It was a snowy, wintry day at Wembley Stadium as Tottenham Hotspur hosted League 1 cellar dwellars Rochdale in a FA Cup fifth round replay. Tottenham had two goals called back in the first half thanks to VAR, but scored five in the second period including a perfect hat trick from Fernando Llorente in the second half, and cruised to a 6-1 win in the swirling snow.
Tottenham started the match with a highly rotated starting 11 at Wembley, as they looked ahead not only to this weekend’s Premier League match against Huddersfield, but also the return leg against Juventus next weekend. Young center back Juan Foyth and Eric Dier started ahead of Michel Vorm in goal. Fernando Llorente started the match up with Lucas Moura, Son Heung-Min, and Erik Lamela behind. Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko started in the pivot with Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose out wide.
The big story of the FA Cup this season is that for the first time ever it would use Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR). Based on the first half of this match, it certainly didn’t give VAR a very good look. There were at least five separate VAR reviews that resulted in two goals called back for Tottenham.
Spurs thought they had scored first in the sixth minute after Erik Lamela poked home just in front of goal. However, under the VAR review, the goal was controversially called back — Fernando Llorente had his shirt pulled as he tried to get to Son Heung-Min’s squared ball, but VAR decided that Llorente had actually instigated the foul, and the goal was called back.
A few minutes later, Rochdale had their first chance of the match. Kieran Trippier fell asleep and lost his man, and Rochdale’s Matt Done put a decent ball that went just wide of the far post.
Midway through the first half, Lucas Moura was knocked to the ground in Rochdale’s box. Match official Paul Tierney initially waved the play on. The incident was again reviewed by VAR, which ultimately upheld the decision not to award the penalty.
Spurs finally got their goal two minutes later, thanks to Son Heung-Min. Kieran Trippier fed a ball to Lamela in the center of the pitch. He found Sonny, who took two dribbles and fired past the Rochdale keeper Josh Lillis. It was reviewed by VAR because of course it was, and the goal was upheld.
A minute later, there was yet another controversial moment. Kieran Trippier was fouled and his momentum carried him into Rochdale’s box. The offficial once again went to VAR, and eventually decided to award the penalty to Spurs. However, Sonny’s second goal was called back after YET ANOTHER VAR check -- he had checked his run-up to the ball, and at the same time there were multiple players who were encroaching into the box. The goal was waved away and Rochdale was given a free kick instead. Son was issued a yellow card for pulling up his run as the official had viewed it as unsportsmanlike conduct.
Just after, Rochdale equalized. Stephen Humphrys took advantage of some suspect defending from Spurs and fired home the equalizing goal. There was no question about this one; it was a nice shot.
VAR was again called in four minutes later, after Rochdale appealed for a penalty in Spurs’ box. After another VAR review the penalty was not given.
Both Spurs and Rochdale had another chance to score: Lucas Moura dribbled three players and tried to square to Lamela, but the ball was hacked away. Just before injury time, Rochdale took advantage of a Moussa Sissoko give-away in midfield. FIRST NAME Cannon shot across Michel Vorm but had his shot go off the post.
Five minutes of extra time were tacked on for VAR review. The first half mercifully came to an end with the score tied at 1-1, with the halftime talk all about reviews.
As the second half started, the snow continued to fall and over time the pitch was more white than green. Spurs may have gone into the half level, but it didn’t take them long to put this match to bed, and without any controversy whatsoever.
Fernando Llorente scored just two minutes into the half after Lucas found him with a through-ball. Fernando had the foresight to chip Josh Lillis with his right foot, and just like that Spurs were back on top. There was some question as to whether Fernando was onside, but VAR ruled that he was level.
Six minutes later, Llorente got his second, again with an assist from Lucas. Sonny played a through ball to Moura, who squared the ball to Llorente. It was easy enough for Fernando to fire home with his left foot.
Fernando got the perfect hat trick in the 59th minute thanks to nice interplay from Tottenham’s midfielders. Moussa Sissoko received the ball on a nice overlapping run, and passed to Son who slalomed into the box past several Rochdale defenders. He chipped the ball to the middle and Llorente headed it home to put the match away. It was a perfect hat trick for Fernando in just 12 minutes - right foot, left foot, head.
And Spurs still weren’t done! In the 65th minute, Sonny made it 5 goals for Spurs after Lucas got another hockey assist. He put a great through ball to Lamela who squared to a wide open Son at the back post. He made it easy, and Spurs were up big.
Sonny eventually made way for Dele Alli, Dembele came on for Harry Winks, and Kyle Walker-Peters for Lucas.
Lamela nearly made it six after firing a free kick off the post, and Spurs took their foot off the gas for the remainder of the match. That didn’t stop Walker-Peters from notching his first ever senior goal for Spurs, as he put in Tottenham’s sixth and final goal of the competition with the last kick of the game.
The final score was 6-1.
- That was a colossally dumb match. Still fun, but dumb.
- On the VAR: it was certainly not a good look, but the end results were a mixed bag. Tottenham’s first goal should not have been disallowed. The penalty was the correct call, though it took two minutes to get there. The penalty was a dubious decision and comes down to whether you think Sonny’s move was a feint or “unsportmanlike conduct.” I think the former, but VAR wouldn’t help with that one anyway.
- Fernando Llorente now has more goals in 2018 than Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang combined. #banter
- Boy, is it fun to watch Lucas. Two assists and a hockey assist today, and he was really really quick in his movement. I think we got a keeper.
- Erik Lamela against lower-league opposition is super fun to watch, even if he might have been sent off for two hard challenges.
- WE GOT TO REST HARRY KANE ZOMG
- Note to England: please use orange balls in snow games, the yellow was impossible to see on TV.
- Spurs travel to Wales to take on Swansea City, who defeated Sheffield Wednesday in their replay yesterday. It’s a really great opportunity for Spurs to make the FA Cup semis for the second consecutive year.