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Spurs v Rochdale, 28.02.18

(7.45pm at Wembley)

Spurs scorers:-
Son, 23,65
Llorente, 47,53,59
Walker-Peters, 90 (+3)

Rochdale scorer:-
Humphrys, 31

Attendance:- 24,627

Referee:- Paul Tierney
Assistants:- Simon Long and Andrew Garratt
Fourth Official:- Roger East
VAR & AVAR:- Graham Scott and Darren Cann

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Vorm (Capt.); Trippier, Foyth, Dier, Rose; Winks (sub Dembele, 62), Sissoko; Lucas Moura (sub Walker-Peters, 82), Lamela, Son (sub Dele, 67); Llorente

Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Sanchez; Eriksen; Kane

Booked:- Son (unsporting conduct), Foyth (foul on Humphrys), Lamela (foul on Camps)

Rochdale ( 3-5-2):- Lillis; McGahey, McNulty, Delaney; Rafferty, Cannon (sub Adshead, 76), Camps, Kitching (sub Thompson, 64), Done; Humphrys (sub Davies, 58), Henderson (Capt.)

Subs not used:- Moore; Ntlhe, Rathbone, Inman

No bookings

Llorente’s “perfect” hat-trick almost overshadows first half “VARce”

Like many other Spurs fans I did not travel to Wembley due to weather fears, but perhaps because I did see the game on TV I was better placed than those in the stadium when play was stopped and reviewed at least three times for VAR. The level of communication was almost non-existent for those in the stadium, and it wasn’t easy for those watching TV to decipher the reasons for the decisions made. More on that in a moment, but thanks to a “perfect” Fernando Llorente hat-trick early in the second half, the only tensions in the game were a) whether we would see the game finished, due to persistent and quite heavy snow-fall and b) whether Spurs would finish with 11 men on the pitch as Erik Lamela sailed close to the wind in getting a second booking. As it happened, Erik was not substituted, and he and the game lasted the full 90 minutes. Spurs ran out 6-1 winners and now face Swansea away in the quarter-final on Saturday 17th March in a 12.15 kick-off.

The 24,627 crowd included 5,146 Rochdale fans, most of whom had made the trip in adverse weather conditions down the M1. Until half-time those northern fans had a great time. Their team once again closed Spurs down in all areas, and gave the Spurs defence some worrying times as they insisted on trying to pass their way out of their own half on a pitch where the ball was being held up by the falling snow, and the moisture remaining from previously cleared snow. At half-time it looked as if Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to entrust FA Cup progress to most of the players who had failed at Spotland might backfire, as Rochdale not only held us at 1-1, but could have taken a lead just before the break. Mind you, Spurs had had one seemingly good goal scratched off, and a penalty by Son not only disallowed, but not re-taken with Son getting booked to boot! Son had paused too long in the middle of his run-up, and according to Rule 14 this was an illegal feint and worth a booking with an indirect free kick given to the defending side. We seem to have seen many players pause in much the same fashion (Ronaldo and Suarez come to mind). Robbie Savage described the first half as “bizarre, entertaining and shambolic”, which I count almost as a triple oxymoron!

Rochdale kicked off and played towards the West Stand on a truly freezing cold night. Son had an early driving run through the middle and his short pass was intercepted with Rochdale conceding a corner. A subsequent Spurs corner from the right was taken by Lamela and headed over by Llorente. It looked as if Spurs had gone 1-0 up in the sixth minute when Trippier fed the ball to Son on the right side of the box. Son’s cross was parried by the goalkeeper and Llorente managed to get the ball to Lamela, who hit the net. However, we then had to pause as referee Paul Tierney fondled his earpiece and after an age disallowed the goal for what is thought to have been a fouling offence by Llorente, when he looked as if he was being impeded. The score remained 0-0 and Rochdale’s army of fans cheered.

Within two minutes the lively Son won a corner with a left footed shot that took a deflection and went out right of goal. Rochdale had their moments and after 14 minutes Done had the ball on the left of the Spurs defence but hit his shot just in front of Vorm’s left post across the goalmouth. Foyth and Dier were not looking convincing at the back. Danny Rose made a great tackle in his area and even won a goal kick.

