Monday, April 16, 2012

Spurs and Controversy in the FA Cup Semi-Finals

The controversial goal given to Chelsea at Wembley by the referee in the FA Cup semi-final is not the first time that Spurs have been on the wrong end of decisions at this stage of the competition.  It started back in 1922 and has been a regular feature of the semi-final defeats ever since.

It's Nothing New but Why is it ALWAYS Spurs?

Spurs FA Cup semi-final record now stands at nineteen played and nine wins, the latest, tenth, defeat just adding to the sense of injustice felt before at this stage of the competition.

In 1922 Spurs reached their third FA Cup semi-final.  They had won the previous two but on this occasion they were again drawn to play Preston North End, the club they had defeated in the previous year's semi-final.

Preston gained revenge for the previous year’s defeat in controversial circumstances.  Spurs were favourites to win and played in that manner throughout the first half and went a goal up through Jimmy Seed.  Preston looked a beaten team at half-time but in the second half were re-vitalised and equalised.  Spurs came back into the game and looked to have scored when a shot from Bert Bliss beat the goalkeeper and was on its way into the net.  At this point the referee stopped the game to attend to an injured Preston player.  He decreed that he had blown the whistle before the ball entered the net and disallowed the goal.  To add insult to injury, the player hadn't been seriously injured.  This decision demoralised the Spurs players and Preston went on to score the winning goal.

In 1956 Spurs returned to Villa Park where they had lost at this stage of the competition in 1948 and 1953.

Villa Park was becoming a bogey ground for Spurs where FA Cup semi-final games were concerned. In 1955-56 they again had the misfortune to lose there at the penultimate stage – this time to Manchester City.  It was a refereeing mistake that helped to prevent Spurs achieving that first Wembley final.  Spurs were a goal down but in the final minutes were battling for an equaliser.   The captain, Danny Blanchflower had moved centre half, Maurice Norman, forward into the attack as he had done successfully in the previous round against West Ham.  In the dieing moments winger George Robb was through on goal and about to score when the Manchester City goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, caught hold of his legs.  A goal or a penalty, Spurs should have scored but somehow, unbelievably, the officials saw nothing and Spurs had once again fallen short. 

Then followed, seven successful FA Cup semi-finals from 1961 through to 1991.  However, the game in 1993 at Wembley against Arsenal was to be the first of what has now become six consecutive semi-final defeats.  That defeat was also surrounded in controversy.

In 1993 a visit to Wembley was required when Spurs and Arsenal were again drawn together.   Terry Venables’ team were left feeling hard done by when a refereeing decision influenced the result.  Spurs were denied a penalty when Darren Anderton was brought down in the penalty area in the first half.  If Spurs had been awarded a penalty and Arsenal reduced to ten men with over an hour to play the complexion of the game might have been different.   it wasn’t, however, and then with ten minutes remaining the Arsenal goal was scored from a dubious free-kick although tighter marking by the Spurs’ defence could have eliminated the danger.

A further defeat in 1999 ended Spurs chances of a Cup 'double' under George Graham - once again the referee had his say in the result and needless to say it wasn't in Spurs favour. 

Spurs under George Graham had already won the Worthington Cup and were looking for a Cup ‘double’ as they took on Newcastle United at Old Trafford.  Spurs weren’t at their best against Newcastle but the game turned on the hour when the referee missed a blatant handball by the Newcastle defender, Dabizas, as he struggled to head clear from a free-kick. The game remained scoreless and went into extra time when from a similar situation Campbell was penalised and Newcastle were awarded a penalty.   Shearer scored and with Spurs deflated, added a second to end Spurs’ dreams of a second visit to Wembley.

The defeat in 2010 was hard to take as Spurs were clear favurites against a Portsmouth team they had defeated easily in both League games earlier in the season.

The south coast club were in dire straits facing both relegation and financial problems.  In the semi-final Portsmouth worked extremely hard throughout and Spurs simply couldn't respond or lift their game.  The match went into extra time and was looking destined for penalties when Portsmouth's goal came courtesy of a Michael Dawson slip on the much criticised newly laid Wembley turf.  He slipped at a vital moment as he was about to clear the ball in the centre of the penalty area.  The ball fell invitingly for Portsmouth who accepted the gift and went on to secure a two goal victory and Spurs felt annoyed with the performance of their team and officials who ruled out both a goal and penalty claims in extra time. 

The April, 2012 semi-final will be remembered by Spurs fans for the non 'goal' which Martin Atkinson awarded to Chelsea at the start of the second half.

Spurs were a goal down at the interval but any chance of a comeback was dealt a serious blow when the referee awarded a 'goal' when the ball hadn't even reached the line.  The advantage raised Chelsea's confidence while putting Spurs under pressure to chase the match with the resulting scoreline greatly flattering the West London club.

This defeat has been even more difficult to accept as there was a clear mistake which handed the initiative to Chelsea at an early stage of the second half when Spurs were clearly still in with a chance of winning the game.


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