Tottenham Hotspur lost for the first time in nine matches on Sunday, falling 1-0 in the FA Cup Round of 16 to Crystal Palace. Despite a dominant performance from Spurs and a number of near goals, Palace defender Martin Kelly scored the only goal of the match from a wide position off of a Tottenham defensive miscue.
Tottenham started the match with another rotated side. Harry Kane came back into the lineup, but Nabil Bentaleb paired with Mousa Dembele in the pivot, and Eric Dier dropped into central defense beside Kevin Wimmer. Son Heung-Min and Josh Onomah also started for Spurs, with Michel Vorm filling in for the injured Hugo Lloris. Poche also rotated the fullbacks, bringing back the "first choice" pairing of Kyle Walker and Danny Rose.
Spurs had the bulk of the ball and the bulk of the early chances. Dele Alli went close twice for Tottenham: once with a diving header that went off the chest of Yohann Cabaye on the line, and another shot that hit BOTH POSTS of the Palace goal before amazingly rolling out.
But Palace had a possible penalty shout controversially waved away after a ball went off of Nabil Bentaleb's arm in the box. Palace also nearly scored on a Kyle Walker own goal as he inexplicably put a lofted ball back towards Michel Vorm. Vorm sprinted back and palmed the ball away, but it was a close thing.
The match was one that had a distinct edge as both clubs tackled hard and often. In the end it was Palace who struck first on a break: Wilfried Zaha sucked three Spurs players into the center, then passed to a wide open Martin Kelly who fired past Vorm on the brink of halftime. The goal came against the run of play, but it hardly mattered to Palace fans, and Alan Pardew's men took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
Mauricio Pochettino made a rare half time substitution, bringing in Christian Eriksen for Mousa Demble as Spurs moved into a more attacking lineup. Spurs immediately went on the offensive and put a lot of pressure onto Palace's defenders throughout the match. Spurs nearly equalized early in the half after a fizzing cross went past both Kane and Onomah right in front of Wayne Hennessey, but neither could get a foot on it.
Palace was content to sit back and defend and try to hit back on the counter. They had a couple of breaks, but for the most part Spurs defended capably enough. Yannick Bolasie eventually made his first appearance for Palace since December, coming on for a completely ineffective Adebayor. Towards the end, Palace striker Connor Wickham put the ball into the back of the net for Palace again late in the half, but his effort was ruled offside.
Spurs kept up the pressure and had numerous chances to score themselves, including attempts from Nabil Bentaleb, Kane, and Onomah, but simply could not find a way to get the ball in the net. The final score was 1-0, and Spurs exited the FA Cup.
- There was a serious edge to this match, and it started with Palace fouling hard and often. It set the tone for much of what happened afterwards, though strangely there were no cards until Cabaye took out Danny Rose on the sidelines late in the match. Bolasie probably should've seen red after an awful tackle on Ryan Mason, but I doubt it would've mattered.
- Son Heung-Min had perhaps his best match as a Tottenham Hotspur player, though he didn't score. He was dynamic with the ball at his feet, running straight at Crystal Palace on numerous occasions and making good passes.
- Palace's goal was a colossal defensive screw-up. Kevin Wimmer, Sonny, and Danny Rose all were sucked centrally to deal with Zaha, and nobody bothered to track Kelly. Nobody covered themselves in glory, but that was Danny Rose's man. Rose was... not especially good today.
- I have no idea how Spurs didn't score in this match. Palace are not a good side, but there appeared to be a forcefield in front of goal. One of those days.
- It sucks to lose (no treble this year!) but it's hard not to feel a little relieved that Spurs have three fewer matches to play this Spring. If there's a silver lining to this loss, it's that.
- The last ten minutes of the match made me vividly remember why I hated watching the Ryan Mason - Nabil Bentaleb pivot from last season.
- Josh "Joshy" Onomah was one of the bright spots from this match. He looked calm and assured out there and on another day could've scored at least two goals. He might be starting league matches for Spurs next season.
- I hate losing, but I'd rather lose here in a cup than lose in the league. Not our day, but whatever. Onward.