Monday 23 October 2017

Bentley sets Spurs on course for Pompey date

Tottenham Hotspur 3
Fulham 1

Gary Jacob

TOTTENHAM Hotspur marched into their first FA Cup semi-final in nine years last night after making inspired substitutions at the interval.

The introduction of David Bentley changed the direction of a replay that was firmly in the grip of Fulham, until Harry Redknapp's side emerged and scored three times in 19 minutes. Redknapp managed Portsmouth to the trophy two years ago and he will meet his former employers in the semi-final at Wembley next month.

After Fulham's euphoric victory against Juventus last week, questions will surface about their stamina and strength in match No 50 of a campaign that began in Lithuania last July. This was the first of nine matches in the next month, including two against Wolfsburg in the Europa League quarter-finals.

Things had looked good when they led from Bobby Zamora's instinctive strike in the 38th minute.

Damien Duff wriggled unchallenged into space and slid a precise pass into the path of Zamora cutting in from the right and kept onside by Michael Dawson. With a sweep of his left leg, the Fulham forward caressed the ball into the corner. His 17 goals have put himself on the radar of England's hierarchy.

It was left to Eidur Gudjohnsen to create Spurs' best chances of the opening half by dropping deep to demand the ball. The Iceland forward struck a back-heel that was grabbed low by Mark Schwarzer and then he chested the ball down for Luka Modric to strike wide from the edge of the penalty area.

Bale curled a free kick over the wall, but Tottenham were fortunate not to concede a second goal on the stroke of the interval. Stephen Kelly took advantage of a defensive mistake and slipped a clever pass for Zoltan Gera to run towards the byline. Gera needed only to pick out an unmarked Zamora at the far post, but his cross was lofted and lacked pace, and the forward stretched to head over the bar.

Tottenham's stilted performance prompted Redknapp to make two attacking substitutions at the interval that brought immediate reward. Within two minutes Bentley swung in a dangerous free-kick from the left wing that evaded the head of Vedran Corluka and spun up into the corner of the net.

Bentley was growing increasingly influential. He drew a low save from Schwarzer and put in a cross that skimmed across the face of the goal. His next cross appeared overhit, but Kelly inexplicably ducked under the ball and Roman Pavlyuchenko, who had replaced Corluka, volleyed inside Schwarzer's near post to give Tottenham the lead.

Modric and Crouch saw efforts saved before Gudjohnsen delivered a two-goal cushion when he flicked the ball past the on-rushing goalkeeper and poked the ball in. (© The Times, London)

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