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Spurs display class on night of emotion

That this match had even taken place was, in itself, the main cause for celebration. That Bolton, on their return to White Hart Lane, were so subdued was, perhaps, understandable.

And that Tottenham should produce a performance of such sustained quality was nothing more than an enjoyable bonus.

First and foremost, after Fabrice Muamba's collapse with a cardiac arrest when this match was first played 10 days ago, this was a night when football moved on with a sense of dignity, relief and gratitude.

Tottenham emphatically deserved their victory and late goals from Ryan Nelsen, Gareth Bale and Louis Saha confirmed their place at Wembley on April 15 for an all-London semi-final against Chelsea.

Muamba was apparently kept updated on the score from last night's game via text messages to his bed in the London Chest Hospital and is again certain to have been made aware of the huge outpouring of goodwill.

Both sets of players warmed up in T-shirts with the words 'Uniting for Fabrice' on the front while there was a rapturous pre-match minute of applause.


Bolton manager Owen Coyle had made it clear that last night's match was only going ahead because of the improvement in Muamba's condition, but he had also stressed the club's desire to progress to a Wembley semi-final for a second year in succession.

His animated touchline demeanour was certainly of a manager desperate to win, yet his team made a sluggish start and it took Tottenham just seven minutes to carve out the first clear opening on an emotional night for all concerned.

Jake Livermore had been afforded another chance in the centre of Tottenham's midfield and, after a swift exchange of passes with Emmanuel Adebayor, broke behind the Bolton defence. His first-time shot was parried by Adam Bogdan, with the Bolton goalkeeper then recovering brilliantly to tip Luka Modric's follow-up shot over.

Adebayor continued to elegantly knit Tottenham's midfield and he quickly provided two further passes from which Bale forced saves from Bogdan.

Bolton were struggling to assert themselves and their rhythm suffered further disruption when Darren Pratley had to be stretchered off -- as well as booked -- after suffering a lacerated knee following a poor tackle on Bale.

His lunge summed up Bolton's increasing difficulty in containing Bale, particularly whenever he roamed into a more central position in support of Adebayor. Another clever pass from Adebayor gave Bale a further sight of goal, but he drove his shot inches wide and into the side-netting.

Moments later, the ball again broke for Bale on the edge of the Bolton penalty area and, on this occasion, the Welshman actually got too much movement on the ball, with his seemingly goalbound shot swerving narrowly wide.

The next Tottenham player to break forward into a goalscoring position was midfielder Scott Parker, but his shot, on the stroke of half-time, was also turned around the post by outstanding Bogdan.

The 20-minute interval did nothing to disturb the general pattern of the game. Soon after the restart, Luka Modric got goalside of Zat Knight, but was clumsily upended. From Rafael van der Vaart's resulting free-kick, Bogdan was finally beaten, only for the crossbar to come to Bolton's rescue.

Bolton provided their only sporadic moments of menace on the break. Ryo Miyaichi, who is on loan from Arsenal, occasionally threatened with his pace but it was Ivan Klasnic who forced the first save from Carlo Cudicini, after 70 minutes, with a low shot.

Tottenham responded and their utter dominance was suddenly rewarded with two goals in three minutes.

First, Nelsen rose to head Van der Vaart's finish past Bogdan to claim his first goal since arriving from Blackburn.

And then Bale pounced on a through-ball from Jermain Defoe to effectively seal Tottenham's place in the semi-final.

Kevin Davies' late finish ensured a nervous finale, but his consolation was cancelled out with the last kick of the game by Saha. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent