Sunday, February 18, 2007

FA Cup 5th Round LiveBlog: Fulham vs. Spurs

Well, I certainly have nothing better to do on this cold Sunday morning other than provide some live commentary on this round of 16 matchup in the FA Cup between Fulham and my club, Tottenham at Craven Cottage by the banks of the Thames.

This is an interesting matchup for Spurs because they've been absolutely horrid on the road in England, but their cup form has been fantastic. So here's an away cup game to test their mettle. Not that I'm expecting much, as I've learned by now never to expect very much from Spurs because they'll only frustrate you even more.

On one hand, a Spurs win would be nice, if only to prove they can win away from White Hart Lane. The victor books a place in the quarterfinals of the competition, meaning Spurs would just be just a win in the UEFA Cup round of 16 away from reaching that stage in all three of their cup competitions, which would be neat, and a sign of progress to be sure.

However, I also feel like a loss would be a blessing in disguise. Given Spurs frustratingly inconsistent performance this season, it's unlikely that they'll end up winning the whole thing, and if they're not going to get the silverware, than I'd just as soon they have less fixtures to worry about because they really need to get their shit together in league play.

Obviously I want the win more than anything, though.

Kickoff-minus 15 minutes: Yay, starting lineups:

Spurs: Robsinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Gardner, Lee; Lennon, Tainio, Zokora, Malbranque; Keane, Mido -- subs: Cerny, Rocha, Huddlestone, Ghaly, Berbatov

Fulham: Lastuvka; Volz, Knight, Christanval, Queuedrue; Davies, Diop, Smertin, Radzinski; Helguson, McBride -- subs: Warner, Bocanegra, Dempsey, John, Montella

Comments: As usual, Martin Jol is going with what's mostly his A-team, except for Berbatov. Great to see Lennon back in action. Based on the sides, Spurs are definitely stronger and based purely on quality, should emerge on top.

Unrelated comment: I just went to scrounge up some food from the grocery store. It's amazing how a college campus can turn into a ghost town before noon on the weekends.

Kickoff-minus 5 minutes: Yes, Spurs are wearing the infamous Chocolate Third Kit. I don't know that they've won once all season in the sky blues, so maybe this will bring about a reversal of fortune.

Kickoff: I like the "Come on you Spurs" chant way better than the annoying "COME ON FULHAM COME ON FULHAM" they were just doing.

4th minute: Spurs are already playing like they usually do on the road. Under pressure, little possession, yielding corners, etc.

5th minute: Andy Gray: "Martin Jol doesn't pick his team consistently enough. He's rotating in too many players, and that's why they've been so inconsistent this year."

Um. What. If it weren't for injuries, there are eight players who Jol would almost never take out of the lineup - Robinson, Chimbonda, King, Dawson, Lennon, Jenas, Malbranque, Berbatov. That's eight out of eleven positions.

6th minute: GOAL. Holy shit.

Route one, Mido flicks a long clearnace from Robinson on to Keane, who unleashes a cracker into the upper left corner with his first touch, on the half-volley no less. Wow. No cartwheel, though :(

8th minute: Spurs are playing a little better now. Zokora went on one of his patented 40-yard runs before falling over at the first hint of contact. The ref didn't buy it and the ball nearly fell to Mido in a good position, but he couldn't do anything with it.

10th minute: First sighting of Robbie Keane sign languange.

11th minute: Not surprisingly, the boo birds come out whenever Steed touches the ball. It would be great if he could score an amazing goal.

14th minute: Keano's already reverted to playing midfielder again. He's been back on defense more than Chimbonda, I think.

Diop goes into the book for a late challenge on Lennon.

15th minute: Spurs win their first corner, as Zat Knight had to get back to head a log ball by Mido into the stands. Nothing comes of it, but we get to see Pascal Chimbonda do an overhead kick for no reason.

17th minute: McBride forces Robinson into a great reaction save, England's number one tipping it over the bar. Diop can't place his header on the ensuing corner.

19th minute: They're talking about the Craig Bellamy vs. John Arne Riise WWF match over the weekend. In case you haven't heard, Bellamy became upset with his teammate because Riise didn't want to sing karaoke at the hotel bar. Bellamy then went after Riise's legs with a golf club. Incredible.

