Walcott late show sickens Spurs and gives Arsenal hope


Last updated at 07:37 10 January 2008

After 45 minutes, Tottenham were sitting pretty. At 70 minutes, they were entitled to be feeling a little smug after snuffing out their great rivals. Then they dared to dream and Theo Walcott pounced.

To dream of a glory night at White

Hart Lane in a fortnight to rival the

drama of their 1984 UEFA Cup

triumph over Anderlecht.


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To dream of their first final since

the man in the raincoat, George

Graham, led them to Worthington

Cup success in 1999 or the 5-1 victory

over Chelsea that took them to the

final in 2002 under Glenn Hoddle.

To dream of beating their north

London rivals for the first time since

November 1999 — when Steffen

Iversen and Tim Sherwood were

immortalised. That has to hurt.


Then the nerves set in and the

nearly men are no nearer to putting

one over on Arsenal for the first time

for more than eight years.

The hard work had been done

when Jermaine Jenas deservedly

put Tottenham in front, but they will

have to start again at White Hart


Surely they have never had a

better chance than this to break

Arsenal's bubble. Arsene Wenger's

side were awful. Lazy, lethargic and

lacking ideas.

They should have lost this game by

a landslide, but Walcott's goal 11

minutes from time rescued Arsenal's

cubs from a catastrophe.

Steed Malbranque should have

been sleeping with the matchball

last night, Ledley King could have

finished this first leg with a goal and

substitute Jermain Defoe — well,

he's Jermain Defoe and he missed.

So Spurs are locked at 1-1 after the

first leg and Tottenham's nerves will

be shredded by the time this

semi-final is finished.

Big names turn big games and

there are none bigger in the game

than Dimitar Berbatov right now.

His cushioned volley set Robbie

Keane free and Jenas sent 5,000

supporters into ecstasy with the

opening goal after 37 minutes.

They certainly deserved to be in

front and their football was the stuff

of fantasy.

Juande Ramos

demonstrated a ruthless streak by leaving

Paul Robinson on the bench and

his replacement, Radek Cerny,

breathed confidence into

Tottenham's back four.

King was exceptional at the back,

shepherding Robin van Persie

towards the sidelines at every

opportunity and adding an

attacking threat whenever he was in

possession. For Tottenham' s

supporters, this is as good as it gets.

Berbatov was central to everything

the visitors did well in the first half.

He fancied this one, especially

before the break, when his sweet

touch and peripheral vision picked

out passes that mere mortals simply

cannot spy.

Arsenal had no answer. Despite the

presence of several big-game players

— Van Persie, Gilberto, Abou Diaby

— they were chasing shadows inside

their own stadium.

Van Persie, making his first start

for Arsenal since mid-December,

was shackled for 45 minutes by King

and he succumbed to another injury

at the break.

Others were off their

game, too. Gilberto, agitating for a

move away from the club after being

overlooked for most of the season,

was abysmal, but Armand Traore,

Johan Djourou and Philippe

Senderos were not much worse.

Wenger is the only living soul left

on the planet who believes Senderos

is a top-class defender, but his

needless shove on Berbatov on the edge

of the area 10 minutes into this tie

said it all.

With Kolo Toure on duty for the

African Cup of Nations and William

Gallas enjoying a short break,

Arsenal's supporters may be

grateful for a small mercy ahead of their

Barclays Premier League game

against Birmingham on Saturday:

Senderos picked up an injury.

Arsenal remain unbeaten at home

this season and their unbeaten

record against Spurs has now been

stretched to 21 games, but it

has precious little to do with this

liability in the team.

Wenger's side have been swatting

teams aside of late, charging

towards their fourth Premier League

title and gearing up for another

assault on the Champions League

trophy when they take on AC Milan

next month.

This was supposed to be the

chance for 50,000 Arsenal fans to

take a glimpse into the future with

another look at this gifted bunch of

young players.

Well, they walked into the delays

on the London Underground feeling

short changed.

Jamie O'Hara was magnificent in

the centre of Tottenham's midfield,

rampaging his way past Gilberto

and Denilson with embarrassing


England coach Fabio Capello,

watching from the stands, will be

impressed. One for the future,

perhaps, but one to keep an eye on.

His industrious work alongside

Jenas did not go unnoticed, but

there is considerable room for

improvement in this Arsenal team

before they travel down the Seven

Sisters Road in just under two


Djourou has only just

returned from a successful loan spell

at Birmingham City and perhaps he

should have stayed there — he failed

to clear King's long ball out of

defence eight minutes from time.

Berbatov was alert and the

Bulgaria star set Keane clear of

Arsenal's sluggish back four. Jenas

applied the finishing touch to the

delight of the travelling support.

Game on, but it took Arsenal

another 40 minutes before they

responded. When they did, it was

with their customary class.

Eduardo, on as a substitute,

sprang Tottenham's offside trap,

Walcott raced clear and his deflected

effort off the unfortunate Lee Young-Pyo bounced beyond Lukasz


The scores were level when these

two teams met at this stage last

season, but no self-respecting Spurs

supporter needs reminding what

happened next.

Arsenal: Fabianski, Justin Hoyte, Djourou, Senderos, Traore,

Walcott, Denilson, Silva, Diaby, Van Persie, Bendtner. Subs:

Mannone, Sagna, Eduardo, Randall, Gavin Hoyte.

Tottenham: Cerny, Chimbonda, Dawson, King, Lee, Lennon, Jenas,

O'Hara, Malbranque, Berbatov, Keane. Subs: Robinson, Stalteri,

Boateng, Defoe, Taarabt.

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)