Tottenham 3 Bolton 1: Ryan mighty! Nelsen, Bale and Saha send Spurs to Wembley

Tottenham 3 Bolton 1: Ryan mighty! Nelsen, Bale and Saha send Spurs to Wembley

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UPDATED:

00:02 GMT, 28 March 2012

For Owen Coyle and Bolton, the 2012 FA Cup ended with what was effectively a 3-1 mauling at the hands of Tottenham. This, however, is not how they will recall this season’s competition.

To Coyle and his players, they will long remember White Hart Lane as the place Fabrice Muamba almost lost his life on a cold evening in March.

This game — played after the first one was abandoned — seemed to pass them by in a flash. They were lucky only to lose by a margin of two goals but, no sooner had they knocked the mud from their boots, that will have ceased to matter.

Breakthrough: Ryan Nelson watches as his header sails into the net

Breakthrough: Ryan Nelson watches as his header sails into the net

Secure: Gareth Bale tucks home the second goal for Tottenham

Secure: Gareth Bale tucks home the second goal for Tottenham

MATCH FACTS

Tottenham:
Cudicini, King, Walker, Assou-Ekotto, Nelsen, Bale, Parker (Defoe 71),
Van der Vaart (Rose 80), Modric, Livermore, Adebayor (Saha 79)

Subs not used: Friedel, Kaboul, Kranjcar, Giovani

Goals: Nelsen 74, Bale 77, Saha 90

Bolton:
Bogdan, Alonso, Knight, Ricketts, Boyata (K Davies 76), Eagles, M
Davies, Reo-Coker, Pratley (Ream 28), Klasnic, Miyaichi (Tuncay 79)

Subs not used: Jaaskelainen, Petrov, Vela, Ngog

Goals: K Davies 90

Booked: Pratley

Referee: Howard Webb

Attendance: 30,718

Before kick-off, as the players shook
hands, Bolton defender Sam Ricketts was seen to wipe tears from both
eyes. It was always likely to be that kind of evening and, in truth, it
showed in the visitors’ play.

Tottenham, it should be said, were
terrific. Here they were back to their stylish, energetic, irresistible
selves. Had it not been for a wonderful performance from Bolton’s
Hungarian goalkeeper Adam Bogdan, they would have scored an avalanche of
goals.

In the end they settled for the three
they scored in the final 20 minutes and will now head to a semi-final
clash with Chelsea at Wembley.

Bolton, though, looked like a side
going through the motions. Some players had expressed reservations about
returning to the scene of Muamba’s distress so soon and the only
consolation they can take now is that they do not have to come back
until next year.

Afterwards Coyle did his best to suggest the significance of the occasion had not affected his team. It was a futile exercise.

Crowded: Nelsen nods in the first through a throng of players

Crowded: Nelsen nods in the first through a throng of players

‘There was a range of emotions,’ the
Bolton manager said. ‘I told the lads to deal with it in their own
way. They had to be brave and they were.’

In the match-day programme there were
suitable words from both managers and others who witnessed Muamba’s
trauma 11 days ago. Some of his team-mates visited him in the London
Chest Hospital in the hours before the game while both sides wore
T-shirts offering their thanks to all who have hoped and prayed for the
Bolton midfielders.

Nevertheless, it was good to be able to turn thoughts back to football.

Unlikely: Ryan Nelsen scored the first for Tottenham

Unlikely: Ryan Nelsen scored the first for Tottenham

No division: Tottenham supporters with a banner to support Muamba

No division: Tottenham supporters with a banner to support Muamba

There was, after all, a significant
prize at stake. Had it not been for Bogdan then it would have been
Tottenham’s within half an hour. The young goalkeeper has steadily grown
in stature since bungling against Chelsea earlier in the season but
this was surely the performance of his career.

His opening contribution was actually
less than assured as he fumbled a fierce drive from Gareth Bale in just
the fifth minute. From that moment on, though, he was largely
faultless.

Just three minutes after Bale’s
effort, Bogdan excelled with a superb double save, blocking first from
Jake Livermore and then springing from the floor to push Luka Modric’s
drive over the crossbar.

Applause: Everybody clapped for Muamba at the start of the match (and below)

Applause: Everybody clapped for Muamba at the start of the match (and below)

muamba

If that was good then there was even
better to come. As Bolton continued to play as if in a sleepwalk, Bogdan
was all that stood between Tottenham and a hatful.

The 24-year-old comfortably saved
efforts from Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor either side of
the quarter-hour mark but there was another double save soon after.

First he dived to his left to turn
away Bale’s low shot and then reacted superbly to deny Adebayor as he
drilled the rebound low towards the near post.

Tottenham were playing some lovely
football at this stage but Bogdan denied them again before half-time —
dropping to his right to save brilliantly from Scott Parker — and then
again in the second period as Adebayor could not beat him when clean
through and Van der Vaart was denied by the goalkeeper’s outstretched
leg.

Solidarity: Bolton's Nigel Reo-Coker (left) and Tottenham's Jermain Defoe shake hands

Solidarity: Bolton's Nigel Reo-Coker (left) and Tottenham's Jermain Defoe shake hands

One estimate was that Bogdan had made more than 20 saves. It was easy to believe.

As time moved on one wondered if this
was to prove his night, especially given that Van der Vaart had also
struck the bar with a free-kick.

Ultimately, though, Bogdan got lost
in a sea of bodies as Bolton tried to defend a corner in the 74th minute
and Ryan Nelsen was able to head back across him and into the top of
the net.

With the home team finally a goal to
the good, the game looked up for Bolton and within two minutes it was.
Tottenham broke from their own half through substitute Jermain Defoe
and his astute pass enabled Bale to gallop clear, open his body and
score across Bogdan with his left instep.

Through: Tottenham celebrate their quarter-final date

Through: Tottenham celebrate their quarter-final date

It was a lovely goal and in tune with the way Tottenham had played all night.

Even when Bolton scored in added
time — Kevin Davies sliding in a cross at the far post — Tottenham were
able to rally and score a third as Louis Saha curled in a beauty from
the edge of the penalty box.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said: ‘The semi-final will be a great weekend and I am excited about it.

‘I thought we deserved to win, even
if I have never seen a keeper make so many saves. We are just happy that
the news on Fabrice continues to be good. It’s a miracle really.’

As is often the case, Redknapp had summed things up rather well.