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Spurs Review of the Year 2009 Part III: Carling Cup shoot-out heartache

PUBLISHED: 15:58 23 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:39 07 September 2010

There was little time for Tottenham s manager, players or fans to mull on the rights or wrongs of their disinterested exit from Europe. On March 1 they travelled to Wembley for the Carling Cup Final against Manchester United. Roman Pavlyuchenko had

MARCH

There was little time for Tottenham's manager, players or fans to mull on the rights or wrongs of their disinterested exit from Europe. On March 1 they travelled to Wembley for the Carling Cup Final against Manchester United.

Roman Pavlyuchenko had scored in every match in the competition and, with Robbie Keane cup-tied due to his spell at Liverpool, the Russian was given the chance to finish his scoring run in the tournament.

He started alongside Darren Bent, who had not been involved in Tottenham's cup victory under Juande Ramos 12 months previously.

Jamie O'Hara had also been heartbroken after missing out the previous year, and his relationship with Wembley was to take another turn for the worse.

The England Under-21 international replaced the ineffective Pavlyuchenko in the 65th minute and, when the sides could be separated after 120 minutes, bravely volunteered to take a penalty.

He missed, as did David Bentley, with only Vedran Corluka scoring for Spurs. United - who scored all four of theirs - were quickly victorious.

The post-match reaction revealed that Spurs' players had been slow to volunteer. Luka Modric, who took the spot-kicks for Croatia, had declined a penalty and Bent had opted to go fifth - the striker never got to take one.

United's hero, goalkeeper Ben Foster, announced that he had watched a number of Spurs' penalty takers on an ipod before the shootout, and Redknapp admitted that his side hadn't practised spot-kicks before the final.

The Carling Cup Final marked the beginning of the end for Bentley. The England international, previously dubbed 'the new David Beckham' had been disappointing following his £15million move from Blackburn Rovers the previous summer.

However, the former Arsenal midfielder had still made 32 Tottenham appearances when he replaced Aaron Lennon in the 102nd minute at Wembley.

Possibly upset at his omission from the starting line-up, Bentley disgusted the Lilywhites fans with his attitude, an apparent lack of effort which was particularly clear when he allowed United left-back Patrice Evra - who had been on the pitch for over 100 minutes - to run around him and into the penalty area without offering a challenge.

When Bentley missed his penalty, the reaction from the fans was noticeably different to the support given to O'Hara.

Redknapp had clearly seen enough as well, and Bentley made just two appearances in the remainder of the season - both as a substitute.

After the cup final, Spurs had nothing to distract them from their relegation battle, and a 12-game bid to avoid an apocalyptic relegation to the Championship.

The first of those was a crucial clash against fellow strugglers Middlesbrough at White Hart Lane.

Keane scored for the first time since his return in January, putting the Lilywhites ahead inside 10 minutes.

Pavlyuchenko doubled the lead five minutes later and Lennon's goal five minutes before the break gave Spurs a 3-0 half-time lead in a must-win game. A second goal for Lennon 11 minutes from time wrapped up a 4-0 win.

Three days later Tottenham travelled to Sunderland's Stadium of Light. Disaster struck early on in the shape of Kieran Richardson, who put the home side ahead after three minutes.

The Black Cats winger destroyed makeshift left-back Pascal Chimbonda, forcing Redknapp to swap his beleaguered defender with Vedran Corluka.

Keane grabbed a late equaliser, finishing from close range from Bent's cross in the 89th minute, but Chimbonda did not play for Spurs again. Having remarkably moved from Tottenham to Sunderland and back again in successive transfer windows, he had made just five appearances - two of them in the second string in the Uefa Cup.

Amazingly, he left White Hart Lane for the second summer in a row - this time to Blackburn.

Spurs faced a daunting week as they travelled to Aston Villa before hosting Chelsea the following weekend, and with just five points separating them from the drop zone.

However, Redknapp's side produced two of their best performances to shock their high-flying opponents and move away from trouble.

All eyes were on the wings as Tottenham faced Villa in Birmingham, with Lennon and Ashley Young lining up against each other on the same flank for a mouth-watering battle between two young English pacemen.

In the end it was Lennon who came out on top, playing a big hand in both of Spurs' goals in a 2-1 win.

Just six minutes had passed when Brad Friedel palmed Lennon's devilish cross out into the six-yard box and Jermaine Jenas stooped to head the ball into the unguarded net.

And, in the second half, Lennon teed up Wilson Palacios, whose shot was saved. Keane reacted first and crossed low for Bent, who doubled Spurs' advantage, making John Carew's 85th minute goal little more than a consolation for the home side.

It was a great day for everyone at Tottenham - except Didier Zokora, who permanently fell out of favour after his performance at Villa Park.

The Ivory Coast international started the game at right-back to man-mark Young, as he had successfully done in previous encounters with Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo and Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing at White Hart Lane earlier in the season.

However, Zokora met his match in Young. The Villa winger beat his marker time and again in the first half. Zokora was booked and then hauled off 10 minutes before half-time.

He only started one more game for Tottenham - the final-day trip to Anfield, when Palacios and Tom Huddlestone were both unavailable.

Spurs seemed to be on the verge of safety, but Corluka poured cold water on any celebrations: "Before the season everyone was saying that we need to be in the top six, so if we are not there then everything is not a success," he said.

Spurs maintained their unbeaten record against the Big Four in the league with a surprise 1-0 victory over Guus Hiddink's Chelsea at the Lane.

Modric's sublime low curling effort five minutes after half-time proved to be the winning goal, while Gomes underlined his transformation with one of saves of season to deny John Terry from point blank range in the closing moments of the game.

Ledley King also got one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon when his towering aerial challenge on Didier Drogba virtually knocked the giant striker unconscious.

Tottenham fans left the Lane pondering the fact that, despite their mediocre league position, their side had drawn with Chelsea twice, held United and beaten Liverpool twice at the Lane in the league and Carling Cup.

Meanwhile, Spurs' victory also had wider implications for the title race. Had they won, Chelsea would have closed the gap on Manchester United to just one point, after Sir Alex Ferguson's side lost at Fulham.

Unfortunately, despite taking 10 points from a possible 12 in March, Tottenham's month ended with negative headlines as King was caught up in a high-profile club versus country row.

The in-form defender was called up to the Three Lions squad the day after trhe victory over Cheslea. Fabio Capello's outfit faced two matches in five days - a friendly with Slovakia on the Saturday before a World Cup qualifier against Ukraine the following Wednesday.

Redknapp was incensed at King's selection: "It's mad, it's pointless at best," he said. "Ledley is a fantastic player for us and I would never stop any player playing for his country. But people have to understand the situation and how we manage him.

"He couldn't train with England, because he doesn't train with Tottenham. You couldn't throw him in to see what he can do because you could not take Ledley to the 2010 World Cup. His knee is not up to it."

King soon left England's training camp, but Redknapp insisted that his well-publicised 'row' with Capello had been wildly exaggerated and that he had never actually spoken the England boss about the situation.

He has since backed King's inclusion in the World Cup squad.


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