John Ellis is known to many Spurs fans and we have over 450 mutual friends on Facebook. I am pleased to add this "third eye" feature article written by "El Gringo". This time John offers his thoughts on our 6-1 win over Rochdale.
John invariably comments after every Spurs game on his Facebook page, and I usually agree with everything he writes. That applies to John's detailed eye-witness report on this game, which is published below, with kind permission:-
Tottenham Hotspur 6-1 Rochdale - Spurs progress in VARtic conditions!
The pre-match talk was not of tactics, team selection or the likely outcome of the match. It was instead all about the Beast from the East. The Beast just about brought the whole country to a standstill but not this Fifth Round replay.
In near Artic conditions and heavy snow falling this tie looked to be all about attitude.
Spurs started quickly with two good forward thrusts through the middle by Son and Lamela. Rochdale also started brightly and in contrast to many a visiting Premier League side came out to play. Spurs fashioned a chance in the fifth minute with Llorente heading over. Aided by Rochdale showing an attacking intent of their own, lots of space was available for Spurs to exploit and the early impressions were of a comfortable night ahead.
In the sixth minute Llorente challenged and the ball broke for Lamela to bury a low shot and put Spurs 1-0 up. The players went back to their own half and over the loud speaker system, Lamela was announced as the scorer of the first goal. Or was he... the referee had half made his way back to the centre circle, stopped abruptly and stood rather bizarrely with his hand to his ear. In the eighth minute the goal was cancelled out by VAR but the fans inside the stadium had no idea why. In what parallel universe can it be right for those who pay an entrance fee, and brave the transport network to sit in appalling conditions to be the only ones not worthy of being informed of what is happening whilst the rest of the world watching apparently do know?
The break in play seemed to completely halt Spurs' momentum and the next minutes passed without incident. By the 17th minute the snow was coming down even more heavily and impairing visibility. Danny Rose successfully intercepted a Rochdale breakout in the penalty area but the challenge did look a little risky. A lovely curled cross from Winks was just a little out of Llorenteís reach and rolled out harmlessly for a goal kick. A couple of minutes later Mouraís dribbled run inside the box was halted by a robust challenge with appeals for a penalty seemingly ignored.
Rochdale mounted their own attack but committed a foul deep inside the Spurs half. Tottenham looked to restart with a free kick but were stopped from doing so by the referee. The fans were again provided with the ludicrous spectacle of the referee stood in the middle of the pitch with his hand to his ear - presumably to check the VAR for a penalty. Eventually the game is allowed to continue with the free kick. I am sorry to write but this is ridiculous.
Foyth starts an attack. Lamela who has started well ran at the heart of the defence before releasing Son who cut in from the left and buried his shot in the bottom right hand corner to finally give Spurs the lead.
Spurs won a free kick with Trippier being brought down on the edge of the box. Again the referee referred to VAR and the fans started to boo. The jeers turned to cheers as the referee pointed to the spot and awarded a penalty! Son placed the ball on the spot and with a stuttered run up slots it into the bottom corner. The referee awards a free kick presumably for Son stopping during his run up. VAR again - this is beyond ridiculous. (Ed: I'm not sure VAR was involved here) We will be here all night! Goal not awarded.
In the 31st minute, Rochdale attacked down the Spurs left. A lovely defence splitting pass and the striker was through to level scores at 1-1! The referee defers to VAR but the striker was clearly onside and the goal is given. The spontaneity of the whole occasion is being sucked out by the antics of the referee in conjunction with VAR. A blue flare is lit in the away section. So much for security...
Lamella was through on goal but shot straight at the keeper. In the 39th minute a great burst by Rose reminiscent of yesteryear fizzled out but was nevertheless good to see and was a reminder of the swashbuckling game-changing performances he is capable of in his pomp.
Moura broke through next but did not release the ball quickly enough and is driven wide. Llorente and Trippier combined well down the right to cross for Lamela who climbed high but couldnít get over the ball to direct his header with any great power. Into the 43rd minute and one canít begin to imagine how many minutes will be added. The snow was settling... VAR might make the match so long it is abandoned!
Right on half time, in poor conditions Spurs pass the ball around in their own area, lose it and are nearly made to pay dearly when a shot cannons back off the post. The board is held up for five minutes added time. In the closing stages of the half, in trying conditions it is proving difficult to distinguish which is the Premier League side. Trippier loses his man down the right flank but does well to recover at the expense of a corner.
The half time whistle blows to a crescendo of boos towards the officials which tells you all you need to know about the fans' views of the VAR system. Putting aside the VAR pantomime and the atrocious weather, an FA Cup Quarter Final place was up for grabs and a shock result was still eminently possible at the half way stage. The Wembley concourse offered little respite for the fans at half time with memories being recalled of Lyon, Prague and Shamrock Rovers.
The referee is determined to make his mark as a Wembley referee and the second half has a false start and a second kick off is required. Within a couple of minutes of the restart Moura ran at the defence before releasing Llorente who delightfully chipped the keeper to score! Wait - VAR again. This is pathetic.... The enjoyment of the goal is to an extent lost but at least this time it is given.
Pochettino must have had words at half time as Spurs are looking to put this game to bed and quickly. The snow continued to fall and there was still a lingering doubt as to whether the match would be abandoned. In the 53rd minute, Moura dribbled through the inside right channel and pulled back for Llorente to score a second goal and Spurs' third on the night!
Six minutes later and Good combination work between Trippier, Sissoko and Son led to Son crossing for Llorente to remarkably score a 12 minute perfect hat-trick!
A couple of minutes later and Son was a tad greedy as he slalomed his way through to shoot when a pass might have been the better option. In the 62nd minute it was a surprise to see Dembele being risked as a substitute for Winks.
The tie was over as a contest in the 65th minute. Moura burst through the centre and passed to Lamela whose cross laid it on a plate for Son to make it 5-1. Even the referee had had enough of VAR by this stage and it was a bit of shock when the goal wasnít referred upstairs.
A poor goal kick by Vorm was intercepted and led to a cross shot which had Vorm scrambling but fortunately the ball landed on the top of the net but not fortunately for a fan sat nearby who stood to win £350 if Spurs won 5-2! The 73rd minute saw a free flowing move and Lamela being brought down. This brought the humorous sight of the referee spraying white paint on the snow covered pitch to measure out ten yards! Lamela took a fine free kick which came back off the inside of the post and the keeper did well to keep out Deleís follow up.
The match had another funny moment in the 82nd minute when during a Rochdale substitution, the Wembley pitch was invaded sub and pitch by snow sweepers with brushes! A special word for the close to 5,000 Rochdale fans who made the long journey down in such hazardous conditions and created a decent atmosphere throughout and as well to the Spurs fans for generating a fair amount of noise in the 24,627 crowd.
In the 90th minute Dele went on a high speed Tobogganesque run bouncing off defenders as he arced his way through the Rochdale defence but didnít seem quite able to put the brakes on his run at the right time and the keeper finally gathered the ball.
Deep into the three minutes added time came a special moment. Kyle Walker-Peters on for Moura broke into the penalty area and showed good composure to score his first ever goal for the club. His celebration showed just how much it meant to him. It was a special moment for this talented young man who has come through the Spurs academy system.
And so as we head into March, Spurs are 16 matches unbeaten, in the top four of the Premier League, the quarter finals of the FA Cup and we have a mouth-watering last 16 Champions League tie versus Juventus to look forward to. Letís hope the future is bright, the future is Lilywhite!
∑ Spurs Odyssey match report
John Ellis's Facebook page
El Gringo's Once in a Lifetime - John Ellis's account of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
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