A Tottenham victory over their archrivals was inevitable, but in the process of getting the long-awaited triumph, Juande Ramos’ side released years of frustration and disappointment on an Arsenal side that, truth be told, didn’t stand much of a chance of leaving White Hart Lane victorious from the kickoff.
As a result, Spurs have their first win over their nemesis since 1999, and more importantly, are in the Carling Cup final, with a chance to win their first trophy since they won this same competition in the 1998-99 season.
Tottenham went ahead in the first half of the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, and looked set for a victory until Theo Walcott made a goal out of almost nothing to salvage a draw.
So, it was understandable if Spurs fans were cautiously celebrating when the home side went ahead inside three minutes, when Jermaine Jenas, who scored their goal in the first leg, weaved his way into the box and released a low shot that ricocheted off of the post and in to put Tottenham up 2-1 on aggregate.
Jenas had a hand, or foot, rather in the second goal, which came in the 27th minute. Jenas delivered a free kick deep into the box, and Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner rose highest for it, but headed it into his own net to put Tottenham up by two goals on the night, and on aggregate.
Three minutes later, the outcome could have been all but sewn up within a half hour, as Dimitar Berbatov was put through, and beat Lukasz Fabianski with his shot, but it went off of the post.
The two sides went into halftime with the scoreline still at 2-0 (3-1), which is where the true test began for Spurs.
So often, including the tie two weeks ago, Spurs have been at this point, where they had the victory in their hands, but failed to close the deal. You could say that Tottenham was cursed not by their own luck, but by waiting for luck to be on their side.
However, this time, instead of waiting for luck to deliver, they made their own luck, and finished Arsenal off. And it didn’t take very long either, as it was 3-0 on 49.
Aaron Lennon doesn’t always make the best of his passes, but on a counter, he put one right on the money for the breaking Robbie Keane, who beat two Arsenal men to the ball and fired a shot from just outside the box that beat Fabianski and went in at the far post.
Arsenal could have cut into the deficit mere moments later, but Bendtner was unlucky to see his audacious overhead try careen off of the bar, which was a pretty clear indication of whose night it was.
Just as quickly, it could have been 4-0, as Steed Malbranque had a glorious chance, but Fabianski finally got his arms wrapped around one.
It was only a temporary respite, as Lennon deservedly got on the scoresheet on the hour to put the tie well and truly beyond Arsenal’s reach.
A pass from the right flank came in towards Lennon, but luckily for him, he couldn’t get a good boot on it, and it went to Keane, who fed it back to the winger, who was left completely on his own, and made the Gunners pay for it by slotting home past the oncoming keeper.
Keane and Berbatov were substituted minutes later, and only after their exits did Arsenal finally dent the scoreline.
Emmanuel Adebayor, who came on just after Spurs’ strike duo exited, made it 4-1 with a 70th minute cracker from the edge of the box, but in the end, his strike would be cancelled out, as Spurs pressed on for more, intent to make the best out of their fantastic night.
Jermain Defoe may want to stay at Tottenham, but he won’t earn himself any extra minutes after being embarrassingly wasteful with a clear opportunity in the waning moments.
However, even he can have a laugh about that one, and it wouldn’t matter, as Malbranque put the icing, the whipped cream, and the cherry on top of the emphatic victory by adding a fifth at the end, when Jenas found him at far post, and the Frenchman had the easiest of tap-ins.
There might be quite a few who will try to play down Tottenham’s victory, seeing as how the Carling Cup isn’t one of Arsenal’s priorities, and Arsene Wenger’s lineup selections reflect as much. But, to call his starting XI second-rate would be more of an insult to those players than it would be to Spurs’ triumph.
Even if Flamini, Fabregas, and Adebayor had started from the outset, and Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue were on the pitch, the result would have likely been the same, although probably not nearly as much of a rout.
Whether or not it will take another 20-odd matches for Tottenham to record another victory over Arsenal remains to be seen, but that’s another worry for another time.
Ramos’ stone-faced expression at the final whistle shows that there’s business still yet untended, as either Chelsea or Everton stand in the way of Tottenham’s first trophy in nine years.
Who will it be? Will it be cup holders Chelsea, who will take a 2-1 lead into Goodison Park for Wednesday night’s second leg? Or will Everton overturn the deficit and move one step closer to their first trophy in more than a decade?
I’ll have a report following tomorrow’s match, so stay with Soccerlens for all the latest in the Carling Cup and more.