Football / Coca-Cola Cup: Campbell's strike overwhelms Rovers' ambition

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Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Blackburn Rovers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

THE BEST things in life are free. Blackburn have spent some pounds 22m trying to buy success, but Sol Campbell struck a blow for romantics everywhere in knocking the money men out of the Coca-Cola Cup.

Pressed into emergency service as a striker, 19-year-old Sol outshone England's Alan Shearer in scoring only the second goal of his fledgling career to earn Spurs a place in today's quarter-final draw.

Campbell, a youth-team product, has spent most of the season at left- back, and appeared at centre-half for England at the European Under-18 championship last summer, but he was a centre-forward in his schoolboy days, and looked the part in dispatching his 64th-minute match-winner.

Practised finisher or not, he owed his chance of glory to the dearth of experienced strikers at White Hart Lane. With Teddy Sheringham injured and Gordon Durie gone, it is very much Nick Barmby and A N Other. On Saturday it had been David Howells, last night it was a toss- up between Campbell and Steve Sedgley and, fortunately for Ossie and his army, the Sol man won the toss.

Blackburn, with wall-to-wall options in all positions, should have cringed with embarrassment at the result, and the way of it. Should have. Instead, Kenny Dalglish bridled at the comparison. 'I don't have to justify what we've spent,' he growled. Not yet, anyway. In fairness, Dalglish's team played a full part in an absorbing cup tie which might have gone either way and, for a 20-minute spell in the first half, they were much the better side.

Spurs, lacking Sheringham and Gary Mabbutt, and without a win in five League games, went into the tie as underdogs, but, to their credit, no disadvantage will persuade them to compromise their principles, and they continued to pass and move when others would opt for the easy expediency of kick and rush.

Blackburn's quality street assortment made much the more assertive start and might have taken the lead after seven minutes, when Colin Hendry met Stuart Ripley's corner with a solid volley from the edge of the penalty area which had Erik Thorstvedt plunging to his left to make a noteworthy save.

Spurs spent the first 20 minutes on the back foot, but withstood intermittent pressure and hit back strongly to create good chances of their own.

Jason Dozzell and Darren Anderton exchanged passes to open the route to goal, requiring Bobby Mimms to make a timely advance to block Dozzell's shot, and Campbell nodded weakly over the bar, wasting Barmby's inviting cut-back.

Campbell, of course, is still learning his trade, and was to make handsome amends later. David Batty, a pounds 2.7m England international, has no such excuses, and should have done better than shovel the ball weakly at Thorstvedt after Kevin Gallacher had picked him out with a nicely flighted cross.

Thorstvedt was busier than Mimms, his one-time understudy, and made an important save from Gallacher at close range when Rovers were rampant.

Mimms responded by tipping over Dozzell's powerful drive from the edge of the area, but the keeper was powerless when Barmby's pass from the left set up Campbell, who scored with a low shot from 15 yards.

Tottenham Hotspur: (4-1-2-1-2) Thorstvedt; Kerslake (Austin, 77), Calderwood, Sedgley, Edinburgh; Samways; Anderton, Caskey; Dozzell; Campbell, Barmby. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Hendry.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Mimms; Berg (Pearce, 80), Hendry, May, Le Saux; Ripley, Batty, Sherwood, Gallacher; Newell, Shearer. Substitutes not used: Talia (gk), Marker.

Referee: R Milford (Bristol).

(Photograph omitted)

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