Early goals see off Boro in FA Cup replay
Spurs 2-1 Middlesbrough
Tue 14 January 2020, 21:59|Tottenham Hotspur
The first-ever FA Cup tie in our new stadium ended with a victory over Middlesbrough in Tuesday's third round replay thanks to goals from Argentine duo Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela.
Both goals came inside the opening stages with Lo Celso getting things started in perfect fashion with a second minute opener before Lamela doubled our lead on 16 minutes during a first half in which we were completely dominant against our Championship visitors, managed by former Spur Jonathan Woodgate with Robbie Keane his assistant.
Boro were much more of a threat in the second period and were rewarded for their efforts with a goal from substitute George Saville with just seven minutes left on the clock. But they didn’t threaten again and instead, we missed a flurry of late chances to seal the win. Ultimately though, the job was completed and we march on to the fourth round, where we face Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday 25 January, kick-off 3pm.
Jose Mourinho made five changes to our starting line-up from the weekend defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League, although young defender Japhet Tanganga kept his place at right-back, while 17-year-old defender Dennis Cirkin was named on the bench for the first time. We were looking for a quick start and got exactly that with the opening goal after just two minutes, Lo Celso capitalising on a defensive error. Boro goalkeeper Tomas Mejias played a short pass out to Marvin Johnson and our Argentine midfielder stole possession, advanced into the area and rolled the ball into the far corner.
The visitors’ first sight of goal came after a quarter-of-an-hour when Davinson Sanchez over-hit a pass to Jan Vertonghen, Djed Spence nipped in and found Lukas Nmecha who moved into the area, chopped back onto his left and hit a low shot which Paulo Gazzaniga got down well to push away. It was a key save as just moments later, Lamela dispossessed Jonny Howson 30 yards from the visitors' goal and raced forwards, poking an early left-foot shot from 12 yards past Mejias to double our lead.
It was pretty much one-way traffic for the rest of the half. Lamela’s half-volley whizzed just over, Ryan Sessegnon broke through down the left channel and hit a low angled drive which Mejias tipped away for a corner and Tanganga almost got on the scoresheet when put away in the right channel but fired his shot just past the far upright. And when Christian Eriksen was brought down 22 yards from goal, the Dane stepped up for the free-kick but Mejias was equal to his low drive. Boro did have a spell of possession inside our half towards the end of the first period and a better final pass on occasions could have caused us problems, but when Vertonghen cut out a dangerous cross in the 39th minute, we countered with blistering speed, Lamela starting the break and Lucas finishing it, but unfortunately sliding his shot the wrong side of Mejias’ post and so we went in 2-0 ahead at the interval.
It was the visitors with the first opportunity of the second half when Tanganga was penalised for handball 20 yards out. Lewis Wing stepped up and curled a free-kick around the wall but Gazzaniga produced an excellent sprawling save to tip it past the post. Boro were having their best spell of the game mid-way through that period, again without really creating clear-cut chances although Gazzaniga was commanding his area well by cutting out crosses, while Nmecha headed over from a corner in the 73rd minute. Three minutes later, substitute Saville’s long-range effort flicked off Lo Celso and hit the top of the net, while at the other end Eriksen delivered a low cross from the left which went through a flurry of players and was heading in until Mejias stuck out a hand to parry it away.
The visitors did get their goal with seven minutes remaining when a long pass flicked off Sanchez’s head and went to Saville, who took on Tanganga, shifted the ball onto his right and hit a low, raking shot that just beat Gazzaniga’s dive, flicked off the post and went in. That led to a tense finale, although we could have extinguished the comeback with another breakaway led by Lo Celso but he couldn’t find Lamela with his final pass, while a fine surge down the right from the excellent Tanganga ended with substitute Heung-Min Son just unable to reach the cross on the stretch. There was an even better chance in the final seconds when Son released fellow substitute Dele Alli in on goal, he cut back and rolled the ball across the six-yard box but just out of reach of Lamela. It mattered not though as the whistle blew to signal our safe passage to round four.
While it was 2-0 and fairly comfortable for much of the contest, Middlesbrough’s late goal ensured that Lamela’s strike proved to be the winner and on this occasion, the key moment of the game. It was all his own work as well, as he won the ball himself and immediately headed for goal, taking his shot early to prevent Boro keeper Mejias from making a save.
Jose Mourinho was pleased to progress to the fourth round in 90 minutes. He told us: "We could finish everything in the first half. We deserved to, so, so well we played from the first minute. High pressure, good reaction to the ball lost, moving the ball very fast, creativity, very good dynamic and very solid in the back. The first half was really three or four, and game over. Then, lots of experience and I told the players ‘if we don’t kill it, if they score, even if that goal is late, we’re going to be in a little trouble’. They scored but after that, no more problems, the team focussed again and we could and should have killed it at 3-1, we had two great chances to do it, but that’s okay, the most important thing is that we go through with no extra 30 minutes and no new injuries, so all good."
Reaction on Spurs TV
Spurs 2-1 Middlesbrough
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga, Tanganga, Sanchez, Vertonghen (c), Sessegnon, Dier (Dele 86), Winks, Lo Celso, Eriksen, Lamela, Lucas (Son 61). Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Aurier, Foyth, Cirkin, Skipp.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Mejias, Spence (Tavernier 74), Howson (c), McNair, Fry, Johnson, Clayton, Liddle (Saville 57), Wing, Nmecha (Gestede 78), Fletcher. Substitutes (not used): Brynn, Wood, Malley, Roberts.
Goals: Spurs – Lo Celso 2, Lamela 16; Middlesbrough – Saville 83.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Weather: Gusty winds, heavy rain, 10 degrees.