Tottenham Hotspur needed a 73rd-minute Andros Townsend penalty to end the dogged resistance of visiting third-tier Sheffield United and secure a 1-0 lead in their League Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday.
It had looked like being a frustrating evening for the Premier League side and four-time winners, whose labored efforts to break down their lower-league opponents came to nothing for most of the encounter.
Yet a blatant handball by United’s Jay McEveley gave the hosts the chance to finally break the deadlock and Townsend walloped home from the spot to give them a slender advantage heading into next week’s second leg at Bramall Lane.
“In the first half, it was very difficult to create chances, because they played very deep and were well organized. In the second half, our performance improved and we did create some chances,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters.
United boss Nigel Clough added: “We’re disappointed not to come away with a draw tonight. We let it slip a little bit in the second half when we didn’t play enough leading up to the penalty. But we are still in the tie.”
The winners face either Liverpool or Chelsea, who drew 1-1 in their first leg on Tuesday, in the final at Wembley.
The League One side have become cup specialists under manager Clough, having lost two of their previous 19 knockout games and beaten five Premier League sides in the last 12 months.
While the kickoff was delayed 15 minutes after the visitors’ bus got stuck in traffic, there was nothing tardy about their start to the game.
They looked to give as good as they got in the opening exchanges, although the first real chance fell to the Spurs, with defender Eric Dier having a header well parried by visiting ‘keeper Mark Howard.
The Spurs, bidding to reach their first final in six years, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but struggled to break down a plucky United rearguard.
Tottenham’s Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor, making his first start since November last year, blasted over 10 minutes before halftime, typifying a sloppy first 45 minutes from the home side.
As the frustration levels increased inside White Hart Lane, so did the visitors’ resilience, as Tottenham labored for little attacking reward.
Spurs boss Pochettino replaced the ineffective Adebayor with Roberto Soldado midway through the second half and the Spaniard had a hand in the breakthrough moment.
He controlled a crossfield pass into the box from central defender Jan Vertonghen and McEveley’s trailing arm fumbled at the bouncing ball in front of referee Neil Swarbrick, who had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Fickle winds produced farcical scenes yesterday on day two of the America’s Cup challenger series in Auckland, as the so-called “flying” yachts spent almost as much time in the water as above it. “I’m not sure today is a really accurate read because it’s so puffy, it’s shifty,” British sailing legend Ben Ainslie said after his Ineos Team UK maintained their perfect start to the Prada Cup series with a third straight win. The series would determine which of the 23m yachts — which fly above the water balanced on hi-tech foil arms — would challenge defending champion Team New Zealand for
VIRUS RISK: India’s Saina Nehwal tested positive for COVID-19 at the Yonex Thailand Open, while three other players were being retested after receiving conflicting results Taiwanese badminton star Tai Tzu-ying yesterday returned to international competition after an eight-month break with a victory at the Yonex Thailand Open in Bangkok. Twenty-six-year-old Tai, 26, the top-seeded player at the tournament, met 18-year-old Thai player Benyapa Aimsaard in the opening round and narrowly won 21-18, 26-24. Her previous tournament was the Yonex All England Open in March last year, where she won the women’s singles title, before the BWF World Tour was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Benyapa was a last-minute replacement after another Thai player pulled out of the event. It was a rollercoaster match for Tai.
NO FAIRY TALE: Non-league Marine tried to bridge the biggest gap between opponents in FA Cup history, but the part-timers fell to a 5-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur Leeds United on Sunday suffered a humiliating FA Cup exit against Crawley Town as the League Two side swept to a stunning 3-0 win, while eighth-tier Marine’s hopes of causing the competition’s greatest shock were crushed in a 5-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur. After the spiking COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc with matches across the third round on Friday and Saturday, the FA Cup was back on more familiar ground on Sunday as Leeds became the competition’s latest big name to be knocked out by feisty underdogs. While Marine’s romantic adventure was cut short by a Carlos Vinicius hat-trick, and Chelsea and Manchester
DOUBLES VICTORY: The men’s doubles pairing of Taiwanese Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin downed Malaysians Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi, and face South Koreans today Men’s badminton world No. 2 Chou Tien-chen yesterday marched into the semi-finals of the Thailand Open, defeating younger opponent Lee Zii-jia 21-17, 21-15 after a rally, while Tai Tzu-ying had no trouble getting past her Canadian opponent in the women’s singles. The top male Taiwanese credited calm and focus in securing his win after briefly falling behind against his 22-year-old Malaysian opponent. “I think I had more patience against him and I won most of the long rallies,” the 31-year-old Chou said of Lee. “He wanted to attack [too much] and maybe he lost some focus,” Chou said. In today’s semi-finals, second-seeded Chou faces