The Didier Zokora Cup Final
Chelsea 1 Tottenham 2 aet
There was a moment in this game that had me jumping around, screaming out to the heavens muttering the same word over and over and over again.
Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why.
Why Zokora? Of all the players to find himself running towards the goal, why does it have to be him? Didier, bless him, makes Steffen Freund look like Thierry Henry. But then he isn’t a goal-scoring midfielder. Even when he managed to find Cech’s head rather than the goal, he failed to compose himself and lay the ball to Berbatov or better still, find the target with the second opportunity presented to him.
See, these are the moments that pretty much define Spurs.
The cruel irony is that the player who run from midfield is the one player that you know won’t be able to do what you oh so want him to do. But it was at this very moment that I had an epiphany.
Chelsea had done practically nothing all game. And rather seeing this assessment from a typical Spurs point of view, being ‘we’re gonna fuck it up’, I saw the game through the eyes of a neutral. Just for that one all-seeing moment.
There was nothing to suggest Chelsea would get something from the match. Spurs were in their ascendency. And I could see it. But before we get to this part of the game, let’s go back to the start. The opening 45 were ominous to say the least. My epiphany at this point in time was nothing but a sperm casually backstroking towards the egg.
We started brightly and created chances, but Drogba’s insistence at taking centre stage with his theatrics proved to be the dramatic catalyst for the wrong kind of breakthrough. This was Drogba’s no country for real men, and with each pathetic fall to the ground, it made me wish for an air-powered cattle gun. Yet another collapse to the ground, this time 30 yards out was definitely a free-kick, and the irony wasn’t lost on anyone.
What followed was a quirk that was probably noticed instantly by Ramos (mistakes like this are avoidable). A complete mess of a wall, built with Marmite rather than cement. Not only was it in the wrong place, but the fact King and Robinson failed to orchestrate some kind of organisation was unnerving. You could see exactly what Drogba was going to do. He tried it earlier. This time it was an open invitation. We hate it, they loved it. Drogba shots and scores. Robinson hardly moves. This time not because of consumption of pie, but rather the fact that even if he did dive in the general direction of where the ball was placed he wouldn’t even get there in time with rockets on his boots.
1-0 to them and much biting of nails insured.
One highlight from the first 45 minutes involved the Chelsea fans rising to sing a chorus of ‘Stand up if you hate Tottenham’. The Spurs fans stood up and sang ‘Stand up if you hate Arsenal’. The Chelsea faithful should really do their best to look elsewhere for that defining rivalry.
During half-time I wondered if this was going to be one of those disappointing days where efficient Chelsea do enough to stifle the game into a non-glamorous victory in their favour.
At this point I was worried. Goes without say I was enjoying the occasion, but I suddenly got sickeningly nervous of losing. Yeah sure, it’s the Carling Cup. The lickle half-breed cousin of the FA Cup. But this was Chelsea, and losing to them (and fucking ‘ell have we done a lot of that in recent years) is just not a feeling I choose to experience anymore. I hate it. I hate it more than losing to Arsenal. It’s like losing to Fulham. Why the fuck would you accept losing to Fulham?
Then there’s the fact that it’s a ticket back into the UEFA Cup. It’s not the ideal way in but it’s on offer. And with our bad start to the season costing us any true chance of finishing top 6, this is the dream ticket.
And finally, its silverware. You know. That thing other teams outside the top 4 sometimes manage to flirt with on the odd occasion the second-string eleven don’t make it through to the final. Makes the honours list look not too shabby either. What’s good for the goose...
Winning it would also make it number 15 in Cup competitions won domestically and in Europe (only Utd and Liverpool have won more). Call it just rewards for the progress made by Ramos in the short months he has been here or proof that we don’t choke when it matters. A medal of honour.
So back with the sickeningly nervous feeling, I couldn’t shake. And onto the second half.
“Huddlestone has to come on”, my mate commented.
“I can’t see where a Spurs goal is gonna come from”, I informed him a few minutes earlier.
And then Hudd came on. For Chimbonda. I burst several veins in my forehead screaming abuse at Pascal the Mercenary who was disgraceful in the ungracious manner he walked off the pitch. No urgency, no care in the world other than his vanity. And off he went down the tunnel. It’s bitterly disappointing he wasn’t sold in the January transfer window.
So with the skinny demure Hudd on, things began to change a little. A disguised pass here and there. Lennon, who might as well have been in Faces during the first half, began to show a little spark. And as I thought back to my comment about not seeing where we would score from, we go and win a penalty. Didn’t think of that one. The decision was never in doubt. Juggling the ball isn’t controversial imo. It’s nailed on, ball on the spot.
The sickeningly nervous feeling turned into a haemorrhage. Up steps Berbatov. Some Spurs fans run down to the bottom of the aisle and look upwards to the fans, preferring to watch the crowd reaction rather than the actual penalty.
