Tottenham Hotspur welcomed Manchester United to their “home ground” of Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup semi-finals knowing that a win would snap their seven game losing streak in the semi-finals of this prestigious cup competition. However, despite going up 1-0 early thanks to a Dele Alli goal (and a wonderful assist from Christian Eriksen), it was more disappointment for Spurs. Alexis Sanchez got a first half equalizer and Ander Hererra scored midway through the second and United grabbed a 2-1 win at Wembley.
Mauricio Pochettino put out his strongest possible lineup, with the exception of Michel Vorm, who started in place of Hugo Lloris in goal -- it was Pochettino’s way of trusting Vorm, who had been Spurs’ keeper throughout Spurs’ entire Cup run. Davinson Sanchez started ahead of Toby Alderweireld beside Jan Vertonghen, the midfield pivot was Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele, and Son Heung-Min, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli started up top behind Harry Kane. The fullbacks were Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies.
Tottenham started flying out of the gate, pushing the tempo and taking the ball straight at United. Harry Kane fired a long shot over the bar within 30 seconds of kick-off and Spurs tried to get an early goal and put United on their back heels.
United responded well, earning two early corners and trying to hit back in transition, but that early pressure paid off for Spurs in a big way. Davinson Sanchez fired a long pass from deep to Christian Eriksen on the left side. Eriksen put a ball on a silver platter to Dele Alli, who was running at the back post. Dele poked it past De Gea and Spurs led 1-0.
Harry Kane nearly made it two just a couple minutes later after Harry Kane barely missed a ball at the back post, and Eriksen had a chance of his own after his scuffed shot trickled just wide of the post.
But United came back strong. In the 24th minute, Mousa Dembele got muscled off the ball by Paul Pogba who lofted a ball to Alexis Sanchez’s head. His header wasn’t powerful, but it was enough to get past Vorm and the match was square at 1-1.
From there until the end of the first half it was pretty even with both teams getting pushing but neither getting a second. Pogba had a long pop at goal that was palmed away by Vorm, and Eric Dier had a low ball go off the post just before the halftime whistle, but the half ended an exhilarating 1-1.
The second half started out with less energy than the first, with both sides feeling each other out. There were few chances for either side for the opening 15 minutes of the half, but United were clinical when it counted, scoring the go-ahead goal in the 65th minute.
United’s go-ahead goal was EXTREMELY Jose Mourinho and came, naturally, off of a counterattack. Jesse Lingard ended up with the ball in the box after a long ball from deep, and he laid it off for an onrushing Ander Herrera. Vorm had a good position, but it went through the legs of Ben Davies and somehow got past the Spurs keeper, giving United the 2-1 lead.
Pochettino responded by taking off Ben Davies and bringing on Lucas Moura in an attempt to add more offensive firepower. Eric Dier dropped into the back line, with Jan Vertonghen moving wide to LB.
The change led to a spell of possession and a few half chances as United dropped into a compact, Mourinho-esque low block to try and defend the game away. Spurs thought they had gotten Valencia his second yellow card of the game after he tripped Dele on the way into the box, but Anthony Taylor decided not to give the card.
Spurs brought on Victor Wanyama for Mousa Dembele in the 80th minute and threw everyone forward in attempt to get the equalizer; Erik Lamela also came on for Son Heung-Min. But although they had much of the ball in the last ten minutes with United countering through Romelu Lukaku, they couldn’t find their way past the giant United bus parked in front of goal.
Tottenham had 10 shots, but only two on target, and it wasn’t enough. The match ended 2-1 to United, who will move on to face the winner of Chelsea and Southampton, who play tomorrow. It was another crushing loss for Tottenham as their quest for silverware will go unfulfilled for another season.
- Tottenham played some really really good football in the opening 20 minutes, carving United open through midfield. It looked like they might run away with the match.
- But then Pogba flipped a switch, and he started muscling Mousa Dembele off the ball, and that just doesn’t happen. United’s equalizer was a direct result of Moose getting out-Moosed. Once Pogba went HAM, the match evened up significantly.
- Son had one of those games where he kept getting into good positions but nothing seemed to come off for him. We know he’s quality, but he’s also maddening in that way sometimes.
- There was a lot of talk about Michel Vorm starting over Hugo, and I understand why he did it, but if Hugo’s in there he stops that Hererra goal. It might have gone through Davies’ legs, but it was pretty much straight at Vorm, and he should’ve had it.
- Harry Kane was again pretty much completely absent for the third straight match since his return from injury. He is still not fit, and it’s worrying... he’s a shell of his pre-injury self.
- Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen were outstanding, though, and it’s a shame that their performances were wasted like this. Dele Alli had a nice match too, though he faded a bit down the stretch.
- I was pretty upset that the ref decided not to give the second yellow card on Valencia, but I’m not sure it would’ve made a huge difference the way United were defending.
- In short, Spurs just didn’t play well enough. A decent number of shots, but not enough on target and not enough quality.
- Not going to lie, this result hurts. This was the best chance Spurs had to win silverware in a long time against a very beatable United side and they couldn’t get it done. It’s a nice day where I am and I plan to spend the rest of it outside trying to forget about this game.