BRAMALL LANE may be the oldest surviving major football ground in the world but rarely can the old place have witnessed such a dramatic swing of emotions as last night.
From resignation to hope and then pure, unadulterated joy inside the space of four pulsating minutes was the story of how an incredible Capital One Cup semi-final, second leg sparked into life during the final quarter.
Unfortunately for Sheffield United, however, it wasn’t the entire story with Christian Eriksen’s late, late winner meaning that joy eventually gave way to despair. And then, finally, pride.
Lots of pride, in fact, after the manner in which Sheffield United fought back from two goals down with a little over 15 minutes remaining to give Premier League Tottenham Hotspur the fright of their lives.
No wonder, therefore, that Che Adams, the scorer of those two late goals that had Blades fans dreaming of Wembley, and his team-mates were afforded a rapturous ovation at the final whistle.
They deserved every last scrap of that adulation, following a performance full of Yorkshire grit against a Spurs side who showed for three-quarters of the second leg just why Champions League qualification is still very much an attainable goal this season.
Never was this more apparent than when Eriksen put Spurs, already a goal ahead from the first leg, in front on the night with a truly stunning free-kick.
The Dane’s 28th-minute strike was, in fact, worthy of winning a trophy never mind, ultimately, ensuring Spurs went through on a bitterly cold night.
But the Blades will forever wonder just how different the night could have panned out had Jamie Murphy found the net and not the out-sretched foot of Michel Vorm 18 minutes earlier.
It was a remarkable block by the Tottenham goalkeeper and made amends for the total hash he had made of collecting a Jamal Campbell-Ryce cross moments earlier.
Vorm’s save also underlined how games of last night’s magnitude are decided by fine margins, such as Murphy being unable to find the net in the first half when Eriksen did so.
The free-kick had been awarded for a mis-timed slide tackle by Michael Doyle on Benjamin Stambouli but, due to the foul having been committed so wide, a cross to the back post seemed the most likely outcome.
Eriksen, however, had other ideas. He struck a sublime right foot effort that initially bent away from Mark Howard before bending back in just in time to strike the inside of the post and bounce into the net.
The execution was so clinical that even Thibaut Courtois, the primary reason why Chelsea and not Liverpool will meet Spurs in the March 1 final, would not have got close.
It also capped an impressive display from the top-flight visitors that, in terms of chances created, deserved more reward.
Harry Kane missed no less than four good chances in the opening 45 minutes, the best being when a United mistake allowed the England prospect to race 30 yards before firing into the side-netting.
He was also off target just before the break after ghosting past McEveley to create the opening, as trick that was repeated soon after the interval.
Howard then held on to a fierce low drive from the Spurs striker, whose free-kick midway through the second half was also kept out by the United goalkeeper despite dipping at the last second. Such profligacy, however, did little to harm his hero status among the 5,500 visiting supporters, who continued to chant Kane’s name long after it became clear he wouldn’t score if the tie went on until midnight.
United, no doubt relieved to still be in the tie thanks to Kane’s wastefulness, continued to press but Marc McNulty’s flicked shot landed just wide of the post.
Murphy also just missed the target with a 20-yard shot and when Jose Baxter’s drive from a well-worked corner routine was blocked by a Tottenham leg, the tie appeared to be fizzling out.
Then, however, the drama began.
Adams, just two minutes after being brought off the bench, finished brilliantly from a Ryan Flynn cross.
Just two minutes later, the teenager was at it again after Spurs had only half-cleared Murphy’s chipped cross and he did the rest, his deflected effort sening the home fans into raptures.
Extra-time – and another 30 minutes to nullify Spurs’ crucial away goal – awaited only for Kane to release Eriksen, who did the rest with a cool finish to break United hearts and ensure that the proud boast of Steel City rivals Wednesday, of being the last club outside the top-flight to lift the League Cup, will remain intact for at least another year.
Sheffield United: Howard; Flynn, McEveley, Basham, Harris; Campbell-Ryce (Adams 74), Doyle (Reed 64), Baxter, Scougall, Murphy; McNulty (Higdon 74). Unused substitutes: Alcock, Higdon, Turner, Kennedy, Adams, K Wallace.
Tottenham Hotspur: Vorm; Walker, Vertonghen, Dier, Davies; Lamela (Townsend 74), Mason (Rose 89); Dembele (Paulinho 64), Stambouli, Eriksson; Kane. Unused substitutes: Rose, Soldado, Adebayor, Fazio, Friedel.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).