Up steps the Bulgarian and in one majestically cool second we are level. Pandemonium at long last. And that little bit of hope is embracing us.
Tainio on for Steed. And Spurs continue to press and push and the tempo is now where it should be. Pace with movement and purpose. Chelsea are disjointed in comparison. Anelka isolated with zero chemistry between him and Drogba, or anyone else for that matter.
Lampard unable to control a midfield bossed by Jenas and Zokora. Jole Cole on the bench. Woodgate and King in complete command at the back for us. It’s not quite a walk in the park. More of a brisk jog with a poodle chasing behind you. But you know it’s never gonna catch up, let alone bit you on the arse. Although at this point, I still had nightmares of the poodle ripping its way through my gut like an Alien.
And then, the sperm completes its journey and my epiphany is born. The precise moment this happens is when Zokora runs through towards goal with Cech being the only person standing in the way of folklore. And you know what happens next. And nobody can believe it even though the outcome was exactly what we all knew would play out.
But when I held my head up away from my hands, I knew that this miss would not go down in history as a testament of why we always seem to fail when it matters. What had Chelsea done in the game that would lead me to believe they could go on to win it? As a Spurs fan you’d automatically think it’s more likely to be us who give something away or make a mistake. But without anchoring myself to what I would normally expect in that oh so classic defeatist manner, I was free to see the facts.
Chelsea were fucking shit and had no hope in hell of beating us. I was enlightened.
Extra-time. Jenas, not for the first time this season floats in a perfect cross and Woodgate, the most unlikely of heroes nods the ball, which is palmed back onto Woody’s face and into the net. Silk finish, it was not. But when you’ve seen Gary Mabbut score an own goal, you don’t tend to be picky about the quality of a winning goal.
It was a strange moment in the stands, at least where I was. There was almost a delay in celebrations. Fraction of a second if that. The initial header and its journey away from Cech and into Woodgate seemed to take an age. When the ball crossed the line it was Pandemonium Part II.
Keane limped off. Kaboul trotted on. Chelsea huffed and puffed without really scaring us too much, though that’s thanks to a decent stop from Robinson.
When Zokora completed his brace and overplayed a ball to Lennon that would have surely settled it beyond doubt, there was still way too much tension in the Spurs end. Not helped by David Copperfield who plucked out 3 injury time minutes to be added onto the end of the second half of extra time.
One of the best moments of the game was TT wasting time with a throw-on (good to see Spurs are finally learning to do this when it matters) and earning a yellow-card, only for Drogba to come running onto the scene to berate TT, wasting more of the precious time Chelsea had left.
And then the final whistle and 9 sodding piss poor fruitless years come to an end, and for the sixth decade on the trot our players have winner’s medals.
And we got to laugh at Drogba’s complaining to their bitter end.
Who would have ever predicated Jonathan Woodgate scoring the winning goal in a Cup Final for Spurs? Effortlessly brilliant at the back, I pray he stays fit. Same for Ledley.
Jenas and Zokora were superb in the middle of the park. Berbatov, worked hard....in fact, apart from Chimbonda, I don’t have too many complaints.
Maybe had we beaten Bolton or Boro in the final (no disrespect to either of them) then this wouldn’t mean too much. But beating Chelsea also meant that semi-final 5-1 got its icing on the cake.
Spurs stalled under Jol. We all know it. He deserves some credit for what he achieved in building the foundations, but Ramos did something that Jol could not have possibly done. And that’s masterminding the semi-final win and then lifting of the Cup.
Ramos and Poyet have galvanised us. Take this Cup success as the first hurdle crossed in the transitional cross-country race.
The players have tasted success. They have beaten a Top 4 club. They now know they have it in them. And there’s no doubt when the euphoria settles Ramos will gently ease in the mentality that next time, it should be something bigger. Something like the FA Cup, or maybe even the UEFA Cup.
We all know a sustained 4th spot position is the Holy Grail. And we all know that’s still way off. But with the chasing pack taking turns each season, it’s always open to anyone who really gives it a hard push.
So, there I was at Wembley loving every second of it.
That included Robbie Keane’s tears and utter joy at finally winning something. Berbatov also looked like something he hasn’t quite been all season. A Tottenham player. He celebrated like someone who you wouldn’t bet your money on leaving (caught up in the moment?).
And Chimbonda made an appearance along with a Spurs fan that joined in with the celebrations. The fan had more right to be there than Pascal.
Robinson can thank Cerny’s mistake for allowing him a way back into the team. Last thing he expected a few weeks back was for him to be part of the team again.
So as the fireworks fizzled out and the players disappeared down the tunnel (to finally reappear at Faces nightclub) we left Wembley happy. Chelsea fans long gone, it was pretty much the perfect Sunday.
Cheers Juande. Piece of piss wasn’t it mate?