Monday, April 16, 2012
FA Cup Semi-Final Spurs 1 Chelsea 5
Once again Tottenham retreat from an FA Cup semi-final with justified grievances at the officials. The record books will show a comprehensive victory for Chelsea but will not indicate the injustice of their second 'goal' which did not reach the line never mind cross it. Spurs have now lost six consecutive semi-finals since their last win in 1991.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Chelsea 5
Scorers: Bale Drogba, Referee og, Ramires, Lampard, Malouda
Team: Cudicini; Walker, Gallas, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Parker (Sandro), Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (Defoe); Adebayor Subs: (unused): Friedel, Nelsen, Rose, Livermore, Giovani
Tottenham's season is now all about whether they can lift themselves to claim a place in next season's Champions League, having succumbed in a semi-final tie at Wembley where another refereeing mistake has cost them dearly. Following an even first half where Spurs must have felt annoyed to be a goal down at the interval, the match was turned on its head when referee, Martin Atkinson, awarded Chelsea a 'goal' four minutes after half-time when the shot from Mata was blocked by a group of players lying on the goal-line. The ball hadn't crossed the line, no question about that, but Chelsea had a two goal advantage.
Harry Redknapp sent out his strongest available team with Carlo Cudicini maintaining his role as Cup goalkeeper. William Gallas and Ledley King were both fit to play and Aaron Lennon and Garerth Bale were available to provide width on the wings.
After a tentative start by both sides where Chelsea were more assured in their passing, Spurs began to have a greater impact and on two occasions looked to have taken the lead. First, Rafael Van der Vaart's header was cleared off the line by Terry with Cech beaten and then his free-kick hit the post with the goalkeeper stranded and Emmanuel Adebayor unable to get a touch on the ball as it passed him. From this seeming position of strength Spurs found themselves a goal down two minutes before half-time. Drogba controlled a long ball from defence, held off Gallas and turned to put a wonderful strike past Cudicini from the edge of the area.
That the match then turned significantly in Chelsea's favour was due entirely to Mr Atkinson who awarded them a goal following a goalmouth scramble. The same Mr Atkinson who oversaw Spurs defeat at Stamford Bridge last season when he awarded them a 'goal' which again hadn't crossed the line and allowed an offside goal to stand. This time the ball had been cleared from a corner by Cudicini, King got in a second clearance, challenged by Terry, and the ball ran out to Mata. His shot hit the four players lying on the goal-line and as he ran off to celebrate, the referee gave the goal, even though it had hit Terry and was cleared by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, not having reached the line, never mind cross it.
Spurs' protests fell on deaf ears but Chelsea had once again benefited from a referee's mistake and the comfort of a two goal lead which required Spurs to chase the game. Spurs pulled one back seven minutes later when Adebayor, through on goal, was brought down by Cech but the ball ran to Gareth Bale to score. Cech went unpunished for his foul on the Spurs striker.
Spurs became stretched as they sought an equaliser which played into Chelsea's hands and in the final thirteen minutes they added three more goals to give the score-line a rather flattering outlook in their favour. Ramires got behind the Spurs defence for the third, Lampard struck a free-kick from thirty yards and Malouda added the fifth in the final minute, again getting behind a stretched Spurs defence.
Spurs hopes of winning a trophy are now gone, their season which was so positive until early February has run out of steam and with Newcastle and Chelsea in hot pursuit, they are in serious danger of missing out on the Champions League place which was their priority for the year.
Spurs are now gathering a rather unwanted collection of records - their sixth consecutive semi-final defeat, their first defeat to Chelsea at Wembley and they join Watford, Fulham and Bolton as teams who have conceded five goals in an FA Cup semi-final.
Many of Spurs semi-final defeats have been shrouded in controversy - in 1921 they had two penalty claims turned down, in 1956 they were denied a clear penalty, as they were in 1993 when Anderton was fouled. In 1999 they were denied a penalty for handball but had a similar award given against them in extra time and in their last match in 2010 they had a goal disallowed and a penalty turned down. The Chelsea 'goal' seems to be par for the course for Tottenham.
The more worrying concern is that the ramifications of a Cup semi-final defeat can be serious - in 1947 Spurs missed out on promotion, in 1957 Blanchflower resigned as captain, in 1993 Venables and Sugar fell out while following the 1995 defeat by Everton, Spurs lost Jurgen Klinsmann who along with Teddy Sheringham had been such a vital part of Spurs’ resurgence that season.
Following the Portsmouth defeat two years ago, Spurs managed to galvanise themselves with an outstanding response which lifted them to the Champions League for the only time. Every Spurs fan is hoping that the final five Premier League games will provide enough points to secure their Champions League place but on the evidence of recent matches it is sadly looking a forlorn hope.