A match to the death was fought long and hard by Spurs, but it was
Manchester United who had just done enough through penalties to pry the Carling Cup from their hands and ruin Spurs' chance of saving face this season.
Spurs' season has already been marred enough due to the pre-season hype being followed by a long spell at the bottom of the table in a bitter and tight
relegation battle with teams such as Newcastle and West Brom.
The Carling Cup was the only real hope left for Spurs and their fans. Top-four glory in the league is still off limits for Spurs and the UEFA Cup was basically surrendered by
Harry Redknapp as sort of a trade for more focus on today's Cup final and staying out of the bottom three places for the remainder of the league season.
There is obviously a terribly painful and bitter side to losing this trophy to a team which, like all other top-four teams, doesn't really give a damn about it apart from naming it as a statistic to add to the history books.
I'd love to walk up to Fergie right now and ask - Why bother when you consider this trophy
as a lower priority one!?
Maybe deep down, the big-four teams do truly feel threatened by not winning anything in the season, aside from 'giving the reserves some experience'.
But they have no choice and are just literally put into the Carling Cup just so it makes it onto TV.
Should we just stop that and let the lesser teams play seeing as the bigger teams prefer just to focus on the Champions' League, the FA Cup and the League?
Let's face it, the general/neutral football world (media included) have grown to love just four teams and would only focus on what they play like and not bother about all the other teams who sometimes look like they're playing better than the favourites.
Anyway, that was all what I should've included in my "Carling Cup: Who Cares" article.
Now I will give a basic (undetailed) match report, discuss what's bad about the loss of this trophy for Spurs fans and then hopefully sweeten things a bit by taking some positives from it.
Please read on if you're a Spurs fan, you may just agree with me by the end of this...
This afternoon's match was a brilliant one. Both teams played excellently and with a recognisable desire to win it.
For the first 20 minutes, Manchester United had grabbed the bull by the horns and kept the ball to themselves as well as letting fly a few times at Heurelho Gomes, who also showed what he could really do if he focused (bar the penalty shootout - let's not forget that it is a very daunting experience for anybody).
Then Tottenham found their feet and played football for the remainder of the half
but with less shots and even less on-target ones at that.
Goalies Ben Foster and Heurelho Gomes outshone the rest of their respective squads.
Most of the saves they made kept both teams in it and with 30,000 fans in
each colour raising the roof and getting behind them all the way, how can they not feel influenced and driven to do so?
Rio Ferdinand made great use of his chance to score. The shot was hard and the ball dipped sharply, but not enough. It hit the roof of the net.
Ronaldo played with his usual flair and precision except in the free kick department. Each one either over the bar or knocking Spurs players for six (Jamie O'Hara got a ball fired at his chest). Yet Ronaldo still complained about not scoring.
In the second half, Tottenham had a lot more of the ball. Luka Modric and Didier Zokora made some great forward-pushing runs to try and get something. But the strikes still weren't frequent.
Pavlyuchenko, had scored in every Carling Cup round this season, but in that sense, he'd run out of goalscoring steam and was later substituted for Jamie O'Hara.
Aaron Lennon was instrumental once again in creating important possibilities for Spurs
one of which was entirely up to him to shoot and break the decibelometer.
He found himself in more space than he could imagine and
took that (possibly pivotal) extra touch.
Unfortunately he was denied by Ben Foster's quick reaction save. Bent completely missed the following rebound as well.
The more touches a player makes in space, the more time defenders have
to position themselves and counter the attack.
The second half had a better balance of possession in it. In the closing seconds of injury time, Spurs' fans hearts jumped up into throats and Ronaldo weaved between two Spurs players and struck a great shot which, sadly for him, hit the right-hand post.
The game remained safe for Spurs and extra time loomed indiscriminantly.
By this time, Darren Bent had gotten more of a grip on 'first touches' but he just couldn't deliver today. Still, him and Pav developed one rare display of
co-operation together instead of feeling as if they're both in a 4-5-1 formation.
The match was still deadlocked at 0-0 after 30 minutes of nail-biting extra time.
It was time for the worst way of deciding on a winner: PENALTIES.
This may not be a good enough excuse for Spurs losing today, but the penalty shootout was done at the Man. United end of the stadium so it may have ominously got to Spurs.
Jamie O'Hara took the first penalty for Spurs and it was competently saved by Foster.