24th minute: Wipey is getting upset at several throw-in calls that have gone against him. That's about the only interesting thing that's going on. Neither team is doing much in the way of creating chances.

30th minute: Rough challenge on Lennon by Queudrue after he was beaten badly. Cynical foul, and the ref is justified in showing him yellow. Free kick from the right channel now for Spurs in a good position, but it's spurned.

32nd minute: Beautiful ball from Malbranque to Lennon on a counterattack, but the youngster's cross stays in the air too long to reach an unmarked Keane coming down the far side, and Queudrue gets back in time to head back to his keeper.

33rd minute: Ant'ny Gardner, a.k.a. "Bambi on ice" goes into the book for arm-tackling someone. The free kick is cleared, and Keane commits a foul at the other end. Cue wild gesticulations.

35th minute: Steed's been his usual busy self, and the crowd is not enjoying it.

37th minute: Mido makes perhaps the dumbest back pass of all time. He was just about on the half-line, and he decided to try to get it all the way back to Robinson. Robbo is barely able to slice a clearance into touch. As if Mido hadn't already demonstrated his clumsiness, he nearly heads into his own goal immediately following the long throw. Fortunately, Robbo manages a desperate save off his line and Keano pounces on the rebound.

39th minute: Steed dribbles. Steed beats somebody. Crowd boos. Good times.

40th minute: Good link-up play, but Mido blasts way over. I still can't tell if he was trying to cross or shoot from a ridiculous angle, but it was not pretty. Tainio was involved. I'd completely forgotten he was even playing.

41st minute: Lennon down the wing, could have threaded a pass to Keane in the box but instead opts for Mido at the back post, but overshoots the Egyptian's head.

42nd minute: Spurs are playing well right now. More good passing leads to what could have been the unthinkable., as Lee somehow found himself in a one-on-one with Lastuvka, but the linesman's flag goes up.

43rd minute: Another offside flag. Keano gestures exuberantly.

45th minute: Someone runs into Zokora at full and falls over, but the Ivorian is unmoved. It's like having the ball at his feet is some sort of Kryptonite for him.

Halftime: Satisfactory performance by Spurs. Possession has been about equal, but Fulham have rarely threatened. I was worried that Spurs would pull their usual tricks and start getting pinned back after taking the lead, but they really held their own in terms of possession after the goal, especially in the last ten minutes of the half. I'd still like to see one more goal, because Spurs haven't kept a clean sheet against EPL opposition since October or something similarly depressing.

I agree with the guy on TV. Let's bring on the Bulgarian Wonder for the Egyptian Lummox. Unless Berbatov's fighting an injury and only on the bench in case of emergency, I think he could really help take the game to Fulham to avoid some of the complacency we usually see when Spurs have a lead in the second half, which almost always leads to a poor final result.

2nd-half kickoff: Guess who causes two false starts on the restart by running into the center circle too quickly?


47th minute: Chimbonda gets jobbed on a poor call that leads to a Fulham corner. Zat Knight tries an overhead kick but hits Tainio in the face and gets called for dangerous play. The Glass Fin seems to be okay, fortunately.

50th minute: I should commentate the rest of this match like an Xpert Eleven match.



52nd minute: Jesus, there have to be at least as many Yids at Craven Cottage as their are Fulham supporters. Unless that's all the home fans singing "When the Spurs go marching in" mockingly.

53rd minute: Keano again expresses his contempt for a call against him...with his hands.

54th minute: Spurs pull an opportunity out of nowhere when Robinson easily holds McBride's header from a corner and boots it down the field to Lennon, who outraces everyone to the ball and bursts into the box, but his shot from an acute angle is parried away by Lastuvka. Spurs can't get a touch on the ensuing corner, and it's headed away.

55th minute: "When Spurs go marching in" starts up again.

56th minute: Steed concedes a free kick to Fulham in a decent position down the right flank. The crowd loves it.

58th minute: Gardner gets away with pulling McBride down inside the box. Andy Gray: "Look how clumsy Gardner is." That's our Bambi On Ice.

