Tottenham 0 Crystal Palace 1
If only Crystal Palace were as adept at beating Premier League teams in the actual Premier League, their last two months might have been considerably less vexatious. Three times they have faced top-flight opposition in this FA Cup run, and three times they have won without so much as a replay, a feat that has taken them beyond the fifth round for the first time since 1995.
Without a win in nine league games, and against a side that had won seven and lost none of their last eight in all competitions, Martin Kelly’s first-half goal, a bit of good fortune and some resolute defending allowed Palace to end Tottenham’s triple-pronged assault on silverware.
After conceding in stoppage time at the end of the first half Spurs controlled much of the second as Palace sought to frustrate and try their best on the counter, leaving Emmanuel Adebayor alone in attack. But while he will no doubt savour the result this was not to be a dream return to White Hart Lane for the Togolese striker, who made little impact and will be most remembered for the moment in the second half when he tried to keep possession on the left wing, twisted, turned, slipped, fell and let the ball roll harmlessly out of play.
His departure was cheered by both sets of fans, with Palace’s delighted mainly by the identity of his replacement. Yannick Bolasie’s importance to this team has become increasingly obvious in his absence through injury, which has coincided with their Premier League travails, and his return offered some encouragement that the Eagles can end the season in the highly encouraging manner in which it was started. Four minutes after he came on, Bolasie sprinted unmarked into the box as Connor Wickham ran down the left and cut inside, only for the striker to ignore the pass in favour of a shot straight into the nearest defender. Then, two minutes from time, Bolasie’s shot was turned in by Wickham in front of the away fans, only for the referee’s assistant to curtail their celebrations with a raised flag. They would not have long to wait before launching into song once again.
It was a largely unexceptional encounter in which, despite Adebayor’s much-hyped presence, Palace’s most potent attacking threat in the first half was a helpful breeze. Optimistic punts forward were repeatedly turned into dangerous through balls that seemed to gather pace the further they flew, while Tottenham’s clearances stalled and sank without reaching the halfway line. Thus Wayne Hennessey became both goalkeeper and playmaker, with Scott Dann excellently controlling one long ball before rolling a pass into the area but just beyond Joe Ledley, while another sent Adebayor racing towards goal, Michel Vorm just reaching the ball first at the expense of a corner. A third was unintentionally headed over Vorm by Kyle Walker, the goalkeeper just racing back to scramble the ball off the line.
The goalkeeper played no part in the winning goal, though two members of the back four had key roles. The first was Joel Ward, who won the ball from Dele Alli with a crunching tackle on the left flank. From there it was worked, via Wilfried Zaha, to Kelly on the right, who benefited from the space afforded him by Danny Rose’s slip, steadied himself and then hammered a shot past Vorm at his near post.
Alli could have had two goals of his own by then, but his diving header from Tottenham’s first corner of the day flew straight at Yohan Cabaye on the line, while his 22nd-minute shot, picking up the loose ball after Son’s fine run into the penalty area had finally been stopped, rolled against one post, across the line and into the other before being cleared by Ward.
But as the second half began Alli turned from likely scorer to aspiring creator, twice feeding Kane for shots that were either saved or deflected away from goal for corners, before siding a fine low cross from the right that was missed by Kane at the near post and by Josh Onomah at the far. Given all that, Alli can hardly be blamed for deciding, when next he got the ball in a promising position, to attempt a 25-yard shot, the ball arrowing just wide of goal.
Spurs continued to press, but the Palace defence grew in authority as the minutes passed, and when Onomah’s 85th-minute cross-shot was booted clear by Dann their hopes of a domestic double soared into the distance along with the ball.