Tottenham’s quest for FA Cup silverware continues after their 2-1 home win over Middlesbrough in the sides’ third round replay on Tuesday night.
First-half goals from Argentine duo Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela proved enough to see off the Championship side and set up a fourth round tie away to Southampton.
Spurs were gifted the perfect start by their visitors when Lo Celso was the fortunate recipient of a misplaced pass from Boro keeper Tomas Meíjas in the second minute.
The midfielder gratefully cut inside and rolled the ball into the corner of the net, and it wasn’t long before Lo Celso’s compatriot was getting in on the act.
In the blink of an eye, Spurs had a second. Lamela picked up the ball a fair distance from goal but burst through the defence and deftly slotted home with the outside of his left boot.
A comfortable 2-0 is how it remained until Boro substitute George Saville hit an arrowed shot into the bottom corner to set up a nervy finish.
Spurs brought on Dele Alli to put the tie to bed but he couldn’t provide the final flourish, and Boro were unable to find a last gasp equaliser as José Mourinho’s men held out for the win.
Key Talking Point
It was crucial that Mourinho’s men secured safe passage to the fourth round as Spurs have struggled of late.
The hosts were looking for a confidence-boosting win having not tasted victory since their Boxing Day win over Brighton.
And they were in confident mood here, Boro played into their hands as their shape gave Spurs an overload in the middle of the pitch and they duly took advantage.
It hasn’t always been the case since Mourinho took charge but in the first half in particular, the players played with a real purpose and attacking intent.
Spurs players from front to back wanted to receive the ball, get on the front foot and join in attacks.
Lucas, Lamela and Lo Celso were full of pace, power and imagination, as were the young full-back pairing of Japhet Tanganga and Ryan Sessegnon.
They were rampant and ran their lower league opponents ragged in a first 45 full of verve and promise.
It was one that will excite Tottenham fans, who will now hope their side can replicate that first-half showing for a full 90 minutes in the Premier League.
Starting XI: Gazzaniga (7); Sessegnon (7), Vertonghen (6), Sanchez (5), Tanganga (7); Dier (7), Winks (6), Lo Celso (8*), Eriksen (6); Lamela (8), Lucas (7)
Subs: Son (6), Dele (6)
Man of the Match: Giovani Lo Celso
Lo Celso showed the Spurs faithful why securing his permanent signature is so pivotal if they are to progress into a real attacking force.
At times, the Argentine made Boro’s defence chase shadows as he came off the right and picked up space in the middle of the park.
The biggest thing Lo Celso and Lamela bring to this Spurs team is one touch passing. It’s something Tottenham have often lacked this season, looking ponderous on the ball. The two Argentines inject life and urgency into the attacks and make others increase their speed of thought.
— Alasdair Gold (@AlasdairGold) January 14, 2020
I’ll say it again, Lo Celso is absolutely quality. I can’t stress how good he’s gonna be for us man, get him in on a permanent.
— LP ☬ (@thfclp__) January 14, 2020
Jose Mourinho should start with “Giovani Lo Celso is my most important player” and build his tactic out from there, thanks
— Kim McCauley (@lgbtqfc) January 14, 2020
Having scored his side’s opener, the midfielder was clearly galvanised by his goal and was instrumental in all of Spurs’ forays forward.
After Lamela had added a second, Lo Celso’s perfectly weighted pass almost allowed Tanganga to score a third but the right-back’s shot went narrowly wide.
The 23-year-old was a thorn in the Boro side time and time again, pressing the back three relentlessly and linking well with his fellow attackers when in possession.
Key Talking Point
Boro’s game plan went totally out of the window as Mejias – who had played under Mourinho at Real Madrid – gave his old boss an almighty freebie.
With no less than two minutes on the clock, the 30-year-old Spaniard, making only his second start in four years with the club, was guilty of overplaying.
His passed clearance went straight to the feet of Lo Celso who made the keeper pay by tucking the ball away.
It was the worst possible start for boss and former Spurs manager Woodgate, who found his side immediately up against, a situation from which they never recovered.
They soon found themselves 2-0 down and in spite of fleeting moments, they will look mournfully back on the calamitous opening to the game that immediately gave Spurs the impetus.
In spite of a stirring fightback near the end, Boro weren’t able to find an equaliser and ultimately Mejías’ faux-pas proved very costly indeed.
Starting XI: Mejías (4); Howson (6), McNair (6), Fry (6); Clayton (6), Spence (7*), Johnson (6), Liddle (5), Wing (6); Nmecha (6), Fletcher, (5)
Subs: Saville (7), Gestede (6), Tavernier (6),
STAR MAN: Djed Spence
The 19-year-old showed reason to believe that he has a bright future in the game and was the one standout for Boro.
Squaring up against Ryan Sessegnon, he didn’t seem fazed and was more than a match for his Tottenham counterpart.
The two goals have well truly knocked the stuffing out of us, but they were self-inflicted.
There’s a difference in class of course, but we need to at least try and take the game to them, especially now as we’ve nothing to lose.
Spence has been the shining light for us. #boro
— Ian Smith (@Smithy_MFC84) January 14, 2020
Have Spurs been good or Boro bad or a combination of the two?
Home team very quick and slick and should have scored more but Boro haven’t helped themselves. Sloppy and sluggish in defence and midfield. Not as at it as recent games. Spence the bright spark.
— Dominic Shaw (@DomShawGazette) January 14, 2020
Full of endeavour and running, he battled away on Boro’s right flank all evening and offered a constant outlet for the Teessiders.
Calm and composed on the ball, he showed a maturity beyond his years and on this competent display, it’s easy to see why he was named the EFL Young Player of the Month for December.
Up next for Mourinho’s men is a tough-looking Premier League trip to Vicarage Road on Saturday to face a Watford side who are bang in form.
As for Boro, Johnathan Woodgate’s charges face a visit to Craven Cottage to take on play-off chasing Fulham in the Championship on Friday night.