Once again Lucas Moura was looking lively, and his ability to run with the ball past and through men was a great blessing, especially in a game like this. He went down in the Rochdale area, and after a pause in play that incident was reviewed by the VAR with no penalty being the final decision. Spurs did go 1-0 up in the 23rd minute, and the goal stood. Trippier had fed the ball to Lamela, who in turn passed to Son. Son came back to the right and planted a right footed shot past goalkeeper Lillis for his first goal in 10 games. Two minutes later Trippier was certainly being held in a foul which started outside the Rochdale area and finished inside. Trippier was being fouled by Done. After review the penalty was given. Son stepped up, but then stopped mid-approach for just too long. The referee gave the decision that this was unsporting behaviour, worthy of a booking, and an indirect free kick to Rochdale. We thought we should have been three up, and that the VAR gods were against us. All this was eating up time too in temperatures below freezing, testing patience on and off the pitch.

To make out pain worse, perhaps while Spurs were still reeling at the decisions against them Humphrys was onto Cannon’s ball on the right side of the area and beat Vorm to level the scores and to give cheer to those travelling fans. Lamela had a shot saved after being out in by Son, before Son received a good ball from Trippier, but just could not get in a shot on goal. Lucas won a corner, which was taken by Trippier, but hit far too deeply. A good ball by Trippier was met by the head of Lamela but the goalkeeper saved. As no less than five minutes of added time were announced (because of the time taken over V AR), there was some Spurs disgrace at the back as they failed with their attempted short passing out from the back. Humphrys fed Cannon who hit a shot across the goal, which luckily for Spurs rebounded off the post. Lamela got the third Spurs booking of the half for his foul on Camps, and they even reviewed that decision in case it was worthy of a red.

There had been some clearance of the lines by ground staff before the second half kicked off. Once upon a time we used to play in snow with an orange ball, but this was yellow and not easy to pick out. The lines had been painted blue to assist the officials. Within two minutes Spurs were 2-1 up, and it was a very good goal too! Lucas had fed Llorente who delicately chipped the ball over the keeper with his right foot. It was a very nice finish. Six minutes later Llorente had a second. Lucas Moura and Son had combined towards the right side of the box. Lucas got forward to receive from Son before his short low cross was stabbed home (with his left foot) by Llorente.

Rochdale manager brought on his goal scoring hero from the first game (Steve Davies) for the limping Humphrys. It didn’t really help as “The Dale” hardly got into the Spurs half now. Llorente had his first Spurs hat-trick, and his first hat-trick in 6 years after Son got ahead of Trippier to receive and cross the ball for a perfect headed finish. There was half an hour to go, but I am sure most of those in the ground would happily go home now. All I wanted was for the game to reach full time!

Over the remainder of the game Keith Hill m made a couple of special substitutions on what will remain one of the biggest occasions in Rochdale’s history. First 28 year old Joe Thompson, who has beaten cancer a for a second time, replaced Kitching, and later in the game 16 year old Daniel Adshead got the Wembley experience. By the time he came on though, Spurs had gone 5-1 up. Once again Lucas Moura was involved in the build up lifting the ball to Lamela on the left who crossed low to Son on the right of goal for an easy finish and a second goal. Lamela himself hit the post with a free kick, and another Spurs substitute – Dele Alli was just thwarted with regard to the rebound by goalkeeper Lillis.

Kyle Walker-Peters came on for Lucas, and the ground staff used the time to good effect in clearing those lines again, so the last 10 minutes could be played. Rochdale did have a free kick where the ball was headed straight to Vorm by skipper Henderson, but by and large, Spurs spent the rest of the game playing down the time. Dele did have an exciting run into the area, where he ran into men, and Kyle Walker-Peters got on the scoresheet (for the first time in the Spurs senior team) with almost the last kick of the game, after he exchanged passes with Dele.

· John Ellis writes - Spurs progress in VARtic conditions!.

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