A fine performance that gained a deserved win and the reward of two legs against Sheffield United for a place at Wembley. The best draw of course but don’t count your cockerels just yet, the Blades did after all beat a good Southampton side to reach the semis and we shouldn’t forget the massive scare given to us by a lower division Burnley side in 2009 at the same stage when Ben Alnwick played his way out of a Spurs future.
Newcastle’s patchwork kit matched their patched up side, the greenest member of which was the keeper Jak Alnwick, brother of the aforementioned Ben. In keeping with the occasion the goalie gave a passable impression of his sibling having a big hand in goals one and four, the first a missed catch at a corner that Bentaleb hooked in, the latter when he beat back Eriksen’s shot straight into the path of Soldado who took a touch and then buried. In between Chadli was allowed to run across a sleeping back four and place a deflected shot into the bottom corner and Kane shoot left footed past Alnwick after Townsend’s attempt at a through ball fell to him.
All this makes it sound very easy, which it was for the most part after we’d scored. Sissoko’s carrying of the ball in midfield, was the Geordies’ most dangerous weapon in the first half but in general he was stopped before he could cause a real threat. Up front they were lively but lacked any penetration and presence in contrast to ourselves where the quick movement of the ball between Eriksen, Townsend, Bentaleb, Stambouli and Chadli caused continual problems to the away side’s back four who also had to deal with the non-stop running and determination of Kane. Pardew’s chosen tactic of ‘going for it’ played into our hands by stretching the game and we made the most of it.
At the back Vorm’s handling was excellent and he made a couple of fine stops. We learnt once again that Chiriches is a better full back than centre half and on the other side Rose had a typical match mixing combining well with Chadli but also getting caught out at the back. In the middle skipper Vertonghen was excellent and whilst Fazio’s aerial skills make him valuable I’m not sure he’ll ever lose that stiffness that makes him vulnerable on the floor.
It was one of the better atmospheres of the season, helped by the vociferous away fans who, in typical West Ham style, grew louder once it was clear that their team had let them down. Like a drunk at a karaoke night they quickly grew more boring than entertaining though and by the end the police had to intervene.
There were many positives from the night of course, the ability to win well against a decent team whilst giving so many of the first team a rest being most prominent amongst them. Pochettino will be pleased that this result looks like his ‘philosophy’ appears to be bearing some sort of fruit, he shouldn’t though lose sight of the fact that we’ve had the rub of the green not only in this game but also in the draw overall. Speaking of which, Sheffield United and Nigel Clough await. Clough was in the Forest team (I think) that beat us in the semis in 1992 – he’ll no doubt be wanting to repeat the experience though hopefully not the bomb scare that led to the second leg at WHL being so memorable.
Well done chaps. COYS.
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