It was enough to give stricken Tottenham manager George Graham a relapse as
Aston Villa surged back from two goals down to inflict more anguish on suffering
Villa scored an amazing four goals in 11 minutes, sparked by a bizarre
62nd-minute penalty incident at White Hart Lane.
Spurs, without a win now in five games, were coasting home against the FA Cup
finalists - who had suffered just one defeat in 12 - after Steffen Iversen
headed his 17th goal of the season in only the 16th minute and Chris Armstrong
added a second, his 12th of the campaign, two minutes into the second half.
But just as coach Stewart Houston must have been preparing news of a
get-well-soon winning message for the hospitalised Graham, everything went
pear-shaped for the Londoners.
Dion Dublin, in only his fifth game back from breaking a bone in his neck in
December, notched the first of a devastating double from the spot after referee
Rob Harris initially turned down his protests that Iversen had handled his shot
just after the hour mark.
Villa eventually persuaded Harris to consult a linesman, who clearly told him
it was indeed a penalty, and then it was Tottenham's turn to berate the
In the middle of all the wrangling Spurs Argentinian full-back Mauricio
Taricco went down, unseen by Harris, from an apparent blow by Villa's Ugo
But Dublin kept his head among all the mayhem and slotted the penalty home for
his 14th goal of this injury-punctuated season, and as Tottenham crumbled he
soon added a 15th with an acrobatic hook from Benito Carbone's cross.
The rest was just pure misery for Tottenham and after Carbone thumped Villa in
front from Dublin's assist and Alan Wright smacked in the fourth from a loose
ball when the big striker challenged Sol Campbell in an aerial duel, the
disgruntled home fans vented their frustrations with a ripe old burst of "we
want Sugar out" directed at the chairman.
Hundreds of fans gathered at the gates of White Hart Lane afterwards to add to
Yet it had all begun so well as Spurs served up some splendid energetic
football in the first half and were unlucky to not at least triple the advantage
of Iversen's 16th-minute strike.
Armstrong missed his familiar sitter six minutes later after Gareth Barry
slipped as both pursued Steve Carr's chip through the inside-right channel.
But with only James to beat, the striker - who had won over the home crowd
with six goals in his previous seven appearances - spooned the ball tamely into
the keeper's arms.
And 10 minutes after that Armstrong was out of luck when, with his back to
goal, he launched himself almost horizontal at Chris Perry's knock-on from a
Darren Anderton corner and hooked the ball over James to land on top of the
Villa, with key men like Gareth Southgate, Julian Joachim and Ian Taylor
missing, looked lively early on when Paul Merson volleyed just wide and Carbone
had the Spurs defence at full stretch with a twisting dribble inside the area.
But John Gregory's Wembley-bound side were uncomfortable at the back where
Ehiogu struggled to achieve an understanding with his two teenaged central
partners Barry and Lloyd Samuel.
Villa team-mates looked daggers at young Samuel for failing to pick up Iversen
when the Norwegian rose virtually unchallenged to head home Ginola's long cross
from the left after Taricco had sent the Frenchman away with a perceptive pass.
And with Dublin and Carbone well held by Campbell and Perry, Villa never
looked like responding before the break even though Ian Walker had an
unexpectedly difficult save to make when Alan Thompson's speculative shot from
distance changed direction after deflecting off Merson's shoulder.
Gregory made necessary repairs at half-time, switching from three at the back
to four with Mark Delaney replacing Steve Watson on the right, although Villa
were briefly down to 10 men at the start of the second period when the fourth
official did not have the substitute board ready to allow the change.
Delaney had only been on the field a matter of seconds when Armstrong added
Spurs' second goal, clearly learning the lesson of his earlier miss.
Carr's admirable service from full-back, a feature of the first half,
continued with another spearing ball through Armstrong's favourite inside-right
channel and this time the speedy striker, whose feet often work quicker than his
brain, nudged the ball around James' advance, nipped past the keeper's prostrate
frame and slipped it into an empty net.
It looked plain sailing then for Spurs but the penalty incident knocked the
stuffing out of them.
Once all the arguing had died down Dublin kept a cool head to roll in the
spot-kick and score his first goal since coming back from the broken neck horror
And within six minutes he had put Villa level, spectacularly scissor-kicking
Carbone's cross past Walker from 12 yards after the Italian had glided past
Stephen Clemence on the right.
Two more minutes and Spurs were behind - and looked as though they did not
know what had hit them. Dublin was the provider this time and Carbone
half-volleyed beyond the bewildered Walker.
And in what seemed the blink of an eye Villa completed their amazing four-goal
burst as Wright smacked a perfect shot into the top corner after the ball
dropped loose from a heading duel between Campbell and Dublin.
It was just rubbing it in for Spurs when referee Harris ruled the ball had not
crossed the line a minute later after James fumbled Ginola's long-range drive.
And the keeper, well off his line, confounded Tottenham again when flying high
to tip Clemence's rocket shot over the bar.
After that a game of seven bookings could not end quickly enough for desperate
But instead of leaving 10 minutes early as had been apparently threatened, the
home supporters could not resist staying to the bitter end - like bystanders on
a motorway rubber-necking at a tragic accident.
Tottenham: Walker, Carr, Perry, Campbell, Taricco, Clemence,
Freund, Anderton, Ginola, Iversen, Armstrong.
Subs Not Used: Baardsen, Korsten, Scales, Young, Etherington.
Booked: Anderton, Campbell, Taricco, Perry.
Goals: Iversen 16, Armstrong 47.
Aston Villa: James, Ehiogu, Barry, Samuel, Watson (Delaney 46),
Boateng, Merson, Thompson, Wright, Dublin, Carbone,
Delaney (Bewers 90).
Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Walker, Ghent.
Booked: Thompson, Boateng, Samuel.
Goals: Dublin 62 pen, 69, Carbone 70, Wright 74.
Ref: R Harris (Oxford).