Posted on February 25, 2008
Jonathan Woodgate’s headed goal in extra-time gave Tottenham a 2-1 victory over holders Chelsea in the Carling Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.
A first-half goal from Didier Drogba, his 10th of the season, put Chelsea on the brink of a second successive Carling Cup triumph – but a second-half penalty from Dimitar Berbatov sent the game into extra-time.
Then just four minutes into the extended period, a somewhat fortunate header from Woodgate earned Spurs their first trophy since they claimed the Worthington Cup in 1999.
The pre-match focus had revolved around Chelsea coach Avram Grant’s team selection with Frank Lampard and captain John Terry, omitted from the Champions League side against Olympiacos the previous Tuesday, unsure of their places.
But the 52-year-old Israeli, who replaced Jose Mourinho as manager last September, cleverly avoided more controversy by selecting them both in his final line-up.
Instead, it was troubled England left-back Ashley Cole, France veteran Claude Makelele, Germany captain Michael Ballack and England midfielder Joe Cole who found themselves out of luck.
Grant also paired new £15 million signing Nicolas Anelka and Drogba together for the first time in attack but the former was largely anonymous throughout.
The opening half was dominated by Spurs even though they found themselves behind at the interval.
Tottenham’s supremacy began from the kick-off when Chelsea full-back Juliano Belletti gave the ball straight to Robbie Keane.
The Irishman couldn’t believe his luck but his shot was deflected to safety by Terry – an instant repayment of Grant’s faith. In the ninth minute Spurs hit the crossbar when Aaron Lennon’s corner was met by the head of Pascal Chimbonda at the far post. Fortunately for Chelsea, the ball dropped onto the top of the bar and out to safety.
Seconds later it was the turn of Berbatov to squander a gilt-edged opportunity when he headed Keane’s cross wide of the target from six yards.
Tottenham continued to remain in the ascendancy and in the 27th minute Steed Malbranque brought a fine diving save from Petr Cech when he tried his luck from the edge of the penalty area.
Chelsea, in contrast, had failed to find their normal free-flowing football but Tottenham’s inability to find some reward for their control eventually let Grant’s side seize back the initiative.
The warning signs were there for Spurs when Didier Zokora brought down Shaun Wright-Phillips on the edge of the penalty area in the 33rd minute.
Drogba’s free-kick was a foot wide of the target but when Zokora fouled his Ivory Coast team-mate four minutes later, the misdemeanour had major implications for Juande Ramos’ side.
Firstly, Zokora was booked by referee Mark Halsey but the more lethal punishment was to follow.
It arrived a minute later when Drogba’s free-kick found the back of the net with the Spurs wall and, more importantly, goalkeeper Paul Robinson completely flat-footed.
Robinson was playing only his second game since being recalled by Ramos following a long spell as number two to Radek Cerny.
Robinson’s season has been littered with mistakes and poor judgement both at domestic and international level and his positional questioning was at fault again as Drogba curled his effort into the Spurs net with ease.
Tottenham’s response was immediate when Berbatov flicked the ball on to Keane to shoot straight at Cech.
Chelsea continued to look comfortable after the re-start and although Tottenham raised their game it took a fine stop from captain Ledley King to prevent Anelka from increasing their lead in the 65th minute.
But Tottenham found a way back into the game in controversial circumstances in the 69th minute.
Wayne Bridge was adjudged to have handled the ball under pressure from Spurs substitute Tom Huddlestone and the referee’s assistant immediately signalled a penalty.
Bulgarian striker Berbatov stepped up to send Cech the wrong way and keep Tottenham’s dreams alive.
Spurs were now inspired and they should have gone in front in the 80th minute when Keane sent Zokora clean through with just Cech to beat.
The Chelsea keeper saved Zokora’s first effort with his face and the Ivory Coast midfielder then blasted the follow-up over the bar.
Grant was clearly concerned by Tottenham’s resurgence and he had every right to be especially when Berbatov brought another stunning save from Cech in the 84th minute.
Chelsea were now hanging on like a punch-drunk boxer in the final rounds but Spurs could not find the knockout salvo.
Keane then wasted a chance to win it at the death when a long through ball from Huddlestone was flicked on by Woodgate for the Irishman to hook his shot over the bar.
But Ramos clinched his first trophy as Spurs manager when Anelka fouled Lennon midway in the Chelsea half just four minutes into extra-time.
Woodgate, signed from Middlesbrough in the January transfer window for £8 million, glanced the free-kick from Jermaine Jenas onto Cech’s gloves and the ball then rebounded off the Spurs defender’s face and into the net.
Robinson justified his selection with seven minutes remaining when he saved superbly to deny Chelsea substitute Salomon Kalou.
Spurs had to withstand some more anxious moments as Chelsea threw everyone forward in an attempt to equalize but the final whistle signaled a fabulous triumph for Ramos who had won his first silverware just four months after taking over from Martin Jol.