59th minute: Diop tests Robinson from long range, but Robbo makes a good save, spilling the ball a few feet away from him and then falling on it without a problem.

61st minute: Fulham have been enjoying a lot of possession recently. It's getting a little worrisome. I still wouldn't mind seeing Berbatov and/or Tom Huddlestone.

62nd minute: The ineffectual striker combo of Helguson and McBride both come off in exchange for Vincenzo Montella and Collins John. Hopefully they're no more effective.

64th minute: On the counterattack Lennon gets into the box but his attempted cross is blocked for a corner...and yet again, Spurs set pieces are completely harmless without Jenas or Huddlestone on the pitch.

66th minute: Yikes. Mortiz Volz gets the ball just inside the box and has time to do something with it before he's closed down, but fortunately, he doesn't do anything with it.

67th minute: YES. Here comes Clint Dempsey for Fulham's third and final substitution. I can't wait to see him just crumble under Pascal Chimbonda's gaze.

Andy Gray: "Dempsey's been guilty of taking too many touches on the ball in his few appearances with Fulham so far, says [Fulham manager] Chris Coleman." Awesome.

69th minute: MY GOD.


Almost a carbon copy of the first goal; flicked on by Mido, Keane with the first touch half-volley. Extraordinary.

72nd minute: Robbo with another phenomenal save, and Tainio averts disaster on the ensuing corner by beating Montella to nod the ball over his own post.

74th minute: There goes Mido, here comes Berbatov. Let's seal this one, big guy.

Dempsey gets punked by Y.P. Lee.

75th minute: Jesus. A lazy pass by Berbatov allows Diop to flick the ball to Collins John, who has beaten Gardner. He attempts to pull a Keano, but lacks the Irish skipper's precision and fires just over the bar.

76th minute: "Oh how I want to be in the number...."

It never gets old.

77th minute: BALLGAME.

Zokora goes on one of his patented runs to start a counterattack and feeds Berbatov into the box. The Bulgarian fleeces Zat Knight only to have his first attempt be denied by the far post, but the rebound is kind and he makes no mistake with the second effort.

79th minute: "We're all going to Wembley," sing the loyal Lilywhites. Let's hope so.

80th minute: Penalty appeal for Lennon, as he appeared to beat Lastuvka to a ball in the box, but the Fulham keeper came sliding out and appeared to get all of Lennon and none of the ball. Nothing given, however, and play goes on.

82nd minute: Keano blows a glorious opportunity for the hat trick. Spurs look ultra dangerous on the break. Tainio hits a ball through to Berbatov, who cleverly lets it run to Keane, who breaks into the box all alone. His effort is straight into Lastuvka's chest, and his follow-up is deflected for a corner.

83rd minute: Ghaly for Lennon. Yes, now we can see some people get hit. Hopefully Clint Dempsey is one of them.

84th minute: Fulham are making a last-ditch effort to get back in the game, winning a free kick just outside the box that Ghaly heads away for a corner, which amounts to nothing.

86th minute: Another Fulham free kick is driven straight into Robinson's hands by Queudrue.

87th minute: Well, it's taken 87 minutes, but Andy Gray is saying something positive about Spurs. He's complimenting the central midfield pairing of Zokora and Tainio, complimenting their work rate and desire to win balls, even though they're not productive in the traditional sense of scoring goals and whatnot.

89th minute: Spurs are essentially playing keepaway in the Fulham half. It's a beautiful sight.

90th minute: 4-0. It's not even fair right now.

Ghaly's cross is met by just outside the box. With his back to the goal, Keano flicks it with one touch over the defensive line, where Berbatov is only too happy to deftly chip it over the hopeless Lastuvka.

91st minute: Vincenzo Montella goes and punches Keano in the face. Keano gesticulates. Montella ends up in the locker room. Keano goes into the book, but no one is sure why. Keano gesticulates some more and plays with his captain's armband.

Full time: Phenomenal performance in the end. Clean sheet and everything. It's gotta be the chocolate kits. Now why can't they do this in the league?

My Man of the Match, perhaps a biased pick because of the shirt I'm wearing, but it's the one and only Robbie Keane.

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