Tottenham Hotspur got a late goal from Harry Kane thanks to a lovely flick from Son Heung-Min, which was the only thing that prevented them from a historic FA Cup upset against Newport County. Newport scored in the first half and outplayed Spurs for much of the match, earning a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup fourth round and forcing a replay at Wembley Stadium in two weeks.
Entering the match, Tottenham had a lot of players that were questionable, and indeed none of those players started at Rodney Parade as Mauricio Pochettino fielded a rotated side. Harry Kane did start, however, alongside Fernando Llorente. Juan Foyth also started alongside Jan Vertonghen, with Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker-Peters as the fullbacks. Michel Vorm was between the sticks. Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min started on the bench. Christian Eriksen was not in the match day XI.
The conditions were blustery at Rodney Parade, but the weather was clear and cold. As expected, the pitch was a mess, with rugby lines still painted on the grass and bare patches everywhere. The atmosphere, however, was electric: 10,000 County fans were in full voice, cheering their team at every occasion and booing Harry Kane whenever he touched the ball.
This was Newport’s home and they played like it, coming out bright and pressing Spurs from the opening whistle. Newport got the first chance of the game in the third minute after Eric Dier was dispossessed in defense. The ball fell to Frank Nouble who was wide open, but his shot was powered over the bar.
This was the story of the first half: Spurs failed to get anything going in possession and rarely got the ball into Newport’s final third. Meanwhile, Newport were forcing turnovers and defensive errors and were turning those into chances and half-chances. Michel Vorm made a couple of good stops as Newport tried to snatch the first goal of the game. Newport were particularly proficient with long throw-ins from the touch line.
With no creative player on the pitch, it was up to Harry Kane to try and create offense. He didn’t even really sniff the goal until the 32nd minute when he had a close-range shot that caromed off the near post and out.
Newport, however, finally broke through and it was deserved. Another long throw eventually fell to Robbie Willmott, who put in a fine cross across goal. Padraig Amond out-jumped Kieran Trippier at the back post and easily headed past Vorm to put the Exiles up and send the home crowd into raptures.
Newport nearly got a second just before halftime after another fluffed clearance from Eric Dier. Newport got onto the ball from close range, but Vorm was at the near post to block the ball out for a corner.
It was a horrendously poor outing from Tottenham in the first half and they went into the locker room down a goal.
Mauricio Pochettino made the rare decision to make a halftime substitution, bringing in Son Heung-min for Walker-Peters.
The second half was different in that Spurs never really let Newport get forward in the same way as in the first half, but Tottenham still found chances difficult to come by as Newport tried to protect their lead.
Tottenham saw much more of the ball, and started to ratchet the pressure up as the minutes trickled away. Moussa Sissoko tried to feed Kane in the box in the 63rd minute, but Harry was immediately swarmed by three Newport defenders and the ball was scrambled away.
Three minutes later, Son had Spurs’ first shot on target in the game. Dele played him into the box on the left side, and the Korean’s shot forced a good save from Newport’s keeper. Kane also had another chance a few minutes later, but his long ball hit side netting. Spurs eventually brought on Dele Alli for Fernando Llorente, who was invisible for much of the match, and Ben Davies for Mousa Dembele.
As the end of the match neared, there was a palpable energy in the air as Newport fans started to believe that a historic upset might be in the making. The Newport players continued to drop deep and defend, trying to hold on.
Kane finally broke through in the 83rd minute. Son put a deft touch on a Spurs corner, flicking the ball to Harry Kane who was wide open and onside at the back post. It took the simplest of touches from Kane to put the ball in the net and equalize.
Spurs nearly stole the win just before the end of the match, but Kane’s long ball was just inches away from Dele Alli’s head in the 93rd minute.
The match ended as a 1-1 draw, as Newport thoroughly earned the replay at Wembley Stadium, and quite possibly deserved more.
- I don’t ask for much as a Tottenham fan, I don’t think (ok this isn’t true). But one thing I do expect is for them to play better than a League 2 side. They did not, and it was humiliating.
- However, the flip side of that was Newport played really well at home. They deserved the result. They deserved the win.
- With all due respect to Harry Kane, who scored his 30th goal of the season (and it’s still January), Juan Foyth was probably Spurs’ best performer in this match. He was composed, solid in defense, and had a nice mazy run out of the back with the ball. He did well.
- Also good: Dele and Son, who changed the game when they came on. Dele in particular made Spurs more dangerous in attack.
- Bad: Victor Wanyama was pretty poor, though that’s hopefully attributed to rust. I’d rather he be bad against Newport than against Liverpool. Dier was again very poor in defense and I’m not sure what’s going on with him.
- Kyle Walker-Peters was hooked at halftime, and while he had a few pretty bad moments he also did some good things going forward. I think that sub was more tactical than performance based, as it was a way to get Sonny into the game.
- Also bad: look, guys, I was trying to come up with positive things to say about Moussa Sissoko. I really tried. But man, does he make it hard.
- Spurs played their second consecutive match without a creative midfielder, as both Eriksen and Lamela were left home. And for the second consecutive match they were hot garbage. All the thinky-face emojis.
- There’s a lot to unpack from this match, and I only scratched the surface. I’m sure it’ll all be hashed out thoroughly and respectfully in the comments (right?).
- The replay date hasn’t been set yet as far as I can tell, but it will likely happen between the Liverpool match and the North London Derby in two weeks.