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Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham: final score 2-0, Spurs crash out of FA Cup with listless display

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That was not fun!

Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur - FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur crashed out of their second domestic cup competition in a week on Sunday, falling 2-0 to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park behind a goal from Connor Wickham and a penalty kick from Andros Townsend. It was a disappointing match for Spurs almost from the opening kick as they weren’t able to get the ball into the net despite having the majority of the possession.

Tottenham started the match with a highly rotated side, which is impressive considering that they were already down three starters due to injury and absence. Christian Eriksen was rested today and was not in the matchday 18. Fernando Llorente started his third straight match, and was flanked by Lucas Moura and Georges-Kevn N’Koudou, who was making his first start in a long time. Tottenham also rotated in defense, starting with a defensive back three of Davinson Sanchez, Juan Foyth, and Jan Vertonghen, and flanked by Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker-Peters, playing out of position on the left flank. 18-year old Oliver Skipp and Eric Dier were in the center of midfield. Paulo Gazzaniga started in goal.

First Half

Spurs came out on the front foot in the opening minutes of the first half, keeping the ball and pushing forward progressively through Oliver Skipp’s passing. But it was Palace who struck first, against the run of play in just the ninth minute. Jeff Schlupp broke through Spurs’ midfield past Skipp and Sanchez and into the box. Gazzaniga got a hand to Schlupp’s shot, but Connor Wickham was right there and tapped home with his knee to put Palace up 1-0.

Spurs continued to enjoy the majority of the possession after the goal. Lucas Moura had a pop from distance in the 19th minute that went just over the bar, and Van Aanholt responded just after with a deflected shot that was comfortably collected by Gazzaniga.

Spurs, quite understandably, looked like they were lacking creativity both in midfield and attack. Passes weren’t quite crisp enough or weighted properly, possession was given away quite cheaply at times.

But it was mistakes that were the difference in the first half. Kyle Walker-Peters was flagged for a very obvious handball in the box, and Tottenham academy graduate Andros Townsend made no doubt of the ensuing penalty. Spurs had it all to do, down 2-0.

Townsend nearly made it 3-0 a few minutes later, smashing a powerful effort straight at Gazzaniga, who parried and allowed Spurs to clear.

Spurs’ best chance came in the 40th minute when Lucas Moura was fouled just outside of the box. Kieran Trippier tried a bit of “trickery,” passing the free kick to a wide-open N’Koudou at the far post, but GKN scuffed the first shot straight at Julian Speroni and couldn’t put away the rebound effort either.

Spurs got a ray of hope minutes before halftime after Van Aarnholt kicked Juan Foyth in Palace’s box. Kevin Friend immediately pointed at the spot. Without Harry Kane in the side, Kieran Trippier stepped up... and fired the penalty kick wide to the left.

That shot pretty much summed up Spurs’ first half, as they went into the break down by two goals.

Second Half

Down two goals at halftime, Mauricio Pochettino made a surprising halftime substitution, bringing on Erik Lamela for Jan Vertonghen and switching to a back four.

Spurs came out looking brighter than in the first half, still keeping possession and working to cut into Palace’s lead. Llorente went close in the 52nd minute, putting a low effort toward the far post that forced a diving save from Speroni to tip away.

Davinson Sanchez picked up a cheap yellow in the center of midfield for a late tackle on Townsend in the 54th minute. Just afterwards Lucas Moura drew another free kick at the edge of the area, but Erik Lamela’s free kick went off the Palace wall.

Spurs had another chance in midway through the half thanks to a lovely ball into the box from Kieran Trippier, but Lucas Moura scuffed the shot and Speroni was able to pounce on the ball and save the chance.

Spurs made their second change of the match in the 63rd minute with Victor Wanyama making his first appearance in months, coming in for Eric Dier.

Spurs continued to create chances and then utterly fail to do anything with those chances. Trippier put a lovely ball into the box for a rushing Llorente in the 66th minute, but the big Basque couldn’t get to it in time and the cross went out for a goal kick. Lamela took a pop in the 78th minute, but it went straight to the Palace keeper.

Pochettino rolled the dice ten minutes from time, bringing on academy striker Kazaiah Sterling for Lucas Moura. The young striker played off the shoulder of Llorente, but struggled to make an impact.

That was pretty much the story of the match. Tottenham weren’t able to really get anything going, and the final whistle was almost a relief. The final score was 2-0.

Reactions:

  • Look, nobody likes losing, but Pochettino’s lineup for this match clearly indicated where an FA Cup third round match fits in the hierarchy of the season, especially with Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min, and Dele Alli all out. If you want a moderately hot take, punting and crashing out of the FA Cup is fine, considering Spurs’ injuries and need to manage upcoming matches for the rest of the season.
  • That said, this was not fun watching! Spurs had (understandably) very little creativity on the pitch, and it showed. Even when they created chances they weren’t able to put them away.
  • Kieran. Oh, oh, oh Kieran, why did you take that penalty? Just... why?
  • More on Trips: It’s hard to say that he had a GOOD match, but out of the chances created by Spurs most of them were created by Kieran down the right flank. That’s worth noting.
  • The only thing worse than watching this match was listening to the ESPN+ commentary by Jonathan Pearce and Clive Allen, who were spewing lava-hot takes all match like “Real Madrid are taking Pochettino,” “Spurs fans think Paulo Gazzaniga should be #1 over Hugo Lloris,” and calling the final 30 minutes of the match “the most crucial half hour in Tottenham’s season.” Also frequently confused Kyle Walker-Peters & Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, as well as Davinson Sanchez & Victor Wanyama. Not great, Bob.
  • If you’re looking for a bright spot, Juan Foyth had a really nice game, making a number of key defensive stops on Palace counters and looking solid in the back line. He’s looking much more confident on the pitch.
  • Oliver Skipp did not have a very good match today, and that’s ok. He’s 18. He’s getting valuable first team experience, and he needs bad games to get better.
  • It was very nice to see Wanyama back on the pitch again, but holy moly did he look rusty. Understandable, but whoof.
  • Me: Whatever, cup competitions are dumb. Also me: Spurs TOTALLY would’ve won this competition with Kane, Dele and Son.