Saturday, January 28, 2012

Watford 0 Tottenham 1 FA Cup 4th Round

With a single goal from Rafael Van der Vaart, Tottenham became the first club to reach the 5th Round of the 2012 FA Cup and that's about the best that can be said for the match and Spurs' performance at Vicarage Road.
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FA Cup 4th Round
Watford 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Scorer: Van der Vaart

Team: Cudicini; Walker, Dawson, Kaboul, Rose; Van der Vaart, Livermore, Parker, Modric (Lennon); Defoe (Pienaar), Adebayor (Pavlyuchenko) Subs (unused): Friedel, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto, Kranjcar

Spurs First to Reach FA Cup 5th Round (just!!)

Goalscorer: Rafael Van der Vaart
Tottenham became the first team to reach the FA Cup 5th Round as the match at Vicarage Road ended just ahead of the one at Goodison Park but in another sense they just managed to beat Championship side, Watford, thanks to a goal from Rafael Van der Vaart a few minutes before half-time.

The Spurs team contained six players who started last weekend's game against Manchester City showing that Harry Redknapp realises the importance of winning some silverware this season.  Carlo Cudicini, Michael Dawson, Danny Rose, Jake Livermore and Emmanuel Adebayor came into a team which contained eight full internationals.  With Spurs lacking pace and width it was much easier for the Championship side to contain them and Watford set out with purpose taking the game to their Premier League opponents.

Early enterprise from Watford saw Cudicini parry a shot which a defender cleared and then a dangerous cross to the near post was knocked wide with defenders nowhere and Cudicini relieved.  A long range effort passed wide for the home side with Tottenham offering little threat to the home defenders.  It wasn't until almost the half-hour mark that Spurs managed their first attempt on goal - a weak shot from Jermain Defoe.

While Watford were hard working, industrious and much quicker to every ball, Spurs' display was akin to their home performance against PAOK Salonika when defeat ultimately led to their elimination from the Europa League.  Their passing often fell short and was inaccurate, they were slow on the ball and were often caught in possession and they resorted to playing hopeful long balls forward which caused no problem to the Watford defence.

With such a lacklustre performance Spurs were fortunate to go ahead three minutes before half-time.  Watford had just created some confusion in the Tottenham penalty area which Spurs managed to scramble clear to Kyle Walker who broke at pace and passed the ball on to Van der Vaart having crossed the halfway line.  Van der Vaart for the first occasion found time and space in the Watford half and proceeded towards the goal with options of a pass both left and right but from thirty yards shot and as the ball bounced in front of Scott Loach, the goalkeeper's mistake ensured Spurs were ahead. 

Aaron Lennon replaced a very out of sorts, Luka Modric, at half time but Watford continued to press and could have levelled early in the half following some shambolic defending by Spurs.  It all started with a poor goalkick out by Cudicini putting the defence under pressure and as Dawson gave the ball away, it was only a finger tip save by the veteran goalkeeper that retrieved the situation as he touched Sean Murray's shot onto the post and the rebound was blazed over.

Spurs best attack of the evening saw a Rose cross met by Kyle Walker and pushed over by the goalkeeper. 

Watford always looked more likely to score as Spurs continued to concede possession with sloppy defending and only occasionally offered anything of an attacking threat although a Van der Vaart shot hit the bar after he combined well with Lennon and Defoe with just over an hour played.

Spurs failed to learn from earlier mistakes and nearly conceded after giving the ball away outside their own area.  Such were Spurs attacking limitations that it was only with about fifteen minutes remaining that I realised that Emmanuel Adebayor was still on the pitch as he chased a ball out after defending a corner, so anonymous had he been in the second half.

Cudicini saved for a corner from a high dropping cross and then Watford struck the outside of the post for a second time from the corner.  Watford who had lost their last three League games were giving Spurs a fright and brought on former Tottenham player Mark Yeates.

Cudicini again saved and then again as he blocked with his feet from a free-kick and a defender cleared.  With ten minutes remaining a fierce drive was blocked by Dawson who knew nothing about it as Watford continued to seek an equaliser and an opportunity of the replay their performance deserved. 

Spurs held out and maintained their unbeaten Cup record against Watford but it was the home side who deservedly received all the credit as their attempts on goal was over three times greater that Tottenham's and their performance was far superior than suggested by their position in the Championship.

Spurs progress with their first 1 - 0 FA Cup 4th Round success since defeating Leeds United in 1982. and they went on to win the Cup that year.  An omen, perhaps, but performances would need to show considerable improvement for any such dream to become reality.


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