Spurs’ first in nine years

Tottenham had spells, particularly in pursuit of the equaliser, which embodied a brightness and excitement beyond the reach of Chelsea.

Some victories are worth more than the trophy itself. Tottenham Hotspur went against the standard operating procedure of English football by coming from behind to beat the supposedly implacable Chelsea. The losers have much left to play for in the Champions League, FA Cup and, just conceivably, the Premier League but no one in their camp felt that the Carling Cup was a cheap trinket dangling meaninglessly from the fixture list.

This game, with its half-hour of extra-time, lasted so long that it took on an obsessive power for both teams. The winner in the 94th minute, from Jonathan Woodgate, came through a mistake by the Chelsea goalkeeper, Petr Cech, but the result itself was no accident and Tottenham earned their first trophy in nine years. They had spells, particularly in pursuit of the equaliser, which embodied a brightness and excitement beyond the reach of these deposed holders.

In knockout football, Juande Ramos generally ensures that it is the opposition who wind up seeing stars. The Tottenham manager understands how to stifle a game but here he showed how he can let talent breathe. Chelsea, who had Avram Grant in charge for a first final with them, did not cope with the critical passage, at the start of the second half.

Aaron Lennon, switched to the left, then preyed on Juliano Belletti, a full-back yearning to be a winger. Once Jermaine Jenas had hustled Michael Essien into losing possession, Lennon crossed deep and Wayne Bridge, harassed by the substitute Tom Huddlestone, handled the ball. The assistant referee signalled for the offence and, despite Chelsea claims that the contact had been accidental, a penalty was awarded by Mark Halsey. Dimitar Berbatov slotted it away with haughty indifference to mere goalkeepers at spot-kicks.

The winner, it must be agreed, was absurd. Four minutes into extra-time, Jenas sent in a free-kick from the left which brushed past his team-mate Woodgate, only for Cech to punch the ball against the defender’s face, from where it bounced into the net.

Chelsea took the lead in unsurprising manner after 37 minutes. Zokora bumped clumsily into Didier Drogba to concede a free-kick. The much-doubted goalkeeper Paul Robinson then organised a defensive wall before, in effect, leaving himself immured by standing unsighted directly behind it. Drogba was then assisted by Keane changing his position as the Ivorian ran up and the shot flew home comfortably.

Kevin McCarra ©Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008 * * * Pawar power


Anand Pawar crowned himself the men’s singles champion at the Austrian Open badminton championship in Vienna,

Druzchenko is ranked No. 60 in the world.

Pawar, thus, became the second Indian after the late Syed Modi to lift the Austrian Open singles crown.

In the semifinal, Pawar, 21, defeated Nathan Rice of England 21-14, 21-8.

The victory is expected to push Pawar’s ranking up by a few places from his current World No. 124.