By sheer belligerence and pumped by wounded pride, Manchester City produced the greatest of comebacks in the extraordinary history of the FA Cup to beat a desperately shell-shocked Tottenham Hotspur. Three goals down and reduced to 10 men by half-time - having also lost their leading threat Nicolas Anelka - City overpowered their opponents who had played so joyfully in the opening 45 minutes.
Four goals in the second-half was simply, utterly incredible. City's manager, Kevin Keegan, had called for "a miracle". One was delivered. Its worker was the tireless Shaun Wright-Phillips and hyperbole tripped from the tongues of those trying to sum up his performance. Needless to say there was fortune as well with a gifted first goal, a deflected second and, probably, an offside third. The fourth? Well by then all hell had broken loose. The blood was high. The emotion wrought. Anything could have happened. What did, was a coolly executed header from Jon Macken, who guided the ball beyond Kasey Keller with 30 seconds to go. "The cup tie of my lifetime," Keegan said. "You have seen something special," added Special K.
This fourth-round tie may not have had the occasion of the last time these two sides met in a cup replay, that was the 1981 final, but it had the drama. It had the commitment. It had the emotion. Keegan, apparently so distraught at the interval that he joked about "looking for a Jobcentre", could have, at that time, been forgiven for marching on to Tottenham High Road and hailing the first cab home. After 90 minutes he probably felt like ordering an open-top bus. If he had he would have seen the hastily erected banners from Spurs fans denouncing the shambles their own side crumbled into.
Their acting manager, David Pleat, was gracious. "There was no excuse," he said. "We have let ourselves, and the fans, down." His worst night? "Maybe," he said. "I will have to reflect on that." He has a lot to reflect upon.
It was tumultuous throughout. Spurs burst into the lead inside 120 seconds, with Ledley King's first goal of the season. The converted midfielder picked up a wayward flick from Stéphane Dalmat and cut inside Michael Tarnat. From 17 yards he curled a left-foot shot over the goalkeeper, Arni Arason. It meant the Icelander's first act on his debut was to clutch air. City had to respond and they should have had the opportunity to do so three minutes later when Keller fumbled and appeared, in his desperation, to hold on to Sun Jihai. The referee, Rob Styles, was unconvinced.
City paid a heavy price. A looping cross from Stephen Carr was secured by Robbie Keane and he lifted the ball with the outside of his left boot over Arason. For once Keane had shown the composure that he is often accused of lacking and why, perhaps, Spurs have bought Jermain Defoe for £7m. Soon after Helder Postiga, more immediately under threat, limped off with a pulled hamstring. City suffered their own, more serious, blow after just 26 minutes with Anelka straining a muscle.
Indeed it appeared all over when Christian Ziege, starting only his second game in 13 injury-savaged months, elegantly flighted a free-kick from 25 yards beyond Arason. It was the pick of a vibrant first-half. Astonishingly it got even worse for City when Joey Barton, already booked, remonstrated with Styles. A red card on the whistle although Keegan had no complaint. Indeed the dismissal pricked his players into action.
Maybe it was a sense of injustice; maybe it was a feeling that, surely, it could not get any worse; maybe it was their constant support. Either way Spurs capitulated. Two minutes into the second-half Tarnat scooped forward a free-kick and Sylvain Distin, allowed space as Dalmat dallied, headed home.
The defining moment came quickly when another free-kick by Ziege was gloved on to the crossbar by Arason, who recovered quickly to stop Keane's header on the goal-line. City immediately broke away and Paul Bosvelt, driving on, scuffed a shot from the cusp of the area. It cannoned from Anthony Gardner and in.
The effort was sapping but, Wright-Phillips, so indefatigable, was sent scampering through by Fowler and lifted the ball over Keller. He appeared, marginally, offside. The disbelief was raucous. But it simply erupted in injury-time as Macken met Tarnat's deep cross after another, amazing run by Wright-Phillips. The 10 men had done it. "If you do that every week with 11 men no one beats you," Keegan said. "And I don't care who you are - you can fetch them all on." And they will. In the fifth round it's Manchester United, of course. Simply unbelievable.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Keller; Carr, Gardner, Richards, Ziege (Jackson, 60); Dalmat, King, Brown, Davies; Postiga (Poyet, 9), Keane. Substitutes not used: Burch (gk), Kelly, Yeates.
Manchester City (4-4-2) Arason; Sun Jihai, Dunne, Distin, Tarnat; Wright-Phillips, Barton, Bosvelt (Sibierski, 80), Sinclair (McManaman, 80); Fowler, Anelka (Macken, 27). Substitutes not used: Stuhr-Ellegaard (gk), Jordan.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).Reuse content