Tottenham concedes late at third-tier Rochdale, forced into undesirable FA Cup replay

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Rochdale’s Steven Davies celebrates his late equalizer against Tottenham in the FA Cup. (Getty)
Rochdale’s Steven Davies celebrates his late equalizer against Tottenham in the FA Cup. (Getty)

A home game against third-tier Rochdale shouldn’t be any impediment to Tottenham’s progress in the FA Cup. But it was exactly what Spurs hoped to avoid when they travelled to the League One basement-dwellers in the fifth round on Sunday.

And they looked to have avoided an unnecessary replay at Wembley when Dele Alli tumbled in the box, and Harry Kane dispatched an 88th-minute penalty. The spot kick completed Spurs’ comeback, put them up 2-1, and seemingly put them into the quarterfinals.

But in the last 90 seconds of stoppage time, Rochdale’s Steven Davies lashed home a goal that will be worth over $1 million to the Manchester-area minnows:


Davies’ goal sends the two sides back to London for a do-or-die rematch in eight or nine days’ time. The game will be an annoyance for the Premier League outfit, whose calendar is getting clogged.

But it will be a financial boon for a club in danger of relegation to the fourth division. Rochdale, win or lose, will get 45 percent of the matchday revenue, plus another TV payday. That seven-figure sum will be a significant portion of its annual revenue. That’s why Davies’ goal meant so much “The Dale,” its fans, and particularly its owners and chairman.

That, however, won’t be any consolation to Tottenham, which already added 90 minutes to its calendar with a 1-1 draw at fourth-tier Newport County last round. It eased through the replay, a 2-0 victory. But the miles on players’ legs are piling up, especially with progression to the Champions League quarterfinals now a real possibility.

That’s one of the reasons Mauricio Pochettino made a full 11 changes from the 2-2 Champions League draw at Juventus on Tuesday. As expected, his reserves – which included Heung-Min Son, Victor Wanyama, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld – were still superior, both physically and technically.

But they lacked cutting edge, and didn’t avoid critical mistakes. One of a few sloppy first-half moments led to the game’s opener.

Harry Winks, who has battled injuries, tried to glide past an opponent near midfield, but was stripped of possession. Rochdale broke expertly, and Ian Henderson finished off the move with a clean first-time finish:


The goal shortly before halftime had the home team and home fans buoyant. Spurs, though not exactly quaking in their boots, were surely shaken. They’d created for themselves an unnecessarily tough task.

But just before the hour mark, they were level, and they had their newest signing to thank. Lucas Moura, on his full debut, kept his composure under pressure and lifted a left-footed finish past Rochdale keeper Josh Lillis:


Pochettino introduced his big guns over the final half-hour. Erik Lamela, Alli and Kane all came on with designs on avoiding the replay. Manager and players knew the importance. And Alli and Kane appeared to have come through:


But Davies sent Rochdale jumping for joy, and sent them to Wembley. Pochettino will likely trot out a second-string team once again, and Spurs will be favored. But for the moment, that won’t matter one bit to the League One stragglers.

 

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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