Worth waiting for. The 12 years and 26 matches during which Chelsea have held sway over them have been sheer purgatory for Tottenham fans but, at White Hart Lane last night, retribution was achieved in a style even their most fervent supporters could not have imagined.
Five goals, plus the erroneous dismissal of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, one of the Lane's hate figures, sent Spurs fans into dreamland and their players to the Millennium Stadium. "I'm very proud," Glenn Hoddle, the Spurs' manager, said. "You can't ask for more than that. We were magnificent."
"That hurt," Claudio Ranieri, his Chelsea counterpart, said. "The first 20 minutes was very bad for us. Spurs started more determined than us. They won every tackle, every second ball."
Chelsea had led 2-1 from the first leg and the odds seemed to have tilted further in their direction when Les Ferdinand became the latest Spur to be ruled out through injury. But that was matched by a self-inflicted wound when Ranieri omitted Gianfranco Zola, who is in such sparkling form. While his replacement, Boudewijn Zenden, was injured after 10 minutes, Ferdinand's understudy, Steffen Iversen, set Spurs on their way with a second-minute goal.
Tim Sherwood, after 33 minutes, put Spurs ahead on aggregate and Teddy Sheringham added a third soon after the break. Sheringham was then struck in a goalmouth skirmish but, instead of dismissing the culprit, Mario Melchiot, referee Mark Halsey sent off Hasselbaink. Chelsea's hopes of recovery went with him as Simon Davies, after 76 minutes, and Sergei Rebrov, after 87, added further goals. Mikael Forssell's last-minute reply was no consolation at all.
The final, against Blackburn on 24 February, will be Spurs' second in four years in this competition and fifth in all.
Last night's triumph was based on the midfield excellence of Darren Anderton. Tireless and imaginative, he was at the heart of many of Spurs' best moves. "He was fantastic," Hoddle said. "His energy was amazing."
Gus Poyet, against the club which decided he was too old, was not far behind while Sheringham was as classy as ever. Tribute ought to be paid, too, to a defence which rarely allowed Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen a chance of adding to their 35 goals this season.
The last time Spurs defeated Chelsea Nelson Mandela was still in jail and Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Chelsea had actually won 11 of the last 12 matches. Any psychological edge was quickly nullified, however, when Iversen capitalised on John Terry's failure to clear after Carlo Cudicini had blocked Mauricio Taricco's shot.
Zenden then suffered a deep gash sliding into Sheringham. With muscular damage feared he was taken to hospital. Ranieri, concerned about Spurs' dominance, brought on Sam Dalla Bona rather than Zola.
He made little difference as, after Cudicini had denied Poyet, Spurs scored again with the oldest move in their playbook. With Sheringham making a distracting run, Anderton pulled back a corner for Sherwood to rifle into the top corner.
Gudjohnsen whipped a shot just wide but it was a rare sally and Spurs struck again after 50 minutes. Anderton crossed, Poyet, on the turn, chested the ball back and Sheringham drove past Cudicini. It was a magnificently created and taken goal and the Lane erupted.
They were not alone. Five minutes later it was "handbags" in the Tottenham box. Television suggested the guiltiest party was Melchiot, who slapped Sheringham, while Taricco may have punched Melchiot. Halsey, who missed Mark Viduka's elbow on Martin Keown at the weekend, spared the pair but waved a red card at Hasselbaink and a yellow at Sheringham. Hasselbaink was understandably flabbergasted.
"The sending off was unbelievable," Raneri said. "We will appeal. Melchiot admitted it was him." Sheringham added: "It was a slap, not a sending off."
Chelsea brought on Forssell and, belatedly, Zola but it was Spurs who scored twice, Davies beating Cudicini at the near post and Rebrov tapping in Leonhardsen's cross, before Forssell replied.
Spurs now go to Cardiff for the first time in a quarter of a century. Having then lost, at Ninian Park, in a third-round FA Cup tie they have not been in a hurry to return but will cross the Severn next month brimming with enthusiasm. A place in Europe beckons but whatever they achieve, in Wales or further afield, it is unlikely to delight their fans as much as last night.
Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2): Sullivan; King, Perry, Gardner; Davies Sherwood; Anderton, Poyet (Leonhardsen, 83), Taricco; Sheringham, Iversen (Rebrov, 83). Substitutes not used: Kelly (gk), Thelwell, Etherington.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cudicini; Melchiot (Zola 68), Terry, Desailly, Gallas; Stanic, Lampard, Petit (Forssell, 65), Zenden (Dalla Bona, 10); Hasselbaink, Gudjohnsen. Substitutes not used: De Goey (gk), Ferrer.
Referee: M Halsey (Welwyn).Reuse content