Published: 8 January, 2017
by DAN CARRIER at White Hart Lane
FA CUP Third Round
SPURS 2, ASTON VILLA 0
SPURS wriggled their way into the fourth round of the FA Cup today (Sunday) after seeing off Championship side Aston Villa – but took 70 minutes to get their noses in front. It was manager Mauricio Pochettino's double substitution, bringing on Dele Alli and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, that finally saw chances created and Villa's stubborn, if unadventurous, efforts seen off.
Speaking after the game, Pochettino praised his players for their patience.
He said: “It is difficult in the FA Cup, and we played a team that had good organisation and it was tough to break them.
“We had lots of possession and showed a lot of patience building from the back. I was very pleased in the end.”
He added that the nine changes to the team that destroyed Chelsea in the league on Wednesday gave fringe players the chance to shine.
He said: “It was a good opportunity for many players to show their quality. At 0-0 we changed the system a bit to try and change the game and from that we scored. I'm pleased for the players that haven't played too much. It is important for them to build their confidence.”
Until the tactical switch, Pochettino's second string were disjointed in possession and took time to settle. When they did break forward, a skiddy surface meant all too often the forward three of Mousa Sissoko, Heung-Min Son and Vincent Janssen looked like their first touch had deserted them, and it was telling that the only time Villa keeper Sam Johnstone touched the ball under pressure in the first half was to punch clear a corner he could have caught, and the closest Spurs came to scoring was when Son and defender James Chester tussled and the Villa player saw his clearance spin past the upright.
Straight from the break, Son managed to connect at the back post with a looping cross but he was crowded out, then Harry Winks broke on the left and nearly picked out Janssen. The struggling Dutch forward was replaced on 59 minutes by Alli and almost immediately Spurs crafted a chance with Son breaking clear and shooting on target. Villa came close with a goalmouth scramble on 65, and then Winks saw a good shot saved three minutes later. Things were heating up, with both teams coming alive as the clock ticked down.
Spurs broke the deadlock on 70 when Alli made space on the left, and Kevin Nkoudou sent a low cross over. Full-back Ben Davies stooped and guided his glancing header expertly into the bottom corner.
The clincher came 10 minutes later, when Nkoudou spread the play, Sissoko beat his man and laid it on for Son to finish smartly.
POOR Vincent Janssen. It's hard to come into a side with so many changes and expect a big, big game from him, but he desperately needs to get minutes under his belt and a goal from somewhere, anywhere. Today was the perfect opportunity to do so. He wasn't helped by a general malaise and tepidness throughout the starting XI, and he cut a dejected figure when his number came up.
Georges-Kevin Nkoudou has yet to start a match, and has but made a handful of substitute appearances. But today his sheer enthusiasm turned things round: his was the cross for the first, and he got things going for the second, too. Pochettino had said when he was signed in the summer Nkoudou was a player who could bring something different to the team, and today we saw a 20-minute cameo of exactly that.
SPURS: Vorm, Alderweireld (Nkoudou, 68), Son, Janssen (Alli, 59), Dier, Trippier, Sissoko (Onomah, 83), Wimmer, Winks, Davies, Carter-Vickers.
Subs: Lopez, Vertonghen, Wanyama, Nkoudou, Alli, Onomah, Walker-Peters.