Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tottenham 3 Bolton 1 FA Cup 6th Round

Spurs progressed to the semi-finals of the FA Cup with an impressive win over Bolton, although it took quite some time for the goals to arrive.  Chelsea await at Wembley and Spurs will be looking to improve their disappointing record in FA Cup semi-finals, having lost five since defeating Arsenal in 1991.

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Bolton Wanderers 1
Scorers: Nelsen, Bale, Saha                        Davies
Team: Cudicini; Walker, Nelsen, King, Assou-Ekotto; Modric, Livermore, Parker (Defoe), Bale; Van der Vaart (Rose); Adebayor (Saha)  Subs: (unused) Friedel, Kaboul, Kranjcar, Giovani

With only sixteen minutes remaining it was incredulous that the match remained without a goal.  Tottenham had totally dominated the match and peppered the Bolton goal but were unable to get past goalkeeper, Adam Bogdam.  He kept Bolton in the game with a series of saves and blocks while Spurs also managed to hit the bar, put shots narrowly past the woodwork or simply failed to capitalise on the chances they created as they continued with their tendency in recent games of  numerous attempts on goal without actually scoring.  In the end the breakthrough goal came from an unlikely source and player.

Pre-match, both clubs and supporters acknowledged the work of the medical staff and emergengy services at the previous meeting when Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during the match.  There is much relief from the footballing community that he is making steady progress on his road to recovery.  Harry Redknapp had put out a strong team, Carlo Cudicini continued in his role of FA Cup goalkeeper while Ledley King and Ryan Nelson took over in central defence.  Jake Livermore replaced Sandro in midfield and Jermain Defoe remained a substitute as the rest of the team which drew with Chelsea re-appeared to maintain the momentum gained from that performance.

The first seventy minutes were a catalogue of missed chances by Spurs - Gareth Bale had shots saved and past the post, Livermore had a shot saved and the rebound from Luka Modric was also saved by Bogdam.  Scott Parker had a shot saved after he worked his way into the heart of the Bolton defence. Rafael Van der Vaart had a free-kick hit the bar and he also has a shot saved when put through by Emmanuel Adebayor who was also thwarted when put through one on one with the goalkeeper by Modric.  Ledley King had a header saved and so on top were Spurs that at times from before half-time Ryan Nelsen was even pushing forward to support the attack.  

Bolton rarely threatened and had all eleven players back defending as the pressure increased and at times Spurs had four players spread across the pitch in attack - Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto wide on the wings with  Modric, Bale or Van der Vaart alternating in support of Adebayor.  

Then out of the blue, Bolton got forward, with King trying to play offside, but Cudicini dealt comfortably with the situation.  As time went on fans were getting resigned to Spurs not getting the breakthrough their play deserved and when Defoe appeared on the touchline their was an appreciative roar.  Within a minute of coming on Defoe with his first meaningful contribution was to be the key which unlocked the visitors' defence.  He didn't score but his shot was touched away for a corner by the goalkeeper.

The pressure had been building but that corner was the beginning of the end of Bolton resistance as they conceded three successive corners, unable to clear the ball successfully.  From the third Spurs scored - a collector's item - a goal from a corner, a rarity for Spurs, a headed goal, not too many of those this season, and the scorer was Nelsen who rose through a crowd of players at the back post to head past the goalkeeper - his first goal for Spurs.

Two minutes later  as Spurs broke quickly from defence, Adebayor and Defoe linked with Defoe setting up Bale to score the second.  Bale had another shot just wide but with a series of substitutions, Spurs were content to play out time with little threat from Bolton.  Then with three minutes left, a cross from the right was touched by Nelsen and Kevin Davies knocked it back past Cudicini.

No real alarm and Louis Saha showed Spurs how to score in the final minute with a goal in the final touch of the game.  Against Chelsea, Van der Vaart at the interval and Bale at full time had the opportunity of a late score but failed.  This time Saha receiving the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the penalty area, turned and shot past Bogdam - the last action of the match.

Spurs deserved their win, it was, in the end, quite comfortable even if we did have to wait a long time for the goals to arrive.  Spurs were much more purposeful in their play with their passing and movement back to something like what they were producing earlier in the season.  Chelsea now await in the semi-final and with the Merseyside clubs contesting the other semi, it it's set to be a London/Liverpool final at Wembley.


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