Juande Ramos had no hesitation in describing our Carling Cup quarter-final win at City as the best display under his charge so far.
Juande Ramos had no hesitation in describing our Carling Cup quarter-final win at City as the best display under his charge so far.Tuesday night's 2-0 triumph was a display full of character, determination and no little skill as we overcame losing Didier Zokora as early as the 21st minute to a controversial red card, forcing Juande into a tactical switch and leaving us with the prospect of facing a City side with a home record of played 10, won 10 going into the game with 10 men for 70 minutes.
Thankfully, we were already 1-0 up by then as Jermain Defoe converted Aaron Lennon’s cross in the fifth minute. JD had to be sacrificed following the sending off with Teemu Tainio coming in at right-back and Pascal Chimbonda switching to central defence.
The lads relished the challenge and appeared determined that nothing was going to stand between them and another shot at a Wembley final.
When we were breached, Paul Robinson stood firm. He produced arguably his best save of the season to tip over Darius Vassell’s point-blank header and, with the score still 1-0, matched that with another reaction stop to palm away Rolando Bianchi’s header, Younes Kaboul hacking the rebound off the line.
We wrapped it up in the 82nd minute when the outstanding Dimitar Berbatov found Jamie O’Hara, he picked out Steed Malbranque and the Frenchman slotted provided the finish.
The victory – our third on the trot – booked a place in the semi-finals of the competition for the second-successive year and made it one defeat in 11 games since Juande took up his Head Coach role.
“It’s a positive result and sets us up for the rest of the season,” said Juande. “To win away from home in a cup tie against a team like Manchester City, who are up there in the league at the moment and on a good run of form at home, having been one man down after 20 minutes, it’s something really positive.
“We had to work extra hard after being down to 10 men to make up for having that inferior number. We ended up with just rewards for our efforts and the result will stand us in good stead in terms of the mindset of the lads.
“Paul Robinson did his job and I’d like to give credit to the rest of the side. The players who are meant to score goals found the net and everyone else on the pitch worked so hard, particularly the midfield.”
As for the red card – a decision that was at the least harsh, as Didier appeared to win the ball and make very little contact with Elano – Juande made clear his thoughts. “It was absolutely undeserved, unjust and it wasn’t a sending off, no way. We then had to pay the penalty of being a man down.”