Breaking the heart of O'Hara
Now that's what I call Tottenham.
Still buzzing. The high octane swashbuckling football was nowhere to be seen first half, Fulham had our number, taken from under our pillow whilst we appeared to sleep. Head in palm of hands for most of it as they frustrated the fuck out of the players and the fans. BAE and Corluka seemed to both be obsessed with playing lackadaisical balls, and there was no authoritative swagger from the boys in Lilywhite.
Just efficient effort from Fulham and for the best part of the first 45 Harry was getting out-smarted tactically on the field. Ominous when they took the lead, Zamora of all people finding the net with a curling shot. They deserved it.
Football is always funny in about 1000 different ways. At half-tme you wondered what we would need to do in-order to get some kind of grip on the game. For starters, own the tempo. Said it in my match preview - make them worry about us rather than be concerned with trying to counter any spoiler-tactics directly. Hodgson is no fool. He did his homework, suffocated the midfield and had his players working their socks off on and off the ball. Made all the easier by a ghosting first half display.
Even though we pushed forward after going a goal down we still looked out of sorts. WHL wasn't exactly pumping positive pomp from the home support. Fulham had got to us. And we were concerned. It could have been far worse at half-time.
Then Harry Redknapp birthed a second half that was so majestic in difference, you'd have thought you had tuned into a different game. He must have had some words to say at half-time for a start. No doubt told them to forget about how Fulham were playing, slapped them about a bit and then made two quite simply superb substitutions. Yes - Harry Redknapp made impact-changing subs. Stick that up your bollox you non-believers!
On came Bentley and Huddlestone - both returning to the first team since taking time out injured. Off went Niko and BAE - both players well under par. All my hope was anchored on the first 10 minutes of the second half. You can tell what direction a game will go in from the tempo played straight after the break. Within minutes it's 1-1. Ace.
Bentley (first touch?) hit a stunning undefendable free-kick into the box that beat everyone (including a interfering-with-play-offside-Corkuka-if-he-touches-the-ball-which-he-doesn't) and it flys into the goal past a despairing Schwarzer. The Lane is rocking, and not for the first time this season, Bentley's foot is on fire.
The injury curse made a cameo, claiming Corluka as it's latest victim. And once more bold Redknapp played an absolute master-stroke (or perhaps out of desperation...sshh). Enter the Russian goal machine, Pavlyuchenko. Who just about made it on the bench and was never meant to play more than 20 minutes having survived a late fitness test. Seven minutes after coming on, he's off sliding in celebration. The big smiling show-off. 2-1 Spurs. Bentley again involved, crossing in, finding Pav who scores a sweet volley into the far corner. Schwarzer - no chance again.
What. A. Frigging. Turn-around.
For all of Fulham's guile and commitment to Hodgson's match strategy, it counts for nothing when we changed gear in this manner. Dictate the tempo, dominate the game. Inspirational stuff, proper full on FA Cup loveliness. This was more like it.
Obviously, being Spurs, you're not quite content until you get yourself 2 goals to the good. Six minutes after Roman's super-sub scorcher, we made it 3-1. And relax.
Playing it confidentially and with purpose, the ball finds Modric who (with deflection) threads the ball into the path of Gudjohnsen who takes the ball around Schwarzer (yep, despairing once more) with a touch and manages to get another to send the ball goal-bound. Happy days.
Fulham ended. Wembley again in our calender.
Kudos to Redknapp. Hodgson and Fulham were 1 up on him at half time. His man management skills coming into play, he mixes it up with some changes and the game completely changes course because of it. Great to see both Bentley and Hudd back - both involved and effective. And credit to the visitors for making it a painful first 45 minutes. It served a purpose. It showed we retain the backbone instilled since Harry's arrival at the club and the players believe in themselves and their ability.
Also - special mention to Gud. Class act, a player that oozes experience, patience and vision. He links the midfield with the forward line perfectly. Ice ice baby. He has mad skillz.
Pompey next in the semi. So so close now.
Tottenham Hotspur. Exclusive copyright on putting their fans through the mire every time.
Wouldn't have it any other way.
Additional: Villa drop two points, City lose.
What a night.
More post-match commentary tomoz.
One more time...