Klinsmann keeps the dream alive

FOOTBALL COMMENTARY

The irony will surely not be lost on the Football Association. As Alan Sugar recognised after Tottenham Hotspur's impressive 2-1 win over Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at Anfield on Saturday, the FA's ban on his club from this season's competition and its subsequent overturning have conspired to improve Tottenham's chances of a record ninth Cup win.

The Tottenham chairman, who was in magnanimous mood, said: "When we got back in, it gave us that extra bit of adrenalin. The [Cup] run has attracted so much attention because we were out of it.

"Otherwise, we would be just like any other club which had started the season with the right to be in the tournament. All I did was fight for our rights. It was an impossible dream to get into the FA Cup semi-finals after being kicked out."

Tottenham, who face Everton in the semi-finals, may now go all the way to Wembley itself for the final of a competition in which they should not be taking part.

This is not to denigrate Gerry Francis, who has done an exceptional job since taking over as manager; nor his players, who have responded magnificently; nor Tottenham's supporters (of which there are several at Lancaster Gate). But their successful legal challenge to the FA's ban on their participation has invited anarchy into the game. While one cannot blame Sugar for his tenacious action, its success has not been helpful to football's long- term interests.

Tottenham were, indisputably, guilty of a number of financial irregularities, and deserved to be severely punished. That Sugar was not chairman at the time is largely irrelevant. The club won the 1991 FA Cup with a team that included several players who had received illegal payments, and some members of the then administration and board are still at White Hart Lane.

Sugar shared the Anfield directors' box with Graham Kelly, the chief executive of the FA, who must have groaned inwardly when Jrgen Klinsmann scored Tottenham's 88th-minute winner. Whatever one's opinion of Tottenham's participation, there is a certain delicious irony surrounding the prospect of Sugar and Kelly sitting alongside one another at Wembley.

However, it appears there will be no need to have a steward standing between them. Sugar, who sat with arms folded and mouth pursed until the dramatic denouement - when he broke into applause and smiles while all around leapt to their feet - said he and Kelly had "shaken hands and talked in a civilised manner. That is how it should be; we get on and respect each other."

There was much mutual respect at Anfield. Several Liverpool supporters reached up to shake Sugar by the hand after the game; Ian Rush said he hoped Klinsmann would go on and get a winners' medal; and the home supporters put aside their disappointment to give Tottenham - and Klinsmann in particular - a generous round of applause when they left the field.

Heartening stuff, as was the sight of two Tottenham scarves laid alongside the fresh flowers at the Hillsborough memorial in the Anfield Road. A Newcastle scarf, left last week, also paid silent tribute.

The game itself was as uplifting as the sentiments around it, with the first half as good as any this season. So much so, that no one wanted it to end - including, it appeared, the otherwise admirable referee, Martin Bodenham, who was in the sixth minute of injury time when he finally looked at his watch and, almost immediately, blew.

Tottenham had equalised 30 seconds into added time, Klinsmann running on to David Howells' excellent through-ball and feeding Teddy Sheringham, who scored off the post from 20 yards. It was a heavy blow to a Liverpool side that had deservedly taken the lead seven minutes earlier through Robbie Fowler, after a marvellous run by Mark Walters.

Having collected the ball in his own half, Walters ran into the Spurs box and tied up four defenders before chipping a cross to the back of the six-yard box. Fowler, having pulled away from Justin Edinburgh, headed home his 28th goal of the season.

Liverpool had dominated the half, with Jamie Redknapp ruling the midfield. But it had been Spurs who had the better chances - David James denying Klinsmann with his knee in the second minute - and looked the more solid in defence.

Their secret, as Francis noted afterwards, is the wholesale observance of the philosophy that made Liverpool great. They have good players who work hard for each other. Even Ronny Rosenthal and Darren Anderton - both poor tacklers - harried and chased, while Klinsmann was regularly to be found on the edge of his own penalty area.

In the second period, Spurs "zoned up" like a basketball team, the entire side retreating into defence while Liverpool passed the ball across the midfield and back again, searching in vain for an opening.

While they were restricted to 20-yard shotsand one burst from Steve McManaman, Tottenham broke with pace and skill. By the end they looked the more likely winners, but it was still a surprise when they scored.

When taking a defensive throw-in, Liverpool have a habit of lobbing it to John Scales, who volleys upfield. It is impressive when it works - as it did in the first half when he found Fowler's chest and set up an attack - but this time Scales mis-hit the volley.

It fell 10 yards away, and Anderton brushed past Michael Thomas to supply Sheringham. He flicked on with the outside of his boot, and Klinsmann swept past Rob Jones and Neil Ruddock to score.

"It has been quite a weekend," Sugar said after the game. "My daughter celebrated her 21st birthday by getting engaged on Friday, and now this. The last time we were at Wembley, it was for an FA commission which deducted 12 points, fined us £500,000 and kicked us out of the Cup. It would be nice to go back for a different reason." Should Tottenham do so, Sugar should perhaps commission a second set of medals - for his lawyers.

Goals: Fowler (38) 1-0; Sheringham (45) 1-1; Klinsmann (88) 1-2.

Liverpool (3-5-2): James; Scales, Ruddock, Babb; Jones, McManaman, Redknapp, Barnes (Thomas, 74), Walters (Bjornebye, 74); Rush, Fowler. Substitute not used: Warner (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Mabbutt, Calderwood, Edinburgh; Barmby, Anderton, Howells, Rosenthal; Sheringham, Klinsmann. Substitutes not used: Nethercott, Caskey, Thorstvedt (gk).

Referee: M Bodenham (Cornwall).

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