Tottenham moved within touching distance of defending their League Cup title after super-substitute Jamie O’Hara inspired a 4-1 win over Burnley in Tuesday’s semi-final first leg.
When Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp sent on O’Hara at half-time, Tottenham were trailing to Martin Paterson’s early goal and had been completely outplayed by Owen Coyle’s Championship team.
But O’Hara’s arrival sparked a remarkable transformation at White Hart Lane. The midfielder’s free-kick set up the equalizer for Michael Dawson and he scored Tottenham’s second himself before Roman Pavlyuchenko made it three for the Premier League club.
O’Hara wasn’t finished there and he layed on the fourth goal with another free-kick that Michael Duff headed into his own net.
It was a whirlwind spell that left Burnley bewildered and Spurs on the verge of returning to Wembley on March 1 to defend the trophy they won last year by beating Chelsea.
All Tottenham have to do now is finish the job at Turf Moor in the second leg in two weeks and they will be able to look forward to a final showdown against Manchester United or Derby.
Burnley had already claimed three Premier League scalps in the competition this season and those wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham made it clear they would be no pushover.
In the 14th minute Clarets winger Chris Eagles surged into the penalty area past Gareth Bale and, as Tottenham’s defense stood statuesque, cut a cross back for Paterson to tap into the empty net.
Burnley’s 6,000 traveling fans went wild and Spurs almost went into meltdown.
Burnley won every 50-50 challenge in the first half and Redknapp responded by sending on O’Hara for David Bentley at half-time and it proved an inspired move.
In the 47th minute, O’Hara swung over a corner and Dawson rose above Clarke Carlisle to looped his ahead into the roof of the net.
Tottenham went in front as O’Hara turned from provider to scorer six minutes later. Pavlyuchenko’s cross was glanced on by Luka Modric to O’Hara and his low shot crept in.
O’Hara wasn’t just a thorn in Burnley’s side going forward. His presence in front of Bale subdued Eagles for the first time and shutout the visitors’ most creative force.
Bale’s alert clearance denied Chris McCann midway through the half. Moments later Pavyluchenko put Spurs in complete control.
The Russian collected Bale’s 65th minute pass, skipped past Clarke and scored with a fine low strike.
Spurs added a fourth two minutes later when O’Hara’s free-kick was headed into his own net by Duff.