Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tottenham Put In a Disgraceful Performance To Scrape Past an Unlucky Burnley

An amazing night at Turfmoor saw Burnley overturn a three-goal deficit to take the game into extra time as Spurs floundered. But just when lady luck was needed most, she turned her back on the Championship side and helped Spurs book an undeserved date against Manchester United in the Carling Cup Final.

On a night when all of Tottenham's star players decided not to put in a performance, it was Burnley who stole the show. Coming from 4-1 down in the first leg, to lead on away goals after winning 3-0 after 90 minutes, the game was sent into 30 minutes of extra time as Spurs clung on.

And it was only then that Spurs started to show any kind of attacking impetus, but it almost a case of too little too late.

With Spurs in all sorts of trouble in the Premiership, Harry Redknapp had declared that a Wembley appearance in the Carling Cup Final had taken equal status with survival.

The Spurs boss sent out a weakened team, he was so sure of victory. Bookmakers had Spurs at 1/100 as nobody but the most fervent of Burnley supporters could see a victory.

Burnley fans packed into Turfmoor as they sensed an unlikely victory against the Premiership strugglers. And they got off to a slow start in the rain soaked pitch.

The conditions were horrendous for a football match, with players slipping all over the place. But it was very noticeable that Burnley settled far quicker than Spurs. Players like Modric, Bentley, and Huddlestone all looked like they wanted to be elsewhere.

The best chance of the early exchanges was one of the strangest I've ever seen. Spurs left full Benoit Assou Ekotto controlled the ball about 40 yards from his own goal and then turned to knock it back. But it almost ended up as a screamer destined for the top corner only for Ben Alnwick to tip over on his debut for Tottenham.

The match took on the look of a scrappy affair as neither side had the skill required to make short of the bad conditions. But it was Burnley who took the lead on 35 when Robbie Blake scored a free kick from almost 40 yards after Alnwick had positioned the wall in the wrong place and then moved in behind it.

Burnley held onto the lead as the ref blew for halftime, and Harry Redknapp stood menacingly as he waited for his team to come down the tunnel. Redknapp had been scathing about his teams performances over recent weeks and this performance was probably one of the worst he has seen in his long career.

Owen Coyle on the other hand was ecstatic and pumped his team up again as they took the pitch for the second half.

The crowd at Burnley were in jubilant mood, and that was further helped at half time as one Burnley fan proposed to his girlfriend on the pitch.

Robbie Blake and Chris Eagles continued to torment Spurs as the second half got under way. But it was Spurs who almost equalised through a rare foray up front.

Didier Zokora, easily Spurs' best player on the night collected a pass and played a ball through for Gareth Bale. Running at goal he had the choice to either cross or shoot, so he did both and the ball sailed wide, the "Beast" in Burnley's goal didn't even have to move.

As the half progressed Spurs began to look more and more nervous, and it only looked a matter of time before Burnley scored again. Wade Elliott found Blake out on the left and he weaved his way through the static Spurs defence to cross for Chris McCann to finish easily.

Spurs were all at sea. Players were out of position, and Redknapp, Defoe and Palacios must all have wondered what they had done wrong to end up in this mess.

Burnley pushed on, despite being caught by Spurs on the counter. With the game almost at an end, Burnley were camped in the Spurs half.

Frantic Spurs defenders kicked the ball anywhere as long as it was away from their goal, but Burnley were like Terminator's and they just kept coming.

And in the 88th minute, they got their just rewards. Jay Rodriguez, a graduate from Burnley's academy scored his first professional goal. Alnwick, having a night to forget, dropped an innocuous cross and Rodriguez was the first to react as he smashed the ball home to send the game into extra time and the Turfmoor faithful into raptures.

But the game was to have a sting in the tail. After dominating for 90 minutes, Burnley's fitness on the boggy pitch began to wane and their Premiership rivals began to finally create chances.

Spurs went close a couple of times before Roman Pavlyuchenko fired home an Assou-Ekotto cross with two minutes remaining. And as Burnley tried to force the game into penalties they were caught on the break, Jermaine Defoe racing clear to finish into the bottom corner and to put Spurs into the final against United.

Burnley were understandably distraught, they had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after one of the most incredible nights that Turfmoor has ever seen.

Owen Coyle, the Burnley manager was speechless as he went around his stunned team. Robbie Blake stood silently in the centre of pitch wondering how Spurs had come good at the end, and Harry Redknapp prayed thanks to every God who would listen.

twitter / WillieGannon