Dele spot on to send us through in cup
Spurs 2-2 Watford (4-2 on penalties)
Wed 26 September 2018, 22:11|Tottenham Hotspur
Dele Alli marked his return to Stadium MK with two decisive penalties – one in normal time and one in the subsequent shootout – to book our place in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup after a dramatic victory against Watford on Wednesday evening.
Returning to the place where he made his name as a youngster, Dele was made captain for the third round outing - officially a home tie for us - and produced two clinical finishes from 12 yards. His first came on 81 minutes when he levelled the score at 1-1 after Isaac Success had given Watford a 46th-minute lead.
But it was his second that won us the tie. With the match having ended in a 2-2 draw – Erik Lamela’s 86th-minute strike was cancelled out by former Spur Etienne Capoue three minutes later – we went straight to a penalty shootout and, with Paulo Gazzaniga making fine saves from Capoue and Domingos Quina, it was almost poetic that Dele should drill home the winning kick.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino made eight changes to the side which beat Brighton on Saturday, with only Gazzaniga, Toby Alderweireld and Lucas Moura keeping their places, but the team still boasted 10 full internationals.
The game was mostly a midfield battle in the first half, neither side really creating too much in front of goal. The closest we came was Lucas’ dangerous ball across the face of the six-yard box but there was no-one on hand to tap home.
At the other end, Gazzaniga saved easily from Success, Serge Aurier denied Ken Sema inside the area as he shaped to shoot and Marc Navarro tested Gazzaniga from distance on three separate occasions, but the goalkeeper was equal to each effort and it remained goalless at the break.
But while the first half was uneventful, the second period was just 36 seconds old when Kiko Femenia beat Davinson Sanchez to the ball midway inside our half and played in Success, who held off Aurier and blasted right-footed past Gazzaniga.
The goal brought the game to life and we certainly had more impetus to our attacking threats as we searched for the equaliser. Dele’s volley on the turn flew over, Moussa Sissoko had a shot from 15 yards blocked, with claims for handball waved away by referee Lee Mason, Aurier’s fine cross was headed over by substitute Fernando Llorente and Ben Wilmot cleared off the line from Heung-Min Son, also on as a sub.
In between those latter two chances though, Sema had a chance to wrap up the tie for the visitors but completely missed his kick in front of goal and it was to prove costly as we levelled with nine minutes remaining. Dele broke into the area and was angling towards goal when he was upended by Christian Kabasele, referee Mason pointing straight to the spot and sending off the Watford substitute, who had only been on the pitch for four minutes. We had been reduced to 10 men moments earlier as Aurier limped off, with all three substitutes used. Dele duly stepped up and, although ex-Spur Heurelho Gomes went the right way, the England international’s penalty had enough on it to find the back of the net.
Within five minutes we were ahead. Watford had a free-kick inside our half which was cleared and we were immediately on the attack. Harry Winks fed the marauding Mousa Dembele down the right channel and he found Lamela, bursting from deep, who raced onto the ball and clipped it past Gomes.
That should have been game over, but Watford hit back in the 89th minute when Nathaniel Chalobah drifted in from the left and found substitute Capoue, whose low curling shot from just outside the area beat Gazzaniga.
And so to penalties. Success stepped up first for Watford and scored, Son did likewise to level it up but we then took the advantage as Gazzaniga saved Capoue’s effort low down to his right. Lamela buried his penalty and we led 2-1 after two kicks each.
Next up for the visitors was Will Hughes who converted, as did Llorente with real authority, driving high into the roof of the net. And when Gazzaniga then denied Quina, it was left to the man of the moment to seal the victory – Dele once again beating Gomes to secure a 4-2 win on penalties.
It looked like there were going to be a number of key moments in the game, Dele’s penalty in normal time to level it up at 1-1, Lamela’s goal moments later which appeared to be the winner, or the dramatic equaliser from Capoue in the dying seconds of the game. It could be argued that Gazzaniga’s two saves were pivotal to the win, but ultimately it has to come down to the winning spot-kick in the shootout.
Having already beaten Gomes once from 12 yards, there was added pressure on Dele as he stepped up to take our fourth kick but perhaps feeling at home in surroundings he knows so well, he embraced the moment and secured victory with an assured finish.
"For us, I wanted to step up and score the winning penalty," said Dele afterwards. "It was a great reaction from the boys after conceding late to come back and win on penalties."
Manager Mauricio saluted players and fans alike after watching the drama unfold at Stadium MK.
"We are so happy for the fans and the players because we go through and now we wait for the draw for the next round," he said. "Maybe it wasn’t a great performance but the team fought and I think the personality we showed at the end taking the penalties and winning the game is a fantastic signal for us.
"There are periods in football where all is against you and we are suffering in the last few games a lot of negative things. The most important thing is to keep working, keep pushing, keep being strong and maybe we deserved to win the game 2-1 after the second half but I think it was good, the character, and it’s a positive result."
Reaction on Spurs TV
Spurs 2-2 Watford (4-2 on penalties)
Spurs (4-4-2): Gazzaniga, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies, Wanyama (Dembele 64), Winks, Sissoko (Son 64), Dele (c), Lucas (Llorente 70), Lamela. Substitutes (not used): Whiteman, Walker-Peters, Foyth, Dier.
Watford (4-5-1): Gomes, Navarro (Kabasele 77), Cathcart, Mariappa (c), Masina, Femenia (Hughes 69), Wilmot, Chalobah, Quina, Sema (Capoue 84), Success. Substitutes (not used): Dahlberg, Holebas, Pereyra, Gray.
Watford - Success - scored
Spurs - Son - scored
Watford - Capoue - saved
Spurs - Lamela - scored
Watford - Hughes - scored
Spurs - Llorente - scored
Watford - Quina - saved
Spurs - Dele - scored
Goals: Spurs – Dele 81 (pen), Lamela 86; Watford – Success 46, Capoue 89.
Yellow card: Spurs – Lamela 87.
Red card: Watford – Kabasele 81.
Referee: Lee Mason.
Venue: Stadium MK, Milton Keynes.
Weather: Clear skies, 12 degrees.