Ziege's strike puts Spurs in cruise control

Tottenham Hotspur 4 Tranmere Rovers 0
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The Independent Online

Tottenham's quest to make it to both domestic Cup finals this season remains very much alive this morning after this comfortable win against a team who looked a shadow of the giant-killing outfit that has claimed seven Premiership sides over the last couple of years.

Spurs will contest the Worthington Cup final this Sunday against Blackburn, and two more wins in the FA Cup will see them emulate Liverpool, who reached both domestic finals last year and won them. What Tottenham will certainly hope is that they do not match the feat of Middlesbrough, who reached, and lost, both finals five years ago.

This match provided Glenn Hoddle with the chance to complete some unfinished business. The Spurs manager suffered one of the more embarrassing moments of his career when he faced Tranmere at the same stage of the FA Cup last season. Then, as manager of Southampton, he saw his team go 3-0 up at half-time before collapsing to a 4-3 defeat at Prenton Park.

However, on the evidence here, the better form guide was Spurs' victory on Merseyside against Rovers earlier this season when, in the Worthington Cup, they cruised to a facile 4-0 win. Having gone on to reach Cardiff in that competition, this victory could serve as some inspiration for Hoddle's men in their search for the cup double.

Proof that this was going to be an easy afternoon for the home side came after only nine minutes, when Tottenham took the lead through a confidently-taken Christian Ziege strike.

On his first appearance, which Hoddle admitted was a small risk, since picking up a knee injury against Ipswich five weeks ago, the German international looked like he had not been away for a day, as he slotted into his left midfield position with ease, and then proceeded to torment his marker Graham Allen all day.

Ziege had been included from the start, but absent were Darren Anderton, rested with a sore hamstring ahead of the Worthington Cup final, and Ledley King, who had still not recovered from the tonsillitis that kept him out of England's midweek draw in the Netherlands.

Ziege was the key man as he calmed any early nerves the home side might have had by rifling home from Simon Davies' cross. Unmarked, he picked his spot in the top corner. By the time Gustavo Poyet doubled the lead nine minutes before the break, Spurs should have already scored several times as the Second Division side struggled to live up to their reputation as upsetters of the apple-cart.

But Poyet's goal was the crowning effort of an impressive, sustained Spurs performance as Mauricio Taricco kept the ball in play for a move that involved Poyet, Teddy Sheringham and Ziege, before the Uruguayan chipped his shot home with minimum fuss. As Dave Watson, the Tranmere manager, said: "Tottenham can play it around and they're comfortable on the ball. On their day they're a match for anyone, but 4-0 sounds worse than it was."

Tranmere only briefly threatened to disturb Spurs' poise, when Rideout brought a save from Neil Sullivan. When Nick Henry then scuffed his shot eight yards out after 58 minutes, Rovers' last chance to make an impact had come and gone. Six minutes later Sheringham scored the easiest goal of the afternoon when John Achterberg dropped a cross under a challenge from Les Ferdinand, leaving Sheringham with a tap-in, and Poyet rounded things off in the final minute with another simple finish.

A happy Hoddle admitted: "I was delighted with the performance. We saw them off with relative ease but it was not easy. The difference in the divisions showed by the end."

Goals: Ziege (9) 1-0; Poyet (36) 2-0; Sheringham (64) 3-0; Sheringham (90) 4-0.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Sullivan; Thatcher, Richards, Perry, Taricco; Ziege (Etherington, 88), Poyet, Sherwood, Davies; Sheringham, Ferdinand (Iversen, 77). Substitutes not used: Keller (gk), Leonhardsen, Thelwell.

Tranmere Rovers: (4-4-2): Achterberg; Roberts, Hill, Sharps, Allen; Koumas, Henry (Mellon, 72), Navarro, Parkinson; Price, Rideout (Barlow, 72). Substitutes not used: Murphy (gk), Allison, Hinds.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

Booking: Tranmere: Sharps.

Man of the match: Ziege.

Attendance: 30, 396.

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