Defoe sustains grand tradition of Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 3 West Bromwich Albion 1
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The Independent Football

"I love the FA Cup," chirped Jermain Defoe after taking his tally in the competition to 10 goals in nine matches at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Which means, despite the periodic speculation over his future, he should feel very much at home at Tottenham, who are more closely associated with the competition than any other club.

"I love the FA Cup," chirped Jermain Defoe after taking his tally in the competition to 10 goals in nine matches at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Which means, despite the periodic speculation over his future, he should feel very much at home at Tottenham, who are more closely associated with the competition than any other club.

While Tottenham's eight triumphs are bettered by Manchester United and Arsenal, those clubs have been even more successful in the League. Spurs' last serious title challenge was two decades ago, further intensifying their affinity for the Cup. Martin Jol, their manager, has clearly recognized this and before each game offers a platform to his assistant, Chris Hughton.

"Chris does the last five minutes of the team talk," Jol said. "He tells different stories from each cup game in 1991." Tottenham won that year, defeating Nottingham Forest in the final, an achievement marked by the No 91 shirt worn by the club's furry cockerel mascot, "Chirpy". A much weaker Forest are their fifth-round opponents at the Lane on Sunday which means Spurs ought to reach the last eight at least. However, the prospect of a new shirt for Chirpy remains limited.

"It's very hard to see beyond the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal," said Bryan Robson, West Bromwich Albion's manager who thrice lifted the Cup as captain of Manchester United. "They are so dominant it is difficult for anyone else to win."

The only teams outside that trio to win the Cup since Spurs' 1991 success are Liverpool and Everton.

Jol appreciates the task. "We have history and maybe we can go all of the way but we also need a lot of luck on our side too," he said. Encouragingly Dame Fortune is wearing lilywhite so far. Having got back into the original tie through a contentious penalty Spurs were rescued in this fourth-round replay by a decidedly fortuitous one.

For 40 minutes Albion had been utterly dominant, their quality and confidence confounding their league position. Kanu headed them ahead from Zoltan Gera's cross after 11 minutes and Kevin Campbell, twice, and Paul Robinson, should both have extended the lead. Each were denied by the latter's namesake. Then the game changed. Michael Carrick, the only Tottenham outfielder to rise above mediocre in the first period, released Stephen Kelly on the right. Russell Hoult came out rapidly and, having saved Kelly's cross-shot, slid into him on the wet turf. Rob Styles gave a harsh penalty, Hoult departed with concussion, and Robbie Keane beat the substitute goalkeeper, Tomasz Kuszczak.

Equally influential was a tactical switch. Jol had become the latest manager to follow Jose Mourinho's adoption of a three-striker policy, in his case the third man being Keane in the hole. At the break Keane was withdrawn and Spurs returned to 4-4-2. They immediately looked much happier. One wondered if the watching Sven Goran Eriksson took note.

There was soon more for the England manager to ponder as Defoe, left on the bench in midweek, cracked two expertly-taken goals. Slack marking allowed him to drive in Carrick's squared free-kick, then Frédéric Kanouté stirred himself to deliver a pull-back.

Robson blamed the referee but admitted his team should have had the game won well before the penalty. If Defoe was a Baggie they would have done. Frank Arnesen, Tottenham's director of football, who has worked with the likes of Romario and Ronaldo, suggested the 22-year-old Englishman's finishing was as good as anyone. He and Jol also insisted they were confident Defoe would stay with the club. An FA Cup winners' medal would certainly enhance that prospect.

Goals: Kanu (11) 0-1; Keane pen (44) 1-1; Defoe (49) 2-1; Defoe (54) 3-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-3-1-2): Robinson; Kelly, King, Gardner, Atouba; Brown, Carrick, Ziegler; Keane (Davies, h/t); Kanouté, Defoe. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Naybet, Mendes, Edman.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult (Kuszczak, 43); Albrechtsen, Gaardsoe, Clement, Robinson; Gera, Scimeca (O'Connor, 69), Wallwork, Koumas; Campbell, Kanu (Earnshaw, 61). Substitutes not used: Purse, Horsfield.

Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville).

Booked: West Brom Campbell, Wallwork.

Man of the match: Robinson (Tottenham).

Attendance: 27,860

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