FA Cup 4th round replay
Tottenham 3 Southampton 2
So here was a real FA Cup tie for the ages.
No sign of U23s thrown in to spare first-teamers the rigours of an FA Cup replay during what is supposed to be the Premier League’s winter break.
Spurs are through and were made to fight every inch of the way in a tie which did great credit to both sides and was relentlessly entertaining from start to finish.
Saints can count themselves very unlucky as they were, in all honesty, the better side for large swathes of the encounter.
Hats off to Jose Mourinho and Ralf Hasenhuttl, who both picked their strongest possible sides – and to both sets of players, who went hell for leather in a bid to earn a fifth round tie at home to Norwich.
Liverpool may have got away with their decision to field a youth side for their cup replay against Shrewsbury but theirs was still a mockery of a tie. This was the real deal.
Neither side really wanted the extra game that the 1-1 draw at Southampton forced, but there was no question of either side showing anything less than wholehearted commitment in what turned out to be a truly gripping tie, settled by a Hueng-Min Son penalty four minutes from the end.
Spurs got the ideal tonic of a goal start after just 12 minutes.
Ryan Sessegnon’s little give-and-go with Harry Winks gave him a run on goal. Jack Stephens slid in to block, but the central defender was unlucky to see Tanguy Ndombele’s follow-up find the corner of the net after deflecting off him.
Danny Ings, who has been in sparkling form for the Saints of late, then hit the crossbar as the visitors rallied, and it was not the first palpitation for Hugo Lloris, who had twice already needed to get behind shots on goal, from Sofiane Boufal and Nathan Redmond, before his side had taken the lead.
Lloris was finally beaten in the 34th minute by Shane Long from a six-yard rebound after another save by the Tottenham skipper to deny Redmond.
Spurs looked out of kilter at the start of the second half too, allowing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg he head onto the roof of the net and getting lucky when Boufal made a hash of an open goal, skewing badly wide.
Tottenham’s struggles could have been eased in the 52nd minute, and really should have been – Lucas Moura heading wide from six yards after having a goal put on a plate for him by Son, chipping in from the left byline.
Mourinho threw on Gedson Fernandes before the hour was up and Dele Alli soon after, but Saints continued to look the stronger side.
Lloris was again called into action, throwing his hands up to palm over a powerful header from the sub Jannik Vestergaard, a first half replacement for an injured James Ward-Prowse.
But he could do nothings about Ings’ sublime finish in the 72nd minute, which owed everything to a lightning break out defence from Redmond, who left Spurs players trailing in his wake before releasing the perfect pass to the Saints striker.
The lead was short-lived, however, and Moura tied things up in the 78th minute with a fine strike into the bottom corner, having side-stepped a defender on the edge of the area.
Wind finally in their sails, Spurs at last showed signs of getting to grips with their determined opponents and in the 86th minute, Alli’s piercing through ball was perfect for Son.
The South Korean was tripped by Keeper Angus Gunn as he tried to round the stopper, but it was merely delaying the winner, as Son made no mistake with the resulting spot-kick.
This was one tie that maybe would have been worth seeing go to extra-time, but of course Tottenham were only too happy to get the job done in 90 minutes. And it meant an epic tie had the finale it deserved.
Line up: Lloris – Tanganga, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Fernandes 54) – Aurier, Dier, Winks, Ndombele (Alli 61), Sessegnon (Sanchez 90) – Son, Moura. Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Skipp, Parrott, Cirkin