Tottenham Hotspur F.C. 3–4 Manchester City F.C. (2004)
In the Fourth Round of the 2003–04 FA Cup, the tie between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City went to a replay – played at White Hart Lane, London, on the evening of 4 February 2004 – after the original match 11 days earlier finished in a 1–1 draw.
|Event||2003–04 FA Cup Fourth round replay|
|Date||4 February 2004|
|Venue||White Hart Lane, London|
|Referee||Rob Styles (Hampshire)|
Spurs took a convincing 3–0 lead into the half-time interval after goals from Ledley King, Robbie Keane and a Christian Ziege free kick. Having already seen their star striker, Nicolas Anelka, limp off with an injury in the 27th minute of the game, the situation was made even worse for City just before the half-time interval when key central midfielder Joey Barton was dismissed by the referee for dissent as both teams and the match officials were leaving the pitch at the end of the first half. However, after the break, goals from Sylvain Distin, Paul Bosvelt, Shaun Wright-Phillips plus an injury-time strike from Jon Macken sealed a victory described by one journalistic source as "as great a comeback as English football has ever known".
The match was played between two of English football's more notable clubs, at a time when both were experiencing lengthy periods of relative mediocrity. Neither team had finished higher than seventh in the Premier League since its creation more than a decade earlier. Manchester City had won promotion back to the Premier League just two seasons earlier,having spent just one of the previous seven seasons in the Premier League, and spending one season in Division Two. Furthermore, neither team had reached the final of the FA Cup since Spurs won the competition in 1991, although Spurs had won the League Cup five seasons earlier. City's last major trophy was the Football League Cup in 1976.
The match was picked for live broadcast on Match of the Day but before the match the tie-up between two struggling sides was ultimately viewed to be of secondary importance compared to then-Conference side Scarborough's draw against Chelsea as well as another top-table clash between Liverpool and Newcastle.
Being top division teams, both had entered the competition in the Third Round Proper, played in the previous month. Tottenham had advanced with an easy 3–0 victory over Crystal Palace while City had laboured to beat Leicester City, having been held to a replay after a 2–2 draw at home.
The match was broadcast live on Sky Sports.
Tottenham took the lead early in the game, their shot from outside the penalty area giving them a one-goal advantage after two minutes. Their strong early position was knocked six minutes later, however, when striker Helder Postiga left the field with an injury, to be replaced by Gus Poyet.
In the 19th minute Stephen Carr's long ball over the Manchester City defence was put past City goalkeeper Árni Arason by Robbie Keane, increasing Spurs' advantage to two goals. Less than ten minutes later City themselves saw a striker substituted through injury when Nicolas Anelka picked up a hamstring strain in the 27th minute; his replacement was to be Jon Macken, who had been blamed for missing an open goal at the end of the previous match which had necessitated the replay be played in the first place. Spurs scored their final goal just before half-time as Christian Ziege took a free kick caused by a Joey Barton foul on Michael Brown, in the process picking up a yellow card which would become far more relevant very shortly afterwards.
Barton's yellow card would come back to bite him on the stroke of half-time when, in a move which was indicative of the start of a career which would ultimately be characterised by controversy, he was reported to have remonstrated with referee Rob Styles as both teams made their way to the dressing rooms and promptly received a yellow card for dissent. His second yellow card resulted in his explusion from the game and left his team with only ten men for the second forty-five minutes.
After the break, City suddenly appeared resurgent and scored within three minutes of the restart when defender Sylvain Distin headed in from a set piece. Reserve keeper Arason — who was playing his first game in English football and who manager Kevin Keegan had never even witnessed in full match conditions before — then drew plaudits for a double save following another Ziege free kick. City reduced the lead to just one goal when Paul Bosvelt's half-volley took a deflection off Anthony Gardner in the 62nd minute.
Manchester City eventually drew level in the 79th minute when Shaun Wright-Phillips avoided an offside trap to lob Spurs keeper Kasey Keller, and finally took the lead in the 90th minute as another cross from Michael Tarnat found Jon Macken prevented the need for extra time or penalties.
|Tottenham Hotspur||3–4||Manchester City|
City's victory was immediately heralded as a momentous event, with Kevin Keegan and commentator Alan Hansen both describing it as the greatest cup match they had ever witnessed, while the following day Guardian journalist Kevin McCarra labelled it "as great a comeback as English football has ever known" and the same publication was inspired to compare the match to previous challengers for the same mantle. Since then, it has regularly served as a benchmark for comparison when English teams have produced memorable cup turnarounds, and has featured on numerous media attempts to list the best cup matches in history.
Ultimately, Manchester City's heroics were in vain, as they went on to lose their Fifth Round tie against bitter rivals Manchester United 4–2, in a tempestuous affair that saw Gary Neville sent off for his part in a large melee in the 38th minute. United would go on to win the competition, beating Millwall 3–0 in the final to claim their 11th FA Cup title.
For Spurs, losing the match did not seem to cause any lasting effects on their season, with the club continuing to record a similar number of wins and losses in their following games as they had in the previous couple of months. For City, who had been on a winless run in the league stretching back to the start of November, the same originally appeared true as they picked up only one point from their next two games, before finally capping the winless run at 14 matches with an away victory over Bolton Wanderers on 21 February. This was followed up with a 4–1 derby victory at Maine Road two games later. Spurs, who had been four points ahead of City at the time of the FA Cup game, finished the season exactly the same distance ahead, with the teams finishing in 14th and 16th place respectively. Both teams had already been eliminated from all other competitions, with Spurs themselves having eliminated City from the League Cup.
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