It’s Lucky For Spurs When The Year Ends In, Umm, Eight
So, congratulations then to Spurs, who beat Chelsea 2-1 in yesterday’s League Cup final at Wembley. I’ve noted on here before that Spurs have had more false dawns than more or less any other club, but this time there seems to be a real belief that they can go on to crack the Big Four, though it seems likely that it will be the decisions that the club makes now rather than those that they have already made that will shape whether this becomes a reality or not. This was just as significant a result for them as the 5-1 win over Arsenal in the semi-final was. This was not a Chelsea youth team that they were playing – it was the full first team (complete with both Lampard and Terry – pragmatism seems to have finally got the better of Avram Grant’s desire to keep his players fit for the remainder of the season, or whatever else had been going through his mind for the last few days or so), so there were no excuses to be had for Chelsea losing. On the day, they were outplayed by the better team. I wouldn’t be feeling too sorry for them, though. They’re likely to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League at the very least, along with the semi-finals of the FA Cup, and in their more fanciful moments they can still believe that Arsenal and Manchester United will slip up in the Premier League to the extent that they can win that, too.
Juande Ramos, of course, has continued his record of winning every cup final that he has ever contested as a manager but whilst this is a significant achievement, the real work remains to be done. He may already have brought a piece of silverware to White Hart Lane, stabilised them in mid-table and turned Jermaine Jenas into something approaching a real footballer, but he has yet to convince anyone that he will be able to keep Dimitar Berbatov beyond the end of the season, and the vultures will also be circling for the likes of Aaron Lennon and Jenas. Spurs still have as much to do to finish in the top half of the Premier League as Chelsea have to do to win the league this season, but they have at least guaranteed European football again next season (which, in the long term, may prove to be the most significant after effect of yesterday’s result) and Ramos will have taken at least a small step towards convincing the more ambitious of his players that there is more to Spurs’ ambition than finishing seventh in the league.
What was most satisfying about Spurs’ win yesterday was the manner in which they achieved it. This no one-off fluke victory. They outplayed and out-fought Chelsea from more or less the very start, when Robbie Keane was played in by some outstandingly sloppy Chelsea defending and should, in all honesty, have scored a goal that would have been Wembley’s quickest for a good time to come. They were sharper and quicker to the ball, and it would have been something of a travesty had Chelsea hung onto the lead given to them by Paul Robinson’s lack of positioning at the free-kick that curled past him and in to give Chelsea the lead. There was an element of luck to both the penalty that levelled things up and the winning goal that counced off the top of Jonathan Woodgate’s head and in. Ultimately, though, Spurs did more than enough to warrant the victory – now, can they go on to lift the UEFA Cup as well?