Tottenham 1 Sheffield United 0
Andros Townsend’s penalty saw Tottenham take control of their Capital One Cup semi-final with Sheffield United, although Nigel Clough will be buoyed heading into the second leg by his side’s impressive display at White Hart Lane.
The Blades’ cup performances over the past year have belied their League One status, securing five Premier League scalps and reaching the last-four juncture of last season’s FA Cup and now this competition.
United looked like they would once again prove the scourge of top-flight opposition, only for Townsend’s second-half penalty to see Tottenham eke out a 1-0 win in north London.
It is a welcome cushion ahead of what is sure to be a combative second leg at Bramall Lane next Wednesday, especially if Clough’s men can match this performance.
“It was difficult. They were hard to break down and compact. They did very well defensively,” said Tottenham goalscorer Andros Townsend.
“They now have to come out in the second leg so hopefully there’ll be chances in behind them.”
United started brightly and frustrated Spurs in the first half, showing no ill-effects of the traffic-delayed arrival which saw kick-off put back until 8pm.
Neither United nor Spurs were able to create clear-cut chances, though, with the only early moment of note saw appeals for the hosts to be reduced to 10 men.
Clough and his coaching staff jumped off their seats after Adebayor caught Louis Reed’s face, although, after some deliberation, referee Swarbrick only dished out a yellow card to the Togo international.
It was a moment that sparked the match into life, with Spurs fan Jamal Campbell-Ryce fizzing a strike across the face of goal before Blades goalkeeper Howard palmed away an Eric Dier header.
That was the north Londoners’ only shot on target during a tense first half, although Emmanuel Adebayor should have tested Howard after impressively bringing down a floated Christian Eriksen ball, only to flash over under pressure.
Togo striker Adebayor was once again booed by some Spurs fans and it remains to be seen how long more he will remain at White Hart Lane.
United returned from the break with the same intensity, but were making an increasing number of mistakes.
Fortunately for Clough’s men, Tottenham could not capitalise as they struggled to break down the League One side.
Adebayor’s substitution proved a shrewd move as replacement Roberto Soldado quickly made an impact, with his presence causing Jay McEveley to flap an arm at the ball and referee Neil Swarbrick to point to the spot.
Townsend duly converted the penalty, much to the home faithful’s relief, although Mauricio Pochettino will know a much-improved display will be needed in the Steel City if they are to reach the Wembley finale.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Vorm, Walker, Dier, Vertonghen, Davies, Stambouli (Paulinho 75), Mason (Dembele 65), Townsend, Kane, Eriksen, Adebayor (Soldado 65).
SHEFF UNITED: Howard, Flynn, Basham, McEveley, Harris, Doyle, Reed, Campbell-Ryce, Scougall (Kieran Wallace 87), Murphy, McNulty (Baxter 83).
Ref: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).
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