In a match that had far more technical difficulties than goals, Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 fell to Middlesbrough in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The score was tied until the second period of extra time when Boro’s Josh Coburn fired a shot past Hugo Lloris to put the home side ahead. Tottenham battled hard for an equalizer to force a penalty shootout but couldn’t find a way past keeper Joe Lumley. This was the second consecutive Premier League team that Boro has defeated in this competition after they dispatched Manchester United in penalties a few weeks ago.
Rotation? Nope. Tottenham rolled out the exact same lineup against Championship side Boro as they did in last weekend’s away win at Leeds United, hoping for a similar result. Most notably, Matt Doherty and Ryan Sessegnon retained their place at the fullback positions, while the front three of Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane, and Dejan Kulusevski also remained. The only change was on the bench as Pierluigi Gollini replaced Brandon Austin.
Here are my notes from this match.
- The downside of not rotating players is that when you end up playing an extra time match in a cup competition you end up looking dead on your feet. Spurs had nothing left in extra time, and to be honest the goal had been coming for a while.
- Tottenham didn’t look especially great in this match, and that’s bad enough. The bigger problem was that they looked boring until the last 10 minutes of regular time and then out of gas for the rest.
- Doherty had the best chance of the first half and did SO WELL to get the ball and take a touch to round the keeper and with the goal gaping in front of him and Son an easy square ball away from a goal he overhit it and shanked it wide. Incredible stuff. Dragged another shot wide a few minutes later.
- That’s a little unfair on Doherty who actually played quite well (apart from his finishing). Sessegnon also had a good first half.
- Lots of chatter over the “missed” penalty calls from official Darren English, but for my money he got them all right, especially the epic flop from Jones when Sess had a hand on his back.
- Kane’s goal should’ve stood. Not only was he onside when the ball was headed in, but he was getting the crap fouled out of him so even if he were offside it should’ve then been a penalty. Atrocious call.
- The “technical difficulties” splash screen might have been the high point of that second half, to be honest.
- Conte’s tactical shift was to remove both wingbacks and move to a back four, bringing on Royal and Bergwijn. Spurs immediately looked better, with Stevie going close almost instantly. Spurs had a bunch of other chances (Son, Kane, Steve again) but couldn’t finish.
- I regret to inform you that Harry Winks is bad again.
- I’d like to be upset about this. I probably should be. I’m just... not. This Tottenham team is all over the place. They’re gonna win some, they’re gonna lose some, hilariously. That’s this season’s Tottenham Hotspur in a nutshell. Now I wonder if we’ll see more “emotional strategy” from Antonio Conte.