So the FA Cup is an irrelevance, a tiresome interlude between the real business of busting a gut to not win anything in the League. Yeah right. Nobody at White Hart Lane yesterday recognises that description of a competition still dear to the heart of football fans. Full-bloodied, no respect for status, both teams going out to win it and a distinct edge in the air. Proper cup football. Give it a sponsor, call the 6th round a different name, play it on any day of the week TV fancies – the fans make it proper cup football every time.
On the field, Spurs rose to the challenge with style and class from the outset. They stamped their authority on the game, quickly consigning any thought of giantkilling to yesterday’s back pages, today’s chip paper. Get the ball, move it around, get hold of midfield, match every tackle. Hard work and a sustained plan was the foundation, the goals came later.
In the stands, Spurs lifted the spirits in response to the Millwall roar. The best atmosphere outside an AFC or CFC derby for many years. What a glorious din it was. Old school to and fro. Que sera, we going to Wembley. Que sera, Millwall are going to Shrewsbury. Spurs applaud. Janssen scores his first from open play. “He scores when he wants, Vincent Janssen…” Just like the old days but it’s future too. We can do this in the new ground, if we want to. Give us room to get on with it, give us an end, we’ll make some noise. And the rubbish silenced in the best possible way – a thumping out of sight win via a hat-trick from the bloke on the receiving end.
Spurs got on top at the start as is our way these days at home. We passed our way through and round Millwall, set up a few chances but the final ball was lacking, Son making the gravest error when he ignored the queue at the far post and shot straight at the keeper.
In Kane’s absence, Son not Janssen is Pochettino’s plan B. Let’s wait for the results of Kane’s scan before we panic. There’s ample time to panic after that. My fear is that he has a long-term weakness on that ankle. Robust but otherwise legitimate tackles have done the damage, and we give that ankle a lot of wear and tear.
Eriksen on to sustain our midfield supremacy. I would have played him from the start as part of our strongest possible side. Without doing anything noticeably different, he has imperceptibly developed his game over the past few months to become the dominant midfield influence in every match he plays. With so much movement ahead of and around him, he turned the game decisively in our favour.
Just as we started to get a bit edgy, well on top but no goals, Millwall in our box a couple of times, Eriksen swivelled on a bouncing ball in the box to find the far corner. Same corner a few minutes later. Son miscontrolled the ball again, leaving it behind and taking the momentum out of the attack. This time he turned his mistake into a virtue. Left foot from the right, across the keeper, same corner. Two moments of high class finishing stamped our authority on the game once and for all.
Millwall had nothing in reply. They tried to play football and were keen to shift it forward but even two goals to the good, Spurs weren’t about to let them back in the game. Less about Millwall’s deficiencies, much more about our clinical approach to finishing them off, further evidence of the winning mentality that has become part of our approach since Gent.
These goals were class but not classy enough for Son. Long ball, running full pelt into the box, drops over his shoulder and volleys it home. I trust BT showed it on a loop instead of their post-match analysis.
Good fun to be had. Dele at the far post on the end of a fine cross, made by Winks. On the ball, controls, it, changes direction, spreads an inch perfect 30 yard ball to the full-back. He plays as if he was born to it, natural, eager, fearless, oblivious to the bedlam around him and in the stands. He’s a real craftsman and a tremendous prospect.
Janssen has been humiliated by his manager over the past months, either staying on the bench or not making the bench at all. Pochettino knows how to get his message over. But he’s on and he scores when he wants. A glimpse of what might be, the ball only a foot or so in front of the defender yet instantly and accurately turned low into the corner. Let’s gloss over the previous shot that just missed the corner flag and the one after, a point blank header straight at the keeper.
The keeper threw it into the net for Son’s hat-trick. It was all there – through his legs, the irresistible reflex to desperately drag it out of the net even when you know it’s already over the line. The indignity compounded by three replays and huge cheers. Is this what the big screen is for?
Fine performances all round. Davies again prominent going forward, Trippier did well too. Winks excellent, polished and mature. The drive from the back three is the key though, yesterday and for the rest of the season. Vertonghen is in the middle of a purple patch, reaching heights that seemed beyond him a couple of years ago. Pushing up into the space the midfielders leave behind is crucial to our attacking play.
Dier was the only doubt, I guess there has to be something. The ease with which he was left standing on several occasions by League 1 forwards was a little bit of a worry, something to work on in the weeks to come.
Just like the old days at the Millwall end too. Abuse of Son, which I heard but couldn’t make out at the time. Anti-Semitic abuse too, or so I read today. Singling a Korean out for abuse is a new one on me. Abuse for abuse sake is low.
Dan Kilpatrick from Spurs ESPN said on twitter last night that this was the biggest police presence at an English football match in a decade. These days the police have sophisticated tactics to keep an eye on potential troublemakers. Which is why I don’t understand the reason their fans weren’t kept in the ground after the match to clear the streets. We nipped up Bromley Road, a cut-through between the High Road and the Park Lane, only to find it had been blocked off first at the High Road end then, as we turned back, behind us too, so we were stuck in the road for ten minutes, no info, then were let out into the middle of the Millwall for the walk back to Seven Sisters. I didn’t see any trouble and it felt safe. They weren’t looking for any bother, indeed the most noise came from a football kicked all the way along the route, but how can that be safe crowd control?
Anyway, nothing gets in the way of a fine win, fabulous performance, wonderful football. Semi-final? Bring them all on.