|League Cup - 1999|
|Route to the Final
LEICESTER CITY v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Date : - Sunday 21st March 1999
Venue : - Wembley Stadium
Crowd : - 77,892
Weather : - Cloudy and rainy
Referee : - T. Heilbron ()
Score : -
Goalscorers : -
Leicester City :
Unused subs :- Pegguy Arphexad; Stuart Campbell, Pontus Kaamark.
Tottenham Hotspur : - Ian Walker; Stephen Carr, Sol Campbell, Ramon Vega, Justin Edinburgh; Darren Anderton, Steffen Freund, Allan Nielsen, David Ginola (Andy Sinton 90); Les Ferdinand, Steffen Iversen.
Unused subs :- Espen Baardsen, Luke Young, Jose Dominguez, Chris Armstrong.
Report : -
Well, what a day. The match was as dreary as ditchwater, which the wet weather would have caused to overspill and hidden the tears of the muddy Foxes. All in all, the result was the right one - Leicester got what they deserved. Exactly nothing. They came with a game plan to stifle Ginola and snuff out Tottenham's midfield, which worked, but they showed no imagination or adventure of their own and by settling to take Spurs into extra-time, shot themselves in the foot.
The ground has changed a lot since 1991 and before they tear it down we had an opportunity to savour the old grace and poor plumbing of the National stadium. Even the Wembley Park tube station was no easier to get into after the match. However, the game itself was poor fare. From the start, Ullathorne was detailed for man-marking duties on Ginola and everywhere that David went the sheep was sure to go. Not only that, but every chance that came the Midlands side's way, they would try and fly into tackles to attempt to put him out of the game. The Nationwide League referee had obviously believed all he had read in the papers the week leading up to the final and failed to caution anyone for a foul on Ginola. Izzet's late studs-up challenge was well worthy of a yellow. As far as goalmouth action was concerned, Ramon Vega saved Spurs from going behind, when Sol failed to cut out a through ball to Heskey and the back injury seemed to cause him to hesitate before shooting, leaving just enough time for our Swiss centre-half to block his effort. Apart from that it was another peaceful 45 for Walker and Keller was hardly tested, having to wait until the 39th minute until Tottenham got their first effort on target - Anderton's free-kick finding Iversen's head making the Yank go low to collect the ball. Elliot was booked for a late tackle on Vega just before the break and everyone settled down for a better second period.
In truth, although Leicester stepped up the pace, there was little more excitement. Their best chance came when Ullathorne cut inside to unleash a low shot which skidded off the wet turf and slipped out of Walker's grasp. As Cottee raced in, Ian recovered well and blocked his follow-up, collecting it at the second attempt. Les had an opportunity at the other end, but it lobbed gently to Keller and Freund hit a shot wide when a cross fell to him on the edge of the box. It was following a 30 second burst of fierce tackling that the ball broke to Edinburgh near the centre circle. As he played the ball, Savage lived up to his name and hit Justin late and with his arm into the Spurs defender's chest. Edinburgh got up and swiped at the Welshman. He caught the back of his neck and quite a lot of hair. Savage turned to berate Edinburgh, then suddenly started holding his face around the jaw and bent over as if in agony. The ref produced a yellow for Savage and a red card for Justin. In all respects, if you raise your hands to an opponent, you will get sent off, but this in no way excuses Savage's behaviour and the referee let him get away with his play-acting. The same Leicester player found it necessary to abuse Ginola after he had fouled him on the touchline. The same Leicester player found it necessary to take a dive because he did not have the pace to reach a ball going into the Tottenham penalty area. Not only that, but when the same Leicester player went in studs up on Freund and caught his foot, then had some verbals with him because he didn't like it - all bookable offences, which the referee saw fit to let go. No wonder the Spurs fans barracked him and the Tottenham players let him know they were there in no uncertain terms.
The sending off left Tottenham one man light at the back. But GG didn't bring on a defender to replace Justin, he just moved Anderton to cover that area when required and moved Iversen out to the right wing. It was Iversen who almost broke the deadlock, with a right foot volley from a half cleared ball which nestled in the net, but only the side netting. Frankly, Leicester didn't have a clue what to do and lumped long balls up to Heskey and his replacement Marshall. One was headed across the goal with nobody there to take advantage, another was running through to Walker until he slipped and Cottee raced after it to fire it across the goal, again which was empty of Leicester players. Tottenham were doing all the meaningful attacking and Leicester were happy to settle for the extra 30 minutes against ten men, but when Martin O'Neill subbed Savage to save him from getting the red card he deserved, Tottenham capitalised. Les released Iversen down the right and he outpaced the Leicester captain, Walsh. His cross-shot was firm and should have been held by Keller, but he could only manage to palm it upwards onto the head of the on-running Allan Nielsen. His diving header went past the two Leicester defenders on the line and it was celebration time. The photos in the papers have frozen that moment in time and it could have been a computer-altered picture of the Houchen goal in the 1987 FA Cup final. All the frustrations and injustices of the last half hour were released as the injury time goal meant that there was hardly any time for the Foxes to dig themselves out of the hole they had dug. The ball was quite well manouevred by Tottenham in the remaining minute or so and it stayed up the Leicester end. Then came the final whistle and mass jubilation. Eight years of misery was wiped away and full credit to George Graham, the man who has turned the club around in double (I hope so) quick time. The crowd even sang his name at the end, contrary to nearly every newspaper report I have read. It was a moment that we and the team will never forget; a victory against the odds and one which means Tottenham will be back in Europe next season. While the Foxes slid off to the dressing room and the Spurs fans asked "Savage, Savage, what's the score ?", the Tottenham team frolicked and sang until they were virtually dragged from the pitch.
The clock was rolling around to about 5.30 as we left to wander down Wembley Way as winners. It was a nice feeling and one that we would all like to experience again. It may be May; it could be another eight years, so enjoy it while we can.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - ALLAN NIELSEN.
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