Football / FA Cup: Crowd trouble mars Spurs' success: City facing heavy fine after police horses have to clear pitch invasion which led referee to suspend play

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The Independent Online
Manchester City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

THE worst crowd disorder to disfigure English football since Leeds United fans rioted at Bournemouth three years ago marred an outstanding performance by Tottenham at Maine Road yesterday and overshadowed an FA Cup draw which paired Spurs with Arsenal, their great north London rivals, in a semi-final which will be played at Wembley on 4 April.

Unable to contain their disappointment within civilised bounds, a group of some 200 City supporters reacted to their team's comprehensive defeat by charging on to the pitch two minutes from time and taunting Tottenham's large following.

The fracas which followed forced the referee, Ray Lewis, to shepherd the players off the field, and play was suspended for 12 minutes while police on horseback, and with dogs, cleared the arena.

From the Tottenham point of view, and in the eyes of every right- minded football follower, it was a terrible pity that the hooliganism we thought had been conquered should bring a depressing end to a Cup tie of the highest quality.

Spurs fell behind after 10 minutes, but were the better side throughout, and should have had six.

The match was a personal triumph for Nayim, who has not been a regular this season, and owed his place to the well- publicised absence of Nick Barmby, who is in Australia with the England Youth team.

The man from Morocco was some understudy, recording the first hat-trick of his career and making an eye-catching contribution in midfield, where Spurs' composure and clever interplay gave them a marked edge.

City, strong and combative, were full of vim and vigour at the start, and their eager assertiveness brought them the lead when Fitzroy Simpson's through ball sent Terry Phelan scuttling down the left before delivering a far-post cross which Mike Sheron headed in from seven yards.

Spurs were staggered momentarily, but steadied themselves and played their way back with a crisp, close-passing game which was pleasing to the eye.

The City tide was ebbing after 13 minutes, when Vinnie Samways demanded a plunging save from Tony Coton, and it was well on the turn after 25, when Steve Sedgley's long throw was headed out to the edge of the penalty area, from where Nayim drove it low past Coton's left hand.

'Spurs are on their way to Wembley' boomed out from the north London legions. The refrain, like the team, became more confident and insistent two minutes before half-time, when Justin Edinburgh's penetrative through pass allowed Sedgley to advance in the inside left channel before shooting strongly into the roof of the net.

City were nonplussed, unable to make real progress in midfield, where their ball-winners were embarrassed by Tottenham's flair, they had no proper link between defence and attack and were unable to service their towering totem, Niall Quinn.

The reason why their results away have been better than their home record was obvious. They are not good enough to dominate and control games, but have become adept at counter-punching on the break.

Nayim made it 3-1 three minutes into the second half, bundling in the rebound after Teddy Sheringham had shot against a post, and it was all over bar the louting.

Samways, sent clear by Nayim, should have had Spurs's fourth after 76 minutes, when he rounded Coton but underhit his shot and saw Phelan get back to clear off the line. Instead it was Nayim who scored again after 85 minutes, with a cool-as-you-like strike from 17 yards.

As if to point up their feeble- mindedness, City's hooligan minority took all this without undue complaint, and when they charged on to the pitch, after 88 minutes, it was in senseless response to a goal from their own team, scored by Phelan.

After the police had done their work, and play was resumed, the referee risked further protest by awarding Spurs a penalty, for Michael Vonk's foul on Andy Turner. Sheringham had the good sense to miss it, and the tie finished without further incident.

A marvellous match, yet a bad day for football. It was, at the same time, silly and sad.

Manchester City: Cotton; Hill, Phelan, Simpson, Curle, Vonk, White, Sheron, Quinn, Flitcroft, Holden. Substitutes not used: Ranson, Reid.

Tottenham Hotspur: Thorstvedt; Austin, Edinburgh, Samways, Mabbutt, Ruddock, Sedgley, Nayim, Anderton (Turner, 80), Sheringham, Allen. Substitute not used: Van Den Hauwe.

Referee: R Lewis (Gt Bookham).

More football, pages 28, 29

(Photograph omitted)