Spurs reach League Cup final in extra time

Roman Pavlyuchenko scored in the 118th minute for defending champion Tottenham to advance to the League Cup final with Manchester United.

updated: January 22, 2009 18:05 IST
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Roman Pavlyuchenko scored in the 118th minute for defending champion Tottenham to advance to the League Cup final with Manchester United despite a 3-2 loss to Burnley on Wednesday.

Burnley led 3-0 after regulation, then Tottenham scored twice in extra time to clinch a 6-4 aggregate win and a spot in the March 1 final at Wembley.

"There is a big sense of relief," Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said. "With five minutes to go I was thinking it could be the most embarrassing night of my football life. We were not mentally or physically strong enough."

Goals from Robbie Blake, Chris McCann and Jay Rodriguez wiped out Tottenham's 4-1 advantage from the semifinal first leg two weeks ago.

The away goal didn't count in Burnley's favor until the additional 30 minutes were over, and the League Championship side was already thinking about Wembley with two minutes remaining and the score level at 4-4 in its favor.

But then Pavlyuchenko struck and Jermain Defoe added another in the 120th.

While fans will relish another final appearance, Redknapp's priority was keeping the team in the Premier League.

Only goal difference was keeping Spurs out of the relegation zone, with the London club and three others level on 21 points with bottom-placed West Bromwich Albion.

"Tonight you could see why we are where we are," Redknapp said. "But we came through and got to a final which is great to look forward to."

Thanks to a second-half comeback at White Hart Lane, Spurs went into the second leg with a comfortable three-goal cushion, but didn't learn from their mistakes by allowing Burnley to dominate again in the first period.

The holders nearly suffered an humiliating start when Benoit Assou-Ekotto, on his return from a four-match ban, sent a back pass curling into the top corner from 30 meters (yards). But goalkeeper Ben Alnwick, making his debut in Heurelho Gomes' injury-forced absence, reacted quickly to palm the ball over with a save that could have resulted in an indirect free kick.

With rain lashing around a freezing Turf Moor, Chris McCann skimmed a shot across the soggy surface which crept round Alnwick's post.

The home side's perseverance in a scrappy start paid off when Martin Paterson was fouled by Jonathan Woodgate. With Alnwick's positioning questionable, the 22-year-old Englishman seemed surprised when Blake curled the resulting free kick around the Spurs wall into a gap in the top right.

Little attacking threat was provided by the visitors. Redknapp deployed Defoe as the lone striker, relegating Pavlyuchenko to the bench to save his players for the battle against relegation from the Premier League.

The best effort of the half amounted to Woodgate _ the match-winner at Wembley last February _ heading David Bentley's cross into the hands of Brian Jensen in the final minute.

After the break, Luka Modric quickly tried to restore the three-goal cushion, but swept over from 20 meters (yards).

A firework landed near the halfway line in the 50th, appearing to be launched from Burnley fans behind the Spurs goal, which could result in an investigation by the Football Association.

Gareth Bale replaced Jamie O'Hara, who faces a lengthy layoff with a hamstring injury, and tried to make an instant impact by surging down the right, but instead of squaring to Defoe, slotted wide of Jensen.

Burnley gave the visitors another lesson in finishing in the 73rd when the unmarked McCann tapped home after latching onto Blake's cross.

The target proved elusive to Pavlyuchenko, who having replaced Modric to support Defoe up front, sent Bale's cross wide.

Spurs were living dangerously and Alnwick dropped Blake's free kick with Rodriguez primed in front of the inexperienced 'keeper to volley home the equalizer.

As extra time began in increasingly freezing conditions, the desperate Spurs players had to score to prevent a major upset.

"We worked so hard to get in the game and we deserved to be 3-0 ahead," Blake said. "But they're class players and they punished tired legs at the end."

Spurs left it very late to prevent Burnley from making its first major final since the 1962 FA Cup, which Spurs won 3-1.

Having booked a place in one final against Man United, Redknapp said he will rest key players for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round trip to Old Trafford.

"I'm really going to send a real mismatched side up there," he said. "We've played extra time tonight and we're out on our feet. I can't afford any more injuries."