaviour at Wembley.

Back to Spurs, the players look to have run out of steam so late on in the season. Lacking the cutting edge that they possessed early in the season, notably during the run of just one loss in 19 games prior to the 3-2 defeat to Manchester City in January, it is no surprise to have seen them slip during the business end of the campaign. Looking devoid of ideas pushing forward and lackadaisical at the back, Spurs now need to win their remaining five games of the season to secure Champions League football next season.

Which brings me on to my next point; there is absolutely no point on dwelling on this result. Yes, the defeat to Chelsea was a sucker punch, but next weekend is the task of overcoming QPR, which is no easy task. Every game between now and May 13th is winnable and despite Chelsea and Newcastle having to play each other in the same time period, it is important to focus on the upcoming encounter against the West London side. Either way, Redknapp must have the player’s thinking to Saturday evening and with it, restore the confidence that they can overcome QPR. But, that is the frustrating thing about Spurs; they can, and probably should, win their next five games…

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