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Berbatov applies killer touch to Spurs Cup hopes

SoccerNews in English Premier League, FA Cup 24 Jan 2009

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Dimitar Berbatov sent former club Spurs crashing out of the FA Cup by netting the winning goal as Manchester United sealed a 2-1 fourth round win at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Berbatov, who controversially quit Spurs for United last September, killed off his old team with a stunning strike on 36 minutes.

Spurs had grabbed the lead on five minutes through Roman Pavlyuchenko before Paul Scholes’s shot – deflected in by Tom Huddlestone – levelled the scores.

But Berbatov, booed by the visiting fans throughout, silenced his tormentors by netting the goal that secured United’s spot in the fifth round and kept the club on course for an unprecedented haul of World Club, Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup and League Cup trophies.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp had tied himself in knots in the build-up to this game by vowing to field his ‘weakest possible team,’ before backtracking with an insistence that he would instead play his strongest available line-up against the European champions.

As it was, eight of the team that started the League Cup semi-final second leg at Burnley on Wednesday retained their places against United and they began in determined mood, with Russian striker Pavlyuchenko rewarding Spurs for their lively start with a fifth minute opener.

Huddlestone’s cross from the left flank caught the United defence on its heels and Pavlyuchenko was able to escape the attentions of Nemanja Vidic before directing a glancing header past keeper Ben Foster from six yards.

So the shock was on for Spurs and they had the opportunity to extend Redknapp’s remarkable record against United in the FA Cup.

Having already claimed United’s scalp as manager of Bournemouth, West Ham and Portsmouth, Redknapp suddenly had the chance to claim his own unique quadruple against United.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s team quickly got their act together, though, and Berbatov shot narrowly wide of the Spurs goal before Carlos Tevez struck the crossbar from twenty yards on eighteen minutes.

It was one-way traffic, but the intricacy of United’s passing let them down too often once they had a sight of the Spurs goal.

But the equaliser that United deserved came on 34 minutes. Michael Carrick’s corner picked out Paul Scholes on the edge of the penalty and the midfielder’s shot clipped the ankle of Huddlestone before beating goalkeeper Ben Alnwick.

Spurs didn’t even have time to analyse the goal before United scored again, this time through former Spurs hitman Berbatov.

The Bulgarian has struggled to impress at Old Trafford since his 30.75-million-pound arrival, but his goal was top quality.

Carrick’s through-ball found him on the edge of the penalty area and Berbatov fired past Alnwick from 20 yards to claim his fourth goal in six games.

Spurs now needed to raise their game to keep their FA Cup hopes alive, but they didn’t even trouble the United goal until twelve minutes into the second-half.

On that occasion, Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s cross was half-cleared by Gary Neville, but David Bentley failed to take advantage as he fired his 20-yarder into the side-netting.

United weren’t much better and on a rare foray forward, Cristiano Ronaldo brought an impressive save from Alnwick with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area before being replaced by Serbian debutant Zoran Tosic.

Spurs couldn’t find the breakthrough in their search for an equaliser, though, and United held on to make it into the fifth round draw.

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