Crystal Palace inflict more misery on Spurs and Pochettino
Tottenham Hotspur dumped out of second cup competition in the space of four days
Conor Wickham scores Crystal Palace’s opener against Spurs. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters
Tottenham Hotspur, a side wearing the scars of a World Cup as well as a draining domestic campaign, have staggered out of their second major cup competition inside four days. This felt a rather meek surrender compared to the Carabao Cup elimination at Chelsea last week, a team whose resources appear to have been stretched to breaking point by injuries succumbing to a Crystal Palace unused to such comfortable occasions on home territory.
Palace had claimed this scalp en route to the final back in 2016 but, while even Roy Hodgson may dare to dream in the aftermath of this success, it was Spurs’ inadequacies which really caught the eye. Without Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Dele Alli, they looked blunt in attack, and leggy in midfield. Too many players are showing the strain. Mauricio Pochettino could only offer a resigned puff of the cheeks at the final whistle before he trudged off down the touchline, hands buried deep in his pockets. Spurs have joined West Ham and Everton in seeing their aspirations in this competition buried in south London on fourth round weekend.
Pochettino had worn the look of a man against whom everything was conspiring from the moment Jeffrey Schlupp collected Joel Ward’s pass and bustled far too easily around Davinson Sanchez to spit away a shot nine minutes in. Paulo Gazzaniga could only parry that attempt out for Connor Wickham, following up, to bundle in his first goal for 799 days. The referee checked the offside, but a player whose career has been badly interrupted by a serious knee injury would not be denied his moment. The emotion of his celebration, thumping the turf gleefully, said everything. Yet conceding to such a ring-rusty striker damned the visitors.
They might have been beaten by the break. Kyle Walker-Peters’ inexplicable handball, as he leapt to reach a Wilfried Zaha centre with Wickham at his back, would present the home side with a penalty which Andros Townsend duly buried. The former Spurs winger should have added a third from Patrick van Aanholt’s pass moments later but, even with that opportunity struck wastefully at Gazzaniga, Tottenham did not seem in the mood to revive.
Julian Speroni would twice deny Georges-Kevin N’koudou from close-range after a clever free-kick routine. Then, as half-time approached, Van Aanholt’s crude foul on Juan Foyth supplied Spurs with a spot kick of their own. Kieran Trippier, who had not been involved in the shoot-out at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night, seemed unnerved by the ball rolling off the mark as he prepared to convert. Once re-positioned, and with Speroni diving the right way, he blazed his effort wide of the left hand post.
The miss had rather summed up Spurs’ sloppy first-half efforts but, with Erik Lamela flung on, there was more urgency and intent thereafter. Speroni tipped Fernando Llorente’s deflected shot round a post, then blocked again from the Spaniard as he spun inside the six-yard box. If the Argentinean’s 405th appearance for Palace proves to be his last, with Vicente Guaita and Wayne Hennessey likely to be available for the midweek trip to Southampton, then a clean sheet was quite a way to go out.
In truth, Spurs’ monopoly of possession, even inside the hosts’ penalty area, and flurry of corners yielded very few clear-cut opportunities. This was an exit with barely a whimper, and another route to Pochettino’s first silverware cut off.