|SUNDAY 5 JANUARY 2020|
SHOTS (on target)
|Lucas Moura (61)|
Battling Boro earn Replay
Injury ravaged Boro took on Mourinho’s injury ravaged Spurs side at the Riverside in the FA Cup third round at the Riverside. Boro would be missing the usual suspects, Randolph, Shotton, Assombalonga, Friend, Dijksteel and also worryingly this seasons captain Dani Ayala after he limped off the pitch at Deepdale. Loan arrivals Lukas Nmecha and Patrick Roberts would be available and thought likely to feature at some point.
Spurs have their own growing list of absentees with talismanic striker Harry Kane hobbling off in their last game against Southampton and added to that they would be without Captain Hugo Lloris, left back Ben Davies, Danny Rose, perma-crock Tanguy Ndombele, meanwhile Eric Dier and Kyle Walker-Peters were expected to be fit to return for this afternoon along with Son Heung-min. It was thought that likely departee Christian Eriksen could be possibly making one of his last Spurs appearances before departing the club for Inter Milan later this month.
Patrick Roberts made his Boro debut in place of Marvin Johnson, McNair at CB for Ayala and Mejias in goal for the rested Pears. Spurs won the toss and decided to swap ends, playing towards their sizeable following in the South East corner. Consequently, Boro kicked off earning an early throw in leading to a McNair dribble ending with Spence winning a corner. Headed clear from the near post Coulson chested it down outside the Spurs box and hit a volley over Gazzinga’s crossbar as the first minute barely ticked over.
A claim for a handball and penalty was dismissed from another Coulson effort which went out for Boro’s second corner with the third following immediately. It was weakly cleared out by the Spurs defence and Clayts headed it back into the path of Roberts whose dinked shot-come-cross went over Gazzinga’s goal with the clock showing just over six minutes. As Spurs mounted their first serious attack a well worked cut-back from Son to Ericksen and instinctive shot from the edge of the Boro box had Mejias blocking and as the ball flew out Fletcher being dragged down by Dier as Boro tried to break quickly.
Under pressure a cheeky and confident series of passes in the Boro box involving Howson, Mejias and Saville was well received by the home fans as Boro attempted to play their way out of trouble rather than hoof it Pulis style. Spurs once again came back at Boro and Mejias had to be off his line quickly to block another effort. Spurs had now settled, passing the ball around comfortably and keeping possession, Boro were sitting back and conceded the away sides first corner in the twelfth minute. The optimists amongst us took comfort in the stats that of late Boro have conceded possession in most of their games but came out on top, albeit perhaps not against last season’s Champions League Finalists.
Howson stepped out and intercepted brilliantly on the edge of his own box and moved forward but with Fletcher out wide left he played it harmlessly straight down the middle for Spurs to simply collect and go on the offensive again. All the hard and clever work done but scrappily conceding possession after a momentary lapse.
The second Spurs corner in the sixteenth minute was “recycled” back to the middle of the park and eventually went out for a Boro throw after it came off Winks in a move that had the away fans uttering a few North London expletives in questioning the objectivity of it all. Dael Fry cut out a dangerous cross but it came straight back in for this time McNair to put it out for a corner. Fry then took his turn to meet it to add to the rapidly growing Spurs corner count, which when delivered was blown by Ref Stuart Atwell for a punched effort from Moura easing the pressure on Boro.
Winks fouled Saville thirty yards out and MacNair’s resultant floated free kick to the far post was headed goalwards by Fry with Gazzaniga saving then having to save again with his feet after a muddled scramble in the Spurs box before eventually being cleared by Sessegnon. Another fee kick from the opposite flank was headed out for a Boro corner which was cleared but redeemed by a sublime bit of McNair skill in his own half with twenty-five minutes expired and Boro in fairness credibly holding their own whilst still looking credibly dangerous. A Spurs corner in the twenty-sixth minute was blasted over by Sessegnon with the Spurs threat growing but Boro resolutely holding them at bay. Fry headed out another cross in the twenty-eighth minute conceding Spurs sixth corner and a seventh immediately followed but was headed clear and then eventually in a no nonsense display hoofed clear by Coulson.
A good Boro break involving Howson and Spence with a clever one two was eventually wasted when Spence over-hit his final dinked ball to Fletcher running behind the Spurs defence. As Spurs countered, Roberts clipped the heels of Vertonghen conceding a soft free kick, which was only bettered by the terrible delivery, softly sent in to Mejias’ near post unopposed not that many of us complained!
Fletcher then had a good run working his way to the edge of the Spurs box but Sessegnon crept in blind side to rob him and Fletcher’s last despairing touch conceded a goal kick to Spurs. An Aurier cross across the face of the Boro six-yard box to Sessegnon was blocked by the attentions of Spence doing just enough to put off his youthful counterpart. A break by Spurs was blocked off by McNair but Dele Alli as if detonated by a land mine leapt through the air twisting and turning in pure Quentin Tarantino angst receiving a yellow card for his now infamous precious theatrics. The irony was that it was a foul by McNair without any necessity for the drama and as a consequence Mejias launched the Boro-awarded free kick up field and as Saville tackled to prevent a Spurs counter attack, Stuart Attwell’s whistle went for half time with scores at 0-0.
Despite the chasm in comparative resources Boro had accounted for themselves very well with the most interesting duel being between Sessegnon and Spence which was about 50/50, praise indeed for Spence after only a handful of first team appearances. McNair and Fry had been solid and dependable, Fletcher working hard in the lone role up front. Saville and Clayts had been busy running, chasing and closing down doing the dirty often unappreciated work. Spurs had of course looked by far the more likely to get something out of the game but it was Boro who had come closest with Fry and then Saville in that double strike mid-way through the first half. Roberts looked a little short of match practice, which was to be expected and probably the most likely to be subbed at some future point.
