WEMBLEY RETURN ENDS IN DEFEAT
Avram Grant’s first opportunity to win silverware as Chelsea boss went begging as Juande Ramos’ Tottenham came from behind to win the first Carling Cup Final at the new Wembley Stadium. Didier Drogba gave Chelsea the lead in the first half, only for Dimitar Berbatov’s penalty and Jonathan Woodgate’s header to edge Spurs back in front, after 120 minutes of play.
Contrary to media speculation of the past week, both John Terry and Frank Lampard started for Chelsea. Perhaps surprisingly, Michael Ballack was only a substitute. Bridge and Belletti were the starting fullbacks, whilst Wright-Phillips was joined in a new look front three, by Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.
Tottenham had a very strong looking side, in particular up front, where Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov were paired. Zokora was preferred to Huddlestone in midfield, whilst Woodgate partnered King in the absence of the injured Michael Dawson. Between the sticks, Paul Robinson was chosen over Radek Cerny.
Inside the first minute, a badly under hit pass from Belletti fell to Robbie Keane in space, forcing the Chelsea defence to back track as he ran at goal. His eventual shot was blocked by the flying John Terry, as Tottenham asserted their authority in the opening stages.
From a Lennon corner on eight minutes, Pascal Chimbonda headed towards goal, only for his header to land on the bar, with Wayne Bridge covering on the line. It was still Tottenham who were on top, although Frank Lampard lashed a shot wide of Robinson’s near post as the game neared the half an hour mark.
Chelsea were awarded three free kicks within shooting distance, in quick succession. The first, taken by Lampard, was deflected off Woodgate for a corner, the second taken by Drogba, flying wide of the far post.
The third however, was central and 25 yards from goal. Again Drogba lined it up, but this time made no mistake in curling the ball past a wrong-footed Robinson into the bottom right hand corner of the net. After 39 minutes spent largely on the back foot, Avram Grant’s Blues had stolen the lead, which they held onto into half time, despite a half chance for Dimitar Berbatov late on.
Both sides remained cautious at the start of the second half, despite Tottenham needing a goal. In search of that, Ramos replaced Chimbonda with Huddlestone on the hour, the Tottenham defender leaving the field of play with an act of disgraceful petulance as he refused to shake Huddlestone’s hand before sulking off down the tunnel.
Ledley King had to stretch to block Anelka’s shot after the French forward made a threatening dart towards goal, before Tottenham were awarded a penalty.
Wayne Bridge as adjudged by the linesman to have handled the ball and despite Mark Halsey not knowing much about the incident, the penalty was given.
Berbatov held his nerve brilliantly and as Čech dived right, the Bulgarian placed his shot left to draw Spurs level.
Both managers made substitutions, Kalou replacing Wright-Phillips for Chelsea, Tainio replacing Malbranque for Tottenham. In the 81st minute, Didier Zokora burst through on goal, only for Čech to marvelously save the initial strike, before the midfielder panicked and blazed the rebound over.
A snap shot from Berbatov was also parried by Čech, as the game headed towards extra time. Three minutes before the final whistle, Grant replaced Essien with Michael Ballack, before getting ready for his pre-extra time speech.
However, just three minutes into the first half of extra time, Woodgate sensationally gave Spurs the lead. Jenas’ free kick was dangerously swung in, Woodgate getting a faint touch. Čech punched the ball back into Woodgate’s face, before the ball trickled over the line to give Spurs the advantage.
Joe Cole replaced the tidy Mikel as the Blues looked to get the equaliser. At the end of the half, Cole’s shot was easily saved by Robinson.
Substitute Kalou found enough space to shoot in the box in the 113th minute; however Robinson reacted sharply to save. With three minutes remaining, another chance fell for Joe Cole, but Robinson was again equal to it. Belletti then went for glory in the final minute, but he couldn’t repeat his Stamford Bridge stunner, rather he sent the ball miles over the bar into the crowd.
It wasn’t to be for Chelsea, who were outplayed by Ramos’ Spurs side, who were fully deserving of their victory. Chelsea will be disappointed with the goals conceded and the way they defender their 1-0 lead and have plenty to reflect upon as the battle continues, albeit only on three fronts.
Chelsea (4-3-3) Čech; Belletti, Carvalho, Terry (c), Bridge; Essien (Ballack 88), Mikel (J Cole 90+9), Lampard; Wright-Phillips (Kalou 72), Drogba, Anelka.
Tottenham (4-4-2) Robinson; Hutton, Woodgate, King (c), Chimbonda (Huddlestone 61); Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque (Tainio 75); Berbatov, Keane (Kaboul 90+12).
Referee Mark Halsey