Seventh heaven at Prenton Park!
Tranmere Rovers 0-7 Spurs
Fri 04 January 2019, 21:36|Tottenham Hotspur
Fernando Llorente bagged a hat-trick and Serge Aurier marked his return to action with a brace as we racked up our biggest ever away win on a chilly Friday evening at Tranmere Rovers.
Centre-forward Llorente, on only his second start of the season, took the FA Cup third round tie away from the League Two side with our second goal of the night just after half-time before completing his treble with two in a minute as we went up through the gears at Prenton Park.
Right-back Aurier, absent for our last eight games following a groin problem, swirled in his first goal of the season towards the end of a first half which we largely dominated in terms of possession without converting our chances before squeezing a second through the hands of goalkeeper Scott Davies, who had kept his side in the tie before the floodgates opened after the break.
Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane added their names to the scoresheet - Kane moving level with 1961 Double-winner Cliff Jones into fourth place in our all-time top goalscorers' list on 159 goals as a result - while there were second-half debuts for Development Squad stars George Marsh and TJ Eyoma on a satisfying night all round.
Dele Alli was named captain as Mauricio Pochettino made eight changes to the side that won at Cardiff City on New Year's Day and was influential in the middle of the park in the second period as we ran rampant in front of goal, having been left frustrated at times in the opening 40 minutes. Son was denied one-on-one by Davies and Lucas Moura shot tamely at the keeper as a couple of early opportunities were spurned, factors which seemed to encourage Tranmere for a little spell, but we were professional off the ball, frequently winning 50-50 challenges, pouncing on turnovers and had 76.4 per cent possession in that first half - you felt it would only be a matter of time before we turned that into goals.
The breakthrough arrived five minutes before the interval as our short corner was eventually repelled, James Norwood tried to hold the ball up 30 yards out but Juan Foyth stuck his foot out to divert it into Aurier's path, he went straight on the front foot and sent the ball flying into the top corner via a slight deflection from 25 yards.
Having forged ahead, we put the tie to bed with three goals in the first 12 minutes of the second half. Aurier's flick set Son free to reach the byline on the right before cutting back for Llorente to fire in on 48 minutes before Aurier himself latched onto Son's pass and scored his second of the night from the right side of the box on 55 minutes. Neither Davies nor Mark Ellis on the line could keep it out.
Aurier had been influential at the other end in between those goals, getting a slight touch on Harvey Gilmour's effort following a flicked-on throw-in to divert it over the bar as Tranmere tried to mount a response. Lucas went tumbling down under Davies' challenge after putting himself through on goal with a deft first touch but play continued and just two minutes after Aurier's second goal, Son ran from inside our half into the left channel before squeezing a shot past Davies from the angle to make it 4-0.
With the game well and truly won, Llorente took centre stage with two neat left-footed finishes to complete his second hat-trick for us - the first having arrived in the same competition during last season's fifth-round replay against Rochdale. Latching onto an excellent through ball from central midfield by Oliver Skipp, he rolled the ball past Davies on 71 minutes before bringing up his treble within 60 seconds, clipping in with a first-time finish at the near post following Lucas' ball in from the left.
Still we hunted down Rovers and Kane - on for Llorente moments earlier - had the final say with a composed finish from inside the box on the left after being fed by Dele, who by that stage was dominating the midfield areas.
The timing of our second goal was ideal as we dealt a massive blow to the hosts just after half-time.
Leading 1-0, we doubled our advantage when Son got to the byline on the right and pulled the ball back across for Llorente to blast into the gaping net.
Although Tranmere tried to rally, that was really the goal that ended the tie as a contest, allowing us to push on and show our quality.
Manager Mauricio was pleased to learn of the new record set for our biggest ever away win, but insisted the performance and the mentality of the players was the most important thing to take away from the display at Prenton Park.
Speaking to Spurs TV, he said: "Yes, another record that we’ve broken! It’s good. The most important thing is that we showed good mental strength.
"The mentality was good, the attitude... that’s the way. You can win or lose in football but if you keep your standard, that’s so important.
"It was a very solid performance. Of course, the first half was so tough, so difficult to open the scoring but after that in the second half we were very clinical in front of goal."
Skipper Dele spoke about our relentless attacking display after being made to wait for the breakthrough by a stubborn Tranmere side.
"We all enjoy playing together, we all want to play the same way and we know the philosophy we have here," he said. "We all want to get the ball up high, move it quickly, interchange and make it difficult for the other team. We did that today.
"We’re all happy for Fernando because he works so hard, he came in, took his chance and scored a hat-trick - he couldn’t do more."
Reaction on Spurs TV
Tranmere Rovers 0-7 Spurs
Tranmere Rovers (3-5-2): Davies, Monthe, Ellis, McNulty (c), Caprice, McCullough, Harris (Banks 58), Gilmour, Ridehalgh, Jennings (Mullin 83), Norwood. Substitutes (not used): Passant, Buxton, Bakayogo, Stockton, Sutton.
Spurs (3-4-2-1): Gazzaniga, Foyth, Sanchez (Eyoma 79), Davies, Aurier, Skipp, Dele (c), Walker-Peters, Lucas, Son (Marsh 65), Llorente (Kane 74). Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Alderweireld, Sissoko, Eriksen.
Goals: Spurs - Aurier 40, 55, Llorente 48, 71, 72, Son 57, Kane 82.
Yellow card: Tranmere - Banks 87.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Venue: Prenton Park, Birkenhead.
Weather: Light cloud, five degrees.