On any other night, Lucas Moura’s first goal for Tottenham would have made all the headlines. Instead, Monday’s back pages are leading with Rochdale’s dramatic late equaliser in this FA Cup fifth round game, courtesy of Steve Davies’ strike in the 93rd minute.
A dramatic night had seen Ian Henderson cap a fine counter-attack to put the hosts in front, but Spurs’ newest Brazilian lifted the ball over Josh Lillis to seal a lovely retort in the second half.
Harry Kane’s 88th-minute penalty looked to have sealed matters before Davies snuck in at the far post to finish just seconds before Bobby Madley blew the final whistle.
A 2-2 result earns the League One strugglers a glamorous replay at Wembley but not much else in a game that Mauricio Pochettino’s men will likely stroll with a minimum of fuss.
On Sunday, the Argentine made 11 changes to the team who would take on Rochdale at Spotland, resting Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier.
His decision to forego such key men, however, has added an unnecessary fixture to a calendar that already looks congested. The question is, will it have any effect on the rest of Tottenham’s season?
On the face of it, one extra game is unlikely to perturb Pochettino’s plans unduly. The Spurs manager has seen his side beat Everton, Manchester United and Arsenal by a wide margin after every round of their FA Cup journey so far, whilst his team are one of the fittest in the league.
They’re also one of the most confident at present, arriving for this game on the back of a 13 game unbeaten run.
In front of their home support and undoubtedly eager to avoid the exhaustion of extra time and penalties, Spurs will approach the replay against Rochdale with a renewed focus.
Admittedly, the game will be a distraction from their domestic and European hopes but Pochettino will likely use it as an opportunity to give his reserves another run-out.
Some of the 11 changes for this game fared better than others: whilst the aforementioned Lucas demonstrated his abilities well, players like Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko looked rusty and short on confidence.
Bucking the trend that has seen most of his top six counterparts place little importance in the FA Cup, Pochettino has gone on record to say that he wants to win this trophy. It’s easy to see why, with praise of his abilities juxtaposed with the increasing clamour for his side to win a major honour.
An FA Cup victory might not have the prestige of the Premier League or Champions League but it would rid the club of the accusation that the ‘project’ means more than medals.
Manchester City head into March as Champions-elect, whilst Juventus might have a word or to say about Spurs’ progress on the continental stage.
Victory in this competition, then, remains the most achievable way of garlanding their success with a trophy for the cabinet at White Hart Lane.
Rochdale fans, though, will just be hoping that their players can overcome their hangover in time for the game at Wembley.
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