Boro came out unchanged with the same back three and wing-backs, midfield and Fletcher up front. Spurs returned, somewhat delayed presumably after a Mourinho moan in the away dressing room. Spurs eventually kicked off with Boro attacking the South Stand. An early Spence interception prevented a Spurs attack, setting up Roberts who cutting in from the wing, unleashed a left footed shot but it was blocked. In the next phase of play Roberts then cut across Winks on forty-eight minutes with the England International blatantly fouling, conceding a free kick. It was floated in and a knock down from Fry to Saville saw George go down in the box with howls for a penalty but Atwell ruled play on and fifteen seconds later it was Saville himself winning a midfield ball, lobbing it over the Spurs defence from the halfway line and Fletcher just onside ran through one on one against Gazzaniga and placed it in the middle of the Spurs net to put Boro ahead. Fifty minutes gone and Boro deserved the opening goal having come out for the second half showing far more intent.
A brilliant collect and through ball from Roberts set Saville away but with Gazzinga coming off his line and a defender bearing down on him it was antagonisingly inches too far ahead. Spurs best response was a distanced cross come shot from twenty yards out from Eriksen sailing wide on fifty-five minutes. In a knee jerk double substitution Winks and Sessegnon both went off for Lamella and Celso coming on as Mourinho realised that he now had a game on his hands if he was to deliver silverware to Tottenham this season.
On sixty minutes a text book ball down the Boro left flank saw Aurier deliver a perfect far post cross which saw Moura use his head this time to head home unopposed having lost his marker Spence and Howson caught in between. One apiece now and game back on with Spurs significantly raising their game since that Boro opener. Aurier was becoming increasingly instrumental in launching Spurs attacks down their right and our left-hand side. Fletcher had done well to hold the ball up and Howson advanced as Boro got a cross in across the danger area but it was cleared and as it went out for a throw in Woodgate signalled a change as Johnson came on for Coulson in an effort to address the growing menace of Aurier.
A minute later and Gestede then came on for Roberts who was now blowing out of his derriere. After Spence had advanced and won the initial challenge deep in the Spurs half an immediate back flick from Gestede with his first touch into the path of Fletcher was saved. Seventy minutes now gone and the game looked finely balanced despite Spurs possession stats.
A Johnson headed clearance saw a free kick awarded to Boro after Lamella attempted an overhead kick in close proximity on the recently arrived Boro left wing-back. It was now attack versus defence as Spurs probed and probed whilst Boro had Gestede and Fletcher to lump the ball up to as plan “A”. A long-range Lamella strike saw Mejias diving low to tip it wide conceding a corner. As the Corner was cleared Aurier delivered in another quality cross headed clear by McNair for an additional notch on the Spurs corner count which was thankfully overhit, going out for a throw in to Boro on seventy-five minutes. Nmecha then came on for Fletcher who had literally run himself into the ground.
Moura then single handedly slalomed his way through some pretty weak Boro challenges winning a corner on seventy-seven minutes which was headed clear by Gestede. Ten minutes remained and Boro were now camped in their own half with Gestede isolated and Nmecha at the tip of the Boro defensive wall. Moura again cut in on his right foot this time unleashing a shot which had Mejias diving across his goal tipping it wide. Seeing the ball out safely for a goal kick a minute later saw Mejias go down awkwardly but recover after a few painful looking stretches of his right shoulder. It was just as well as he had to sprint out of his box seconds later to clear another relentless Spurs attack. Saville was in trouble for a cynical lunge which swiftly ended the next Spurs offensive with Lamella openly showing his displeasure at Stuart Attwell’s yellow card for George Saville and earning one for himself for dissent. The resulting free kick was sent straight through and aimlessly out for a Boro goal kick.
Four minutes remained and a rare Boro foray ended with a throw in on the right but Spence out dribbled himself giving away a goal kick by slipping and falling on his backside. Three minutes now left and Lamella drove through the middle of the Boro defence finding the advancing Aurier who skied his effort Assombalonga style much to the relief of the North Stand. Back in defence Tavernier headed away a cross for a late Spurs corner on eighty-eight minutes. As the ninetieth ticked over Lamella skipped past a series of Boro challenges but Mejias smothered the low cross with confident ease.
Four minutes of added time came up with Boro still sitting deep and by now holding on. After another embarrassing Spurs dive in the Boro box Nmecha carried the ball out from the middle of the pitch, advancing deep into Spurs territory while attracting the attentions of Eriksen, clipping his legs. McNair delivered the free kick but it was straight into the arms of Gazzaniga. A late run by Alli to chase a wasteful ball went out for Mejias to steadily take the goal kick and as it entered play crossing the half way line Stuart Attwell blew his whistle to signal a replay at the newest stadium in the Country, which is White Hart Lane except it’s no longer called White Hart Lane since its rebuild and is now called the Tottenham Stadium or as some may ponder “the unsponsored Premiership ground waiting for a multimillion offer Stadium”.
A defiant and proud display from a patched up Boro side against a team that were Champions League Finalists at the end of last season and who have regularly finished in the Premiership top four was an effort that incredibly took those recent West Brom and Preston performances to a different level. MOM was another difficult one between McNair, Howson and Fry. There were others who had done very well including Clayts and Saville and at the opposite end of the pitch the goal machine that is now Ashley Fletcher for his running and never say die endeavours. After a nervy and rusty start Mejias had also done extremely well and pulled off two great saves negating the need for any January spend on another back-up Keeper. Overall, I think McNair edged it along with captain for the day Jonny Howson coming a very close runner up.