Even before he had kicked a ball for Tottenham Sergei Rebrov was told he had joined the wrong club. When he then began poorly Tottenham were told they had signed the wrong player. Both club and player were vindicated at Upton Park yesterday as the Ukrainian scored twice and provided the third goal to carry Spurs into the FA Cup semi-finals.
They will meet Arsenal in the third north London semi-final derby in 11 seasons This time, however, George Graham is managing Spurs In 1991 and 1993, he was at Highbury. It will also be a chance for Rebrov to show his Ukranian team-mate, Oleg Luzhny, that he was wrong to suggest he should have joined Arsenal rather than Spurs.The tie is likely to be played at Villa Park on 8 April. In a cruel irony West Ham are due there the previous day for what should be an inconsequential end-of-season Premiership game. That is assuming they recover their form after this body blow. Having won at Walsall, Manchester United and Sunderland in previous rounds they were devastated at being unable to win at their own ground.
“They’re very low; so am I,” said Harry Redknapp, their manager.It was a particularly disappointing afternoon for their young English tiros, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Joe Cole. They were not helped by the difficult conditions – it was no surprise that four of the goals came from set-pieces – but under Sven Goran Eriksson’s gaze they were outplayed for the first hour by a Spurs side adhering closely to Graham’s well-constructed game-plan. Though Cole led a late rally which almost forced a replay, lapses in concentration by him contributed to two of Spurs’ goals “He’s young,” added Redknapp. “It’s a learning experience.”Graham preferred to savour this match rather than discuss the semi-final but he did berate the FA for holding the draw – at ITV’s request – just minutes after this tie kicked off “Terrible,” Graham said.
“Where’s the dignity?”At least, after the mixed messages of Saturday, when Roy Essandoh’s credulity-stretching contribution to Cup lore was counter-balanced by both sides at Highbury contemptuously fielding weakened sides, there was no doubting the competition’s pull on these combatants. The match may have lacked consistent quality but it was furiously contested and never dull.While Redknapp had spent the week anxiously reading medical reports, Graham had clearly been applying his mind to the tactics board. His decision to play three forwards – Les Ferdinand, Steffen Iversen and Rebrov – not only contradicted his negative image but also gave West Ham’s back three no room for error. In another move both offensive and defensive Luke Young was detailed to play wing-back to both curtail Sebastien Schemmel’s raiding and test his defensive capabilities.This appeared to pit Ledley King and Steffen Freund in an unequal midfield contest against England’s young Hammers but, with Iversen frequently dropping into right-midfield when West Ham were in possession, Stephen Clemence was able to come inside. Tottenham, after a frantic start when West Ham hurried and scurried to little effect, were thus able to take an early midfield grip.Ferdinand, put clear, was only halted by an immaculate rolling-back-the-years tackle from Stuart Pearce. Though Frédéric Kanouté lashed a shot wide and there were optimistic claims for a penalty when Paolo Di Canio went down, Spurs continued to dominate.