Ahead of this weekend’s Premier League fixture at White Hart Lane between Tottenham and West Ham, it’s time to take a nostalgic look back at one of their most notorious clashes: Lasagne-Gate
On 7 May 2006, Spurs traveled to Upton Park on the final day of the season as the favourites to secure fourth-place and Champions League qualification in the process. The fact North London rivals, Arsenal were the only other side who could finish fourth gave the tie extra significance. The only thing standing in the way were their rivals in the East, West Ham United. The Hammers had enjoyed a successful first season back in the top flight following two seasons away. They had already registered a top-ten finish and their ninth-placed finish was already guarantee – win, lose or draw. Additionally, Alan Pardew’s men had booked a date with Liverpool in the FA Cup Final, so they could have been forgiven for having one eye already on that fixture in six days time. The only incentive the Hammers really had was to deny Spurs Champions League qualification.
Spurs had enjoyed a cracking season up until that game, but things would take a dramatic turn for the worse on the day. No Tottenham fan has since been able to eat lasagne after a particularly dodgy one was rumoured to have given up to ten players food poisoning. Former West Ham prodigy, Michael Carrick and leading goalscorer, Robbie Keane were just two players affected by the now infamous Italian dish. The situation was so dire that Spurs attempted to have the game delayed, then replayed and, when that all failed, Daniel Levy apparently called the police. For Spurs, the events that transpired arguably resulted in the worst (un)imaginable outcome.
There were naturally fears once news broke about their players’ dodgy guts and those fears were realised when Carl Fletcher’s 25 yard effort somehow managed to find its way into the net with just ten minutes on the clock. Paul Robinson should have done better, but it was a deserved lead for the Hammers who had made a bright start to the contest with Nigel Reo-Coker and Yossi Benayoun two standout players. Spurs looked out-of-sorts and nowhere was that more apparent than in defence. News of Arsenal taking the lead, just minutes before the Hammers, in their final game at Highbury against Wigan also reverberated around the ground with the home supporters happily sharing the score with the visitors.
That didn’t last for long though with Wigan bouncing back to take a 2-1 lead against Arsenal. This cancelled out the result at Upton Park and it was soon the Spurs fans who began to celebrate the score at Highbury. Michael Carrick slipped a pass through to Jermain Defoe who fired in an equaliser on the 35th minute after easily slipping away from Anton Ferdinand. The last five minutes before half-time were the best Spurs were to play over the course of the 90 minutes, they seemed energised by the equaliser. That completely changed after the break. With Arsenal leveling things up before half-time, Teemu Taino clumsily gave away a penalty with a foul on Bobby Zamora. Robinson comfortably saved Teddy Sheringham’s scuffed penalty, but it was a sign of events turning against Spurs.
Zamora was in his element against his former club. He would have restored the Hammers’ lead had it not been for a well-timed challenge at the last. Meanwhile, Thierry Henry completed his hat-trick to help Arsenal on their way to a 4-2 victory over Wigan. Spurs desperately tried to change the outcome, but Benayoun – whose fine form that season was once again on display – struck just after the 80 minute mark. The classic Benayoun feint-sidestep saw him carry Reo-Coker’s backheel towards goal before coolly striking the ball beyond Robinson. A draw would have been enough to end Spurs’ Champions League hopes, but a late winner made it much more satisfying for the home supporters.
As it turned out, the lasagne had not actually given any of the players food poisoning. In spite of this, the event will forever be known as Lasagne-Gate as Virus-Gate doesn’t sound quite as good. The controversy surrounding the fixture does tend to divert attention away from how good West Ham actually were for spells during the game. Tottenham’s season ended in misery, whilst the Hammers would go on to suffer heartbreak in one of the best FA Cup Finals in recent years. All-in-all, exactly the type of drama you want on the final day of a Premier League season.
What are you memories from that eventful West Ham-Tottenham clash? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image by Philosophy Football