Klinsmann the clincher

FA Cup quarter-finals: Liverpool stunned by a goal at the death while Wolves keep their hopes alive
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The Independent Online
TO A GOAL at the death went the glory as Tottenham reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup through Jrgen Klinsmann'sstunning strike in the embers of this most glowing of matches. The German may be going to Wembley, but his knees did not go all trembly when the moment presented itself.

Just as the privileged neutral was looking forward to another helping of such fine fare, Teddy Sheringham put Klinsmann through and he coolly guided the ball past David James for his 23rd goal of the season. It was an appropriately dramatic finish to a breathless tie in the finest traditions of excitement engendered by a competition whose ever-appealing essence is sudden death.

Sheringham was repaying a favour paid him by Klinsmann at the end of the first half when an instant touch gave the England striker enough time and space to hit home a 20-yard drive that equalised Robbie Fowler's opener for Liverpool, his 28th of the season.

It all showed what a born-again team Tottenham are under the management of Gerry Francis, and their Cup case grows ever more realistic, never mind the whiff of Wembley destiny that has attached itself to the club since they were reinstated to the competition after being excluded for financial irregularities.

Resiliently the defence absorbed Liverpool's best efforts; imaginatively the attack picked at the seams of the home defence. This is the first Tottenham team to beat Liverpool in seven FA Cup encounters.

It was a match that ebbed and flowed like a spring tide, with the referee Martin Bodenham deserving of credit for his role. "Probably a little too open for my liking," said the Liverpool manager Roy Evans. "But top marks to Tottenham."

"I have tried to do with my team what Liverpool have done down the decades," said Francis, who made his debut for Queen's Park Rangers against them in 1968-69. "You work hard as a team and allow the individual talent within it to flourish."

The match kicked off 10 minutes late due to traffic problems near Anfield and the players appeared in a hurry to make up for lost time. Klinsmann might have given Tottenham the lead after only two minutes when Sheringham headed him clear, but James saved with a knee. Then David Howells drove just wide. Liverpool retaliated when Fowler streaked clear to test Ian Walker with a low drive. The pattern of the match was established in this fevered first five minutes.

Tottenham executed Francis's game plan of wresting the early initiative from Liverpool perfectly, with Nick Barmby on the right flank exploiting the home side's decision to play the winger Mark Walters in place of the left-back Stig-Inge Bjornebye and interchanging fluently with Sheringham and Klinsmann.

Gradually, though, Jamie Redknapp, John Barnes and Steve McManaman gained a grip in midfield and Walters's attacking prowess became far more evident.

His low shot was held by Walker and Neil Ruddock inadvertently blocked a goalbound shot by John Scales as part of a softening-up process. Then Walters cut in from the left and sneaked to the byline as the Spurs defence backed off, crossing for Robbie Fowler, who had escaped his marker, to head into the roof of the net.

This Tottenham do not crumble at the first setback, however, and were level by the interval. David Howells played the ball forward, Klinsmann, with sure touch and sharp vision, laid it off to Sheringham and in a trice it was in the net.

Anderton began to adjust to his central midfield role in the second half, helping out Howells and Ronny Rosenthal, the man whose hat-trick at Southampton had brought Spurs here and who was starting the match in the absence of Sol Campbell and Gica Popescu.

Liverpool had their chances, when Fowler shot at Walker, Walters was just wide and most notably when McManaman squeezed through only to be thwarted by Walker. "Defensively all the things we had worked on came off for us," said Francis "We made them go across us all the time."

It was a counter-attacking Tottenham who were the more incisive. And the stronger, no doubt as a result of Francis's new tougher regime. "In the modern game, the fitter you are, the more you keep your concentration and the longer you can play," he said.

Sheringham headed just wide and Klinsmann mishit his shot, after Barmby had headed him clear, as Spurs chased a winner rather than settle for the replay. Eventually they got their reward. Rosenthal played the ball in to Sheringham and with one touch Klinsmann was clear to shoot across James into the far corner.

The Liverpool-supporting comedian Stan Boardman was in the directors' box and was given more opportunity to trot out his catchphrase: "I hate dem Germans." The impartial observer, however, could not help but admire such quality.

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