Tottenham come back from a goal down to win in extra time against Chelsea in a gripping Carling Cup Final. Match report follows.
Tottenham attacked from the start, as we knew they would. Chelsea soaked it up and retaliated with a fine goal, although by this time Tottenham had missed a couple of great chances to go in front. It would be half-way into the second half before we saw the next goal, but when it came, my word, how it breathed life into the game. More than the goal, more than the eruption from the Tottenham of the crowd, more than anything else it was Dimitar Berbatov’s celebration that sparked life into Tottenham’s game.
This is exactly what Berbatov has stayed at White Hart Lane for – to perform at the highest end of the footballing pyramid, the cup finals, the big games. In hindsight he seems the natural choice for taking that penalty but it required nerves of steel to step up to the spot and send Petr Cech the wrong way. No amount of practice can give you that confidence, no amount of practice can prepare you for this stage, and yet Berbatov scored as if he was born for this, and indeed, he probably was.
From that instant, no matter how well Chelsea played you knew that the Berbatov finish had inspired Tottenham players and taken them to a whole new level. It didn’t matter (well, it did, but not in the sense of dampening their confidence) if Zokora missed, twice, a golden chance in regular time. He had done his best, and in that situation it was all you could ask for. Tottenham forged ahead, scored in the first half of extra time and then, the job done, put three across the back and defended their 1-goal advantage till the final whistle.
People will glorify the win – and understandably so, as this revival from Tottenham is as significant as their #5 finish in the last two seasons. They will question Chelsea’s pedigree, which is unfair to both sides – Chelsea did their best, and Tottenham were worthy winners.
Some critics may question the quality of football but in reality these thrill-seekers are after goals, not quality football. The football on display was edgy at times – nerves will do that to you – but on a whole this was a great game of football, with every player having a story of their own. For many, like Terry, Lampard and King, it was a battle of stamina and willpower as anything else. For Cech it was more serious – the Chelsea keeper manfully continuing in extra time despite complaining of double-vision after being hit on the head by the ball in Zokora’s attempt. For Paul Robinson, it was a great way to boost his confidence as he made a few vital saves to close out the game.
In this emotional rollercoaster though, a few things need to be remembered:
- Chelsea need a better right-back.
- Tottenham need someone better than Huddlestone and Zokora to partner Jenas in midfield.
- Chelsea also need Grant to be more aggressive with his tactics.
- Tottenham need to jettison Chimbonda, fast. The man’s footballing talents are not in question but his behavior – and more importantly his history of disrespect towards his clubs – is inexcusable. If pressed, Ramos can always play Tainio at left-back.
- On today’s evidence, England can always try Lennon on the left to give them the width that Joe Cole fails to provide. Don’t get me wrong, I love Joe Cole, but his game lacks a certain dimension that the left-wing berth requires.
All in all, a cup final to remember – and for both clubs, a performance that they need to build upon to finish the season strongly domestically and in Europe.
Tottenham: Robinson, Hutton, Woodgate, King, Chimbonda (Huddlestone), Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque (Tainio), Berbatov, Keane (Kaboul).
Unused Subs: Cerny, Bent.
Chelsea: Cech, Belletti, Carvalho, Terry, Bridge, Wright-Phillips (Joe Cole), Essien (Kalou), Lampard, Mikel (Ballack), Anelka, Drogba.
Unused Subs: Cudicini, Alex.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)
Chelsea take on Tottenham in the 2007/2008 Carling Cup Final at Wembley on Sunday to round off a solid week for both teams – Chelsea securing a 0-0 away draw and Tottenham securing progress to the next round of the Uefa Cup.
Both sides will fancy their chances and it promises to be an entertaining (and thanks to Tottenham’s 5-1 blitz of Arsenal and the Ramos effect, unpredictable) match. Let’s see how things line up:
HEAD TO HEAD TOTALS
LEAGUE CUP MEETINGS
Andy Greeves: It’s time for Tottenham to swap nostalgia for success.
Spurs go in this game on the back of progress in the UEFA Cup and that win against Arsenal in the semi-finals. Tottenham have the players to score against Chelsea and if they play their aggressive, forward-possession brand of football against Chelsea on Sunday, Tottenham have a chance of winning the Carling Cup.
What’s worth remembering is that this Tottenham side has successfully challenged the top sides this season and the season before (even if it has been, like was last season against Chelsea, only for part of the match) and that confidence coupled with the wave of momentum Juande Ramos has built since his arrival means that Chelsea will have little, if any, psychological advantages over their opponents.
If Tottenham can defend, and if Robinson (assuming he plays) delivers a good performance, Tottenham will go a long way towards compensating their inability to challenge for the 4th spot this season.
There are concerns that Avram Grant could rest John Terry and Frank Lampard keeping in mind that they’ve just returned from injury and Chelsea need them fit for the season run-in with both Arsenal and Manchester United still to visit Stamford Bridge in the league (not to mention Arsenal’s trip to Old Trafford) and obviously for their Champions League campaign as well.
Ricardo Carvalho and Alex are able deputies at the back and Essien and Ballack are more than capable of running Chelsea’s midfield – the captain and vice captain are important to the team but not irreplaceable, and Grant will want to ensure that his squad stays injury-free (they are the only club without any injured players at the moment – do correct me if I’m wrong).
A lot depends on whether Grant can get Chelsea to match the electric pace Tottenham will be expected to bring to the game, or whether he will play the tactical game and get Chelsea to play on the counter using Joe Cole, Drogba and co. to pick off the gaps in Tottenham’s defence. IMO Chelsea are strong enough at the back to dominate this match by attacking first and pushing Tottenham back from the first whistle.
Tottenham to win 3-2. Chelsea to win 2-1. Too close to call.