Ronaldo in his usual "run-up-and-then-stop-suddenly-and-then-run-again" fashion
scored his penalty to leave Spurs dangling by the brittle thread known as
David Bentley (replacing Lennon after 102 minutes of play). He struck his shot wide of the left post.
Then Oliveira Anderson (replacing Danny Welbeck after 56 minutes of play) hammered the final nail into Spurs coffin by scoring his goal and the cup was theirs.
Final Score - 4-1 on Penalties to Manchester United.
What's bad about this loss for Spurs and their fans?
It's not just losing the cup that's bad for some Spurs fans.
It's what happens after that. There is now no trophy that Spurs can win this season.
Also, ironic as it is, about 95 percent of Spurs fans (guessing) have some sort of Gooner connection (friend, relative or work colleague), so banter and laughter will once again ensue, but maybe a bit more one-sided (e.g. Spurs fan may have nothing to say or not want to talk about it).
I’ll have to deal with it just like everybody else. I had a text from my friend reading: “glory glory man united. arsenal reject”
(‘arsenal reject’ being David Bentley who sent his penalty wide). I feel another barrel of laughter coming on.
But what else gets to me is the fact that Spurs have nothing to show for over £70million worth of new players this season.
Not to mention the extra money shelled out for the three players whom Spurs hung on a
fishing line for a few months (Defoe, Keane and Chimbonda). And by the way, Defoe and Woodgate being injured plus Keane, Palacios and Chimbonda being cup-tied (3 minutes Keane played for Liverpool in this cup!) hasn’t made today any nicer.
All the hype about the players they bought in the summer of 2008 (Giovani Dos Santos, David Bentley, Luka Modric, Roman Pavlyuchenko) turned out to show Spurs up as nothing but a complete laughingstock to every football club across the divisions. Well, it felt like that.
Most of those new "exotic" signings couldn’t deliver the goods when it came to the crunch, despite beating prominent teams such as Celtic and Juventus in their pre-season friendlies.
The entire Spurs fan-base were silenced after just a few weeks of premiership football with a string of defeats which sent them plummeting into the bottom spot, while former championship side Hull City pulled themselves up the table from day one as if they’d been in the Premiership all along.
Arsenal had enjoyed a bit of peace and quiet from Spurs for once; and some comedy at the same time in the form of watching Spurs wallow helplessly in their own delusion (until Arsenal found themselves losing 2-1 at Emirates to Hull City). Spurs were no better against Hull City at White Hart Lane.
Now if Spurs say “next year” like always, more Facebook-based relegation parties and jokes will definitely show up again. It just can’t be said anymore. Not until Spurs actually get somewhere next year!
Where’s the bright side to this!?
Barring the first 20 minutes, Spurs put up a great battle. To force Man. United into penalties while plagued with unfortunate injuries and in a neutral (equal fan-capacity) setting does take quite a lot of heart and I think that even Andy Gray would admit that.
Odds that he does – 300/1
Odds that he doesn’t – 5/2
Odds that he carries on watching a different match altogether – 1/1
If you really want to, you could always say “there’s next year,” but I think this season has shown that optimism isn’t always going to work, especially if you’re not the one playing it.
Still, you can see a few more positives if you take a different angle on things.
One things is that apart from cup-matches, Spurs remain unbeaten by any of the top-four teams this season,
whether at home or away.
Chelsea (Stamford Bridge) – 1-1
Arsenal (Emirates) – 4-4
Liverpool (WHL) – 2-1
Man United (WHL) – 0-0
Arsenal (WHL) – 0-0
Whereas other teams who were above Spurs at the time had lost to the top-four. So if you look at that, it might seem impressive.
Strange as it may seem, Spurs fans have been watching Arsenal more closely than ever before, while Arsenal fans have been watching Spurs more closely than ever before. Spurs still remain threatened by relegation ahead of their vital fixture with an
on-form Middlesbrough side, while Arsenal are scrapping with Aston Villa for that top-four spot.
Arsenal are, at the moment, in fifth place while Aston Villa are in 4th place with a six-point gap between the two after 27 league matches each.
I think a new rivalry has been created because of this mini face-off. Fifth place means UEFA Cup; Fourth place means Champions’ League. Spurs would probably be over the moon if Arsenal don’t make it into the top-four this year.
Spurs would be over the moon to see that Arsenal have come down to Earth and realised that they can’t win everything.
I think and hope that one day, Manchester United will realise that too before it results in a sacking.