There have been few sweeter nights for Harry Redknapp than this in his short tenure at Tottenham. Not only did Spurs come back from a goal down to, deservedly, reach their first FA Cup semi-final in nine years, but with Manchester City losing and Aston Villa drawing, Spurs tightened their grip on fourth place and a Champions League qualifying position.
If playing in Europe's elite competition remains Redknapp's ultimate goal, the Cup is an attractive side-dish, and one he already has a taste for. Asked to choose between the two, he quickly said: "I wanted to win this game. I didn't want to get beat."
He took Portsmouth to victory against Cardiff City in the final two years ago, his first win in the competition. Now he has the enticing prospect of a semi-final on 11 April against Pompey, the club he left in the autumn of 2008 and whose fortunes – bar their current Cup run – could scarcely be in starker contrast to Spurs'.
Redknapp said: "It will be special to play Pompey – it will be a funny old day, a strange day. It'll be a great atmosphere, they need something to lift their season. They'll be dangerous and everyone will want them to win. I had a text from Avram Grant [the Portsmouth manager] before this game and I'll speak to him tonight, maybe even have a drink with him."
Redknapp was all smiles afterwards but all scowls at half-time. Bobby Zamora – a Spurs old boy – had given Fulham the lead on just 17 minutes, but his 17th goal of the season was never likely to be enough in this quarter-final replay and in the end, Roy Hodgson had to take his striker off early with a stomach bug, as he had spent half-time "in the toilet".
While Zamora was being sick, Redknapp made sure Tottenham were not getting Wembley butterflies of their own. He complained of his side's lack of tempo before the interval and with the introduction of David Bentley the game changed course.
The winger has not always been everyone's cup of tea – and certainly not Redknapp's – but he may just have moved up a few notches in the Spurs manager's estimation last night. Two goals within 13 minutes were down to him, as Tottenham attacked Fulham with more vigour down the flanks.
Even with Aaron Lennon out injured, Redknapp had preferred Niko Kranjcar on the right but realised the error of his ways at half-time. When Spurs had a free-kick 35 yards out, within two minutes of the restart, Bentley's ball, although intended as a cross, was missed by Vedran Corluka, which in turn deceived Mark Schwarzer and bounced inside his far post. It was Bentley's first touch.
Fulham fans were now rueing Zamora's header over just before the interval as the mood had swung in the hosts' favour. With Bentley given licence to attack the full-back Paul Konchesky, on the hour he delivered a high cross to Roman Pavlyuchenko, another substitute. The Russian cannot miss at the moment and although Stephen Kelly gave him space, he still did well to hit the target with his volley. Schwarzer will blame himself for letting the shot beat him at the far post.
Hodgson called those strikes "wonder goals" but that was generous, with the first a fluke and the second down to poor defending. It was far too much for Fulham to come back from, as they have not won away since late January and that was at Accrington Stanley. Hodgson said: "We played really well in the first half and were good value for our lead. Their early goal gave them good momentum and we paid the price for a couple of mistakes. Tottenham are a very good, expensively assembled team."
As if to make his point, Eidur Gudjohnsen, who was signed on loan from Monaco in January, tapped in Spurs' third on 66 minutes from a pass by Luka Modric, to set up what will be an enticing semi-final.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka (Pavlyuchenko, 53), Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto (Huddlestone, h-t); Kranjcar (Bentley, h-t), Palacios, Modric, Bale; Gudjohnsen, Crouch. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Rose, Livermore, Townsend.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Kelly (Dempsey, 69), Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Duff, Murphy, Etuhu, Davies; Gera, Zamora (Okaka, 77). Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler (gk), Baird, Riise, Smalling, Greening.
Referee: M Atkinson (Yorkshire).
Booked: Spurs Bassong. Fulham: Kelly, Zamora.
Man of the match: Bentley.
FA Cup semi-finals: Semi-finals
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