Badly hit by injuries to body and spirit, holders Tottenham came within three minutes of suffering an extraordinary exit from the Carling Cup as Burnley overturned a 4-1 first-leg deficit to take their semi-final at Turf Moor into extra-time last night.
A relieved Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, said he had been "a couple of minutes from the most embarrassing night of my football life." That he came so close was down to a superlative effort from the Championship side, who had eliminated Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal on the way to the last four and produced another magnificent performance, albeit against a Tottenham side fraying around the edges.
Burnley needed 33 minutes to grab a foothold in last night's second leg but after Robbie Blake's goal had given them hope, Chris McCann struck with 18 minutes remaining before 19-year-old substitute Jay Rodriguez extended the contest with a goal three minutes from the end of normal time.
With Tottenham, who had been largely outplayed, seemingly unable to break out of their malaise, Burnley had the advantage in that the goal scored by Martin Paterson at White Hart Lane two weeks ago would have taken them to Wembley on away goals with no further score. But, three minutes from the end of the additional half-hour, a slick move on the left flank – a rare glimpse of quality from Redknapp's team – saw Gareth Bale and Benoit Assou-Ekotto combine to set up substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko, who swept the ball past Brian Jensen to break Burnley hearts.
Jermain Defoe's goal two minutes later to secure Tottenham's place against Manchester United in the March final merely added to Burnley's feeling that, having scaled the peak manager Owen Coyle had told them would be necessary to give themselves a chance, they had seen the flag ripped from their grasp with the summit in sight. "There was no doubt it was cruel but those are the twists and turns that make us love football, although I don't like it too much tonight," Coyle said afterwards. "We felt we were the better side but you don't always get what you deserve. But I couldn't be more proud of the lads and we can leave here with heads held high. It was just fatigue that cost us in the end."
Redknapp seemed shaken by the experience. "It looked like it was game over," he said. "I was standing there with a couple of minutes left thinking it was going to be the most embarrassing night of my football life."
Then, returning to the theme of most of his recent post-match laments, he complained again about the state of the Tottenham squad. "There is a big job to do here and we need to bring in some big players because this squad is not strong enough mentally or physically," he said. "It is a football club put together by I don't know who and I don't know how with a mish-mash of players and it's scary."
An early warning of Tottenham's disarray had come after only five minutes, when Assou-Ekotto almost scored an own goal from 40 yards out, forcing Ben Alnwick, who was making his debut in place of the injured Huerelho Gomes, to tip the ball for a corner.
Alnwick, who will also be required against Manchester United in the FA Cup on Saturday, was one of six changes made by Redknapp from the side that failed to beat Portsmouth at the weekend. Darren Bent, who reacted badly to being mocked by Redknapp for missing the best chance of that match, did not even make the squad, with Redknapp sticking to the official reason that it was down to a groin injury rather than a fit of pique.
Nonetheless, it was not until Blake gave Burnley hope of achieving an unlikely comeback with a stunning goal after 32 minutes that Tottenham's vulnerability was truly exposed.
Jonathan Woodgate's foul on Joey Gudjonssen, 10 yards outside the Tottenham box on the right, did not seem to offer a goalscoring opportunity, but Blake, whose ability to strike a sweet shot is not exactly unknown at Championship level, had other ideas. The possibilities clearly escaped Tottenham, who had only a two-man wall protecting Alnwick, but Blake's free kick curled easily past them and Alnwick perhaps reacted a little late, allowing the ball to fly in at his near post.
Nonetheless, Tottenham had chances to put the tie to bed. Substitute Bale probably had the best, released by Tom Huddlestone's pass on the left only to screw hit shot wide of the far post with only Brian Jensen to beat. Bale's chance was not quite one that Sandra Redknapp would have snapped up but it was made to look potentially costly, nonetheless, when Burnley scored again with 18 minutes left, the excellent Blake beating two Tottenham players on the left before drilling across an intelligent low cross that McCann gleefully ran home at the far post. Now Tottenham hearts were racing, not least when Pavlyuchenko, who had replaced the lacklustre Luka Modric, did squander a chance comparable with Bent's moment on Sunday, slicing the ball wide from seven yards.
Tottenham looked to have done enough but, with less than four minutes remaining of the 90, Blake's free kick from the left was spilled by Alnwick and stabbed home by substitute Rodriguez, who had scored the winner against Fulham in round three, to take the match into extra time.
Burnley (4-4-2): Jensen; Alexander, Duff, Carlisle, Jordan (Kalvenes, 39); Elliott, Eagles, Gudjonsson (Rodriguez, 81), McCann; Blake, Paterson (Akinbiyi, 100). Substitutes not used: Penny (gk), McDonald, Mahon, MacDonald.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Alnwick; Gunter (Taarabt, 95) Woodgate, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Bentley, Zokora, Huddlestone, O'Hara (Bale, 62); Modric (Pavlyuchenko, 64), Defoe. Substitutes not used: Cesar (gk), Giovani, Campbell, Rocha.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).Reuse content