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Penalty heartbreak ends Wembley dream

Posted on 1 March 2009  - 12:00

Our dream of a back-to-back Wembley success in the 2009 Carling Cup Final ended in heartbreak as we were defeated 4-1 on a penalty shoot-out by Manchester United.

Penalty heartbreak ends Wembley dream

Our dream of a back-to-back Wembley success in the 2009 Carling Cup Final ended in heartbreak as we were defeated 4-1 on a penalty shoot-out by Manchester United.

For the second year in a row, we fought bravely and went toe-to-toe on the biggest stage with first class opposition in a tense and thrilling encounter in which neither side could break the deadlock in 120 minutes of football.

But on this occasion, there was to be no glory at the end of it as the brave Jamie O'Hara and David Bentley suffered the misfortune of missing their spot kicks, while United netted all of theirs.

Nonetheless, the lads can once again hold their heads high after we proved to ourselves the level of performance we can achieve as we turn our attention back to fighting our way out of trouble in the Premier League.

We didn't have the best of starts to our day as last year's Wembley match-winner Jonathan Woodgate failed a late fitness test on an Achilles injury and was ruled out of the Final.

He and the cup-tied Carlo Cudicini, Wilson Palacios and Robbie Keane were the only absentees from the side that defeated Hull in the league last Monday.

Heurelho Gomes remained in goal from the week's UEFA Cup tie, Roman Pavlyuchenko continued on his quest to score in every round of this season's competition by partnering Darren Bent up-front, Didier Zokora came into midfield, and Michael Dawson partnered captain Ledley King at the back.

As was the case last year, our throng of fans were magnificent from start to finish, with our end of the stadium awash with blue and white and Cup Final flags being waved proudly by all.

On the pitch, United had the better of the first half and were on the attack from the early stages.

The first effort on goal was a trademark Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick that sailed over on six minutes, and the same player put an effort straight at Gomes from inside the box a minute later after good build-up play by Nani and Carlos Tevez.

Young midfielder Darron Gibson came closest for them on 13 minutes with a crashing 25 yard drive that whistled just past the post after Benoit Assou-Ekotto had blocked a Tevez shot.

And Nani forced Gomes into his first real save of the afternoon on 16 minutes, the Brazilian doing well to tip a low shot around the post. But as the half continued we grew in confidence.

Our first meaningful attack came on 18 minutes when Aaron Lennon was found on the overlap by Vedran Corluka. The winger beat opposing goalkeeper Ben Foster to the ball and pulled back for the waiting Pavlyuchenko, but Rio Ferdinand got in to clear in the nick of time.

And despite the United skipper hitting an ambitious 30-yard effort onto the roof of our net on 24 minutes, you could argue we finished the half in the ascendancy.

Luka Modric slid in Bent for his first shot on goal in the 30th minute, which deflected nicely into the hands of Foster, and Lennon had another run at the defence on 32 minutes, with Jonny Evans intercepting his eventual low cross in the danger zone.

We carried this confidence into the second half when Jermaine Jenas played a neat one-two with Lennon on 57 minutes before curling a shot with the outside of his right foot just over from the edge of the box.

United's best chance came on 61 minutes when Evans hit goalwards after a scramble in the box, but an unmarked Tevez could only turn the ball wide from six yards.

The talking point of the match came on 68 minutes when Ronaldo went down in the box under a challenge from King but was promptly booked for diving by referee Chris Foy. Replays showed our skipper did not win the ball, but it was unclear to see whether the current World Footballer of the Year was already on his way down before contact was made.

On 71 minutes came our best chance. After a spell of pressure, Assou-Ekotto played a ball towards the unmarked Modric in the box, who allowed it to run for Lennon. The winger took his time before firing at goal, but Foster did well to palm the shot away just out of the reach of the lurking Bent.

The only save Gomes had to make in the second half was from a 75th minute shot from substitute Anderson, but by the end of 90 minutes, we had really come into our own.

Our football was flowing with Modric pulling the strings from off the front and Lennon looking a constant threat.

However, it was so nearly heartbreak in the final moments of normal time when Ronaldo was given space to run at the defence before crashing a fierce shot against the inside of Gomes' near post.

We escaped, and for a second year running, more extra time drama at Wembley was upon us.

Into the first period our tired legs started to show. Jenas had given his all in midfield and was replaced by Gareth Bale, and Lennon's non-stop running caused a tweak as he came off for Bentley.

The outstanding Dawson was also suffering after over-stretching when clearing, but bravely carried on the for the final 10 minutes.

Both sides had chances in the added half an hour. Tevez headed a Patrice Evra cross just wide before the break, Bent had a shot saved by the legs of Foster on 116 minutes, and Evra hit one from the edge of the box that sailed inches over just before the end.

But unlike last year, there was to be no extra time winner, and for the first time at the new Wembley, a major Cup Final was to be decided by the lottery of penalty kicks.

The kicks were to be taken at end at which the United fans were situated. After Ryan Giggs netted the first penalty, O'Hara, who had come on as a 65th minute substitute for Pavlyuchenko, stepped up to have our first kick saved by Foster.

Tevez put United further in front before Corluka pegged one back for us, but after Ronaldo slotted his spot kick home, there was further heartbreak as Bentley put his chance wide.

It was left to Anderson to win the Carling Cup for United, and he duly did as our brave attempt the retain the trophy ended in the most painful fashion.

Spurs (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Bentley, 102), Zokora, Jenas (Bale, 99), Modric; Pavlyuchenko (O'Hara, 65), Bent
Subs not used: Alnwick, Gunter, Huddlestone, Taarabt

Man Utd (4-4-2): Foster; O'Shea (Vidic, 76), Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Ronaldo, Scholes, Gibson (Giggs, 91), Nani; Welbeck (Anderson, 56), Tevez
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Eckersley, Possebon, Park