It’s not home, but it kind of felt like home when Tottenham Hotspur celebrated after scoring what they thought was a dramatic late winner.
It wasn’t actually the winning goal, but Spurs did eventually advance to the Fourth Round of the Carabao Cup after a win on penalties over Watford. The score was 2-2 after regulation, with all the goals coming in a crazy second half.
Delays with the new stadium meant that the match had to be played at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes. Dele Alli’s old club, MK Dons, are the usual tenants at the stadium, which lies about 50 miles north of London.
As expected, Mauricio Pochettino rotated his Spurs side for the League Cup tie. Big names like Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, and Jan Vertonghen were rested, but the team that was put out was still quite strong. Victor Wanyama made his first start of the season in a midfield partnership with Harry Winks. Alli started at his old ground, and Moussa Sissoko also returned from an injury that had kept him out for a few weeks.
The atmosphere at Stadium MK was solid, but the fans in attendance weren’t treated to a very entertaining first half. Both teams started slow as they each displayed typical signs of sides that haven’t played too much together.
Dele did his best to influence the game in the first period. He was a few steps behind scoring a goal after Lucas Moura put in a low cross to the back post that barely eluded him.
There was a moment of confusion in Watford’s defense when a long ball bounced off of Craig Cathcart’s back and eventually fell for Erik Lamela. Heurelho Gomes came out to smother Lamela before he could get a shot off.
Watford’s sizable contingent of away fans got back into the game as they felt their team doing the same. Javi Gracia’s squad might have scored in the 31st minute had it not been for an incredible tackle from Serge Aurier. The Ivory Coast international flew through the air to get a leg in front of Ken Sema’s strike from right in front of goal.
Aurier was unable to stop the visitor’s breakthrough in the second half. A long ball beat Ben Davies and Davinson Sanchez before reaching Isaac Success. Success held off Aurier as he ran into the box and smashed one past Paulo Gazzaniga.
Spurs weathered a period of Watford pressure following the goal, and then they turned to up the intensity as they chased an equalizer.
Dele and Sissoko combined well at one point, but the 22-year-old’s volley went over the bar.
Pochettino went to the bench in an effort to change the game. Mousa Dembele, Son Heung-Min, and Fernando Llorente came on for Sissoko, Wanyama, and then Lucas.
Spurs dominated possession and kept the ball dangerously outside Watford’s penalty area, but the visitors still threatened. They really should have made it 2-0 in the 74th minute, but Success whiffed on this particular point-blank effort.
That move only came about because of a horrendous error from Davies, who had a poor game.
It had already been a hectic second half, and then it all really hit the fan after the 80th minute of play.
Aurier picked up an injury and Spurs were reduced to ten men having already made all their substitutions. Almost immediately after that, Watford were reduced to ten men when Kabasele fouled Dele in the box. A red card was shown, and Alli confidently stepped up to convert the penalty.
Tottenham continued to push forward for that second goal. Eventually they found it when Lamela capped off a counter-attack by pushing the ball past Gomes. Players and fans celebrated what they thought was a late winner, but this story had one more twist.
Watford shocked the celebrating Spurs fans in the 89th minute when Etienne Capoue scored via a wicked deflection. The former Tottenham man wheeled away to lead the celebrations after his shot had come off Davies’ backside.
Last season this game would have gone to extra time following regulation, but they have since gotten rid of extra time at this stage of the competition. The two teams had to settle things in a penalty shootout.
Gazzaniga has stepped up since coming into the team for Michel Vorm, and he did so once again today. He dove heroically to his right to save penalties from Capoue and from Domingos Quina.
The Spurs’ players all did their job and made their penalties. Milton Keynes’ own Dele Alli got just enough on his to get it by Gomes and to send Tottenham into the fourth round.
The draw for the next round of the competition will be on September 29th.