Post Match Comments
Audio Match ReportSaturday 11th March 2001
Referee: A D'Urso WEST HAM2Pearce 42, Todorov 71 TOTTENHAM3Rebrov 31, 57, Doherty 61 HISLOPDAILLYMONCURSTIMACI. PEARCEWINTERBURNCOLECARRICKLAMPARDDI CANIOKANOUTESubs: BYWATERFOXE 37 DIAWARA 60 SOMATODOROV 10 MARTYN MILLSMATTEOFERDINANDHARTEBOWYERDACOURTBAKKEKEWELLBATTYKEANESubs: ROBINSONKELLY 87 WILCOX 80 BURNSMAYBURYAs the heavens opened at Upton Park, West Ham's dreams of FA Cup glory were washed away as London rivals Tottenham Hotspur claimed a 3-2 victory in a thrilling FA Cup quarter-final.
Goals from Stuart Pearce and substitute Svetoslav Todorov weren't enough as a double strike from Sergei Rebrov and one from their FA Cup lucky omen Gary Doherty gave the visitors an unexpected triumph that understandably left Hammers boss Harry Redknapp devastated.
Said H: "Obviously I'm bitterly disappointed and it's going to be hard to pick myself up after this. I really thought we would win today and, although it was an exciting game, I would rather have had a crap match and won.
"But at the end of the day, you can't give away three goals like that and expect to win."
Sadly it was young midfield star Joe Cole who bore the brunt of the manager's frustrations, after he twice lost concentration at the set-pieces that led to Spurs' first and third goals.
"Joe's job was to stay on the post for the corners, but he walked off it as the ball was delivered and Doherty's header just went past hime. He should also have tracked Rebrov for the first goal and never allowed him to get a shot in like that.
"Joe worked his socks off today and had a real go. It's a learning process for him and young kids will make mistakes like that, but people have to do the jobs that they are told to do in training.
"The second goal was also a bad goal though. They've just flicked on a long clearance and got through us. It's the sort of goal you expect to see in the lower divisions.
"Don't get me wrong, Spurs worked hard today, but they didn't have to do much to score and, basically, poor defending cost us the match."
Harry admitted that he had expected his side to go on and win the tie after Stuart Peace had cancelled out Rebrov's opener with a stunning free-kick, and was in no doubt as to the crucial moment after that.
"We were on top after a goal and had picked up momentum. We started the second half well and Fredi had a great chance to put us 2-1 up when he went through one-on-one. If he'd put that away, the game would really have swung in our favour and I'm sure we would have gone on and won.
"But that's football, that's life and you've just got to pick yourself up and get on with it."
Harry was once again full of praise for veteran defender Stuart Pearce, who dragged the team back into it with his equalising goal and typically led by example despite carrying a nasty ankle injury sustained only four days earlier in the Premiership defeat to Chelsea.
"Stuart Pearce was magnificent again. I don't think there is another player who would have played with the kind of injury he has got.
"His ankle is a mess. It is black and blue and on Friday and Saturday there was no way you could say he would play. But it didn't affect his performance at all and he was as courageous and brave as usual.
"I also thought young Todorov looked sharp when he came on, he finished well and looked lively. Michael Carrick also played well, and we could have done with getting him on the ball more often.
"But our defending let us down and we kept getting done by the same long ball. Les Ferdinand is still a threat, but we didn't deal with him and two players kept getting sucked in to the challenge which left others in space.
"There's nothing you can do about it though. It's all over now and we have just got to pick ourselves up and start again. We have an important game against Ipswich next week and we desperately need to get three points out of that one."
Although the Hammers enjoyed the greater possession and created more chances, it was Spurs who more importantly took advantage of some sloppy defending to set up a semi-final clash against their great rivals Arsenal.
Their opener came on 31 minutes when Rebrov was allowed a free run on to Steffen Freund's long throw having not been tracked by his marker Cole and volleyed emphatically past Hislop from 12 yards out.
That stunned the Upton Park faithful after the Hammers had started the better side, but it was inspirational defender Stuart Pearce who put the smiles back on their faces when he smashed home a free-kick from 25 yards out after Kanoute had been fouled.
The half-time interval presented Spurs with a much-needed breather as the Hammers moved up a gear, but they were caught napping again just a minute into the second period when Carrick dispossesed Clemence in the middle of the field and Kanoute picked up the loose ball to bear down on Sullivan.
The Frenchman steadied himself as he raced into the area but scuffed his shot disappointingly wide of the target.
There was a fear that would be a watershed moment and minutes later that fear came true when a long clearance from Sullivan was flicked on by Les Ferdinand. There was a suspicion of offside as Rebrov ran on, but the flag stayed down and the Ukrainian slotted the ball under the advancing Hislop to restore the visitors' lead.
Once again the home fans were stunned into silence but this time there was no equalising response from the Hammers and disaster struck on 61 minutes when Clemence fed a short corner to Rebrov whose deep cross was met by the head of Gary Doherty.
The Irish international's effort didn't carry much power, but Cole's decision to move away from inside the post he was supposed to have been guarding proved fatal as the ball squeezed past him into the back of the net.
Harry Redknapp's response was to throw on young Bulgarian striker Svetoslav Todorov on 67 minutes in an attempt to claw back the defecit and it only took the 21-year-old four minutes to make his mark and provide the Hammers with a lifeline.
Cole's attempted pass to Kanoute was cut out by Young, but the ball rebounded into the box, where Todorov pounced to slip the ball past the onrushing Sullivan for his first goal in English football.
That set the scene for a siege on the Tottenham goal with 20 minutes remaining, but the Hammers just couldn't find a way through.
Kanoute came closest with minutes remaining when his left-foot piledriver was superbly tipped round by Sullivan, and Todorov almost became an unlikely FA Cup hero when his header in injury time was somehow clawed away by the inspired Scotland keeper.
The final whistle was met with pure dejection rather than boos or anger from the devastated Hammers fans, whose agonising 21-year-wait for domestic glory continues for at least another season.
There can be no doubting the efforts of the players to overcome the likes of Manchester United and Sunderland on their own grounds in the competition this year, but that will provide no consolation after a poor defensive display against our fiercest rivals.
The fight for a comfortable Premiership placing now takes centre stage and the team will need the fantastic support that has been so influential this season if they are to push on and finish as high up as possible.
Today maybe a day to forget for all Hammers fans but there is still a bright future to look forward to at Upton Park and continued progress should ensure that the long wait for silverware does come to an end sooner rather than later...