Tottenham survive late scare to see off Middlesbrough and book Saints tie
FA Cup Third Round Replay
Tottenham 2 Middlesbrough 1
Giovani Lo Celso helped himself to his first domestic goal for Spurs in under two minutes to set his side on their way to a fourth round tie at Southampton.
It was a calamitous moment for Boro keeper Tomas Mejias, as it was his weak pass out to a defender which invited a simple interception and cool finish into the bottom corner from the Argentinian – instantly deflating the Championship visitors.
And with barely a quarter of an hour played, the game looked as good as over as Erik Lamela burst past two ineffectual challenges before sliding the ball home with the outside of that trusty left foot.
It should have been plain sailing, but an 83rd minute strike from sub George Saville made it an uncomfortable finale for Spurs, who took their collective foot off the gas in the second half. They will be relieved they managed to avoid a full-on collapse.
Whatever plan former player Jonathan Woodgate had for his team – he now in charge of the north-east side – it is fair to assume going quickly 2-0 down was not in his thinking.
There had been a brief moment of hope for Boro when striker Lukas Nmecha wriggled free to fire low at goal, but Paulo Gazzaniga – in great form against Liverpool at the weekend – was equal to it.
With Spurs firmly in the ascendancy, however, further goals looked more likely to be at the other end.
Lamela almost got a second, firing just over on the turn and Ryan Sessegnon, making a rare start, almost embarrassed Mejias again with a low shot before defender Japhet Tanganga – so impressive against Liverpool on his Premier League debut - shaved the far post with an effort.
Gazzaniga kept up the good work with a decent stop to keep out a Lewis wing free-kick after the break, and it turned out to be important given the slightly uncomfortable last 10 minutes.
With injuries in the camp and ground to make up in the fight for a top four finish, Jose Mourinho did not want this replay, but it allowed a few of the fringe players the opportunity to accrue minutes and confidence.
On the other hand, this was another game where Christian Eriksen barely looked interested – he may move on this month – while Davinson Sanchez looked uncharacteristically wobbly.
A header the defender won in the game’s final throes landed at the feet of Saville, who pulled a goal back for Boro. Fortunately for the defender, it was not a fatal error.
Line-up: Gazzaniga – Tanganga, Sanchez, Vertonghen – Lo Celso, Winks, Dier (Alli 86), Sessegnon – Eriksen – Moura (Son 61). Subs not used: Vorm, Foyth, Aurier, Skipp, Cirkin