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23 Jan 2008 11:18
Tottenham finally got the better of Arsenal as they booked a place in the League Cup final with a 5-1 rout of their north London rivals in Tuesday’s semifinal second leg.
Juande Ramos’s side had endured a miserable nine-year sequence of 21 matches without a victory over the Gunners, but they swept away those bitter memories in style at White Hart Lane.
Jermaine Jenas gave them the perfect start with a sublime individual effort and Nicklas Bendtner’s own goal was followed by second-half strikes from Robbie Keane, Aaron Lennon and Steed Malbranque to clinch a 6-2 aggregate success. Emmanuel Adebayor’s strike was no consolation for Arsenal.
It was sweet revenge for Spurs, who lost against Arsenal at this stage of the competition last season, and it clinched them a first cup final appearance for six years against Everton or Chelsea, who meet in their second leg on Wednesday.
While a trip to Wembley is tangible proof of the progress Ramos has made since taking over in October, it was the eye-catching manner of Tottenham’s performance that impressed most.
Arsenal, as usual in the League Cup, had started with a below-strength team but Spurs took full advantage to record their biggest win over the old enemy for 25 years.
They had left the Emirates Stadium two weeks ago convinced they should have won after being held to a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
And the frenzied atmosphere before kick-off served notice of the Spurs fans’ all-consuming desire to get it right at last.
The ear-splitting din made it clear to the players what was expected and they responded in style in the third minute.
When Jenas collected Dimitar Berbatov’s pass 30 yards out and surged towards goal, it seemed impossible to get through the massed ranks of red-shirted defenders.
Jenas’s acceleration and control took him past four players and into the penalty area, where he lashed a low drive past Lukasz Fabianksi off the far post.
Spurs were playing with the kind of fluid movement that is normally Arsenal’s trademark.
Denilson’s injury midway through the first half forced Arsene Wenger to send on Cesc Fabregas earlier than he would have liked. But not even the Spanish dynamo could halt Tottenham’s momentum.
When the second goal came in the 27th minute it was laced with a large dose of good fortune but it was no more than Ramos’s side deserved.
Jenas whipped in a teasing free-kick from wide on the left and Bendtner, rising above Michael Dawson to try to clear, succeeded only in heading into his own net.
Wenger’s side were shell-shocked. Berbatov should have added a third when he took Jenas’s clever chested pass and sprinted away, but the Bulgarian’s shot hit the post.
That near-miss briefly brought Wenger’s side to life. Bacary Sagna forced Radek Cerny into action for the first time with a header that the Spurs keeper tipped over.
It wasn’t enough to change the pattern of the game, though, as Spurs struck with a classic counter-attack in the 48th minute.
Lennon’s lofted pass took Hoyte out of the game and gave Keane the chance to drive in a low shot that Fabianski let slip through his grasp into the far corner.
There was still more to savour for Spurs. In the 60th minute, Pascal Chimbonda fed Keane and his first-time pass found Lennon who slid a perfect shot under Fabianski.
Adebayor reduced the deficit with a superb strike in the 70th minute. But Arsenal’s frustrations were clear when the Togo striker clashed heads with Bendtner after becoming involved in a spat with his own teammate.
Spurs poured on the agony in stoppage time when Malbranque tapped in to cap a magnificent night for Ramos’s team.—Sapa-AFP
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