It may have felt like a lifetime ago, but Spurs returned to action eight days after defeating Sheffield United to face Wycombe Wanderers in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The competition’s draw has been quite generous to Jose Mourinho’s team so far, putting them in a David vs Goliath match up with eight-tier Marine and then bottom of the Championship Wycombe.
Tottenham had made ten changes from the side that won 3-1 at Bramall Lane, with stand-in captain Ben Davies being the only player to remain. Gareth Bale was given the opportunity to start his first game in a month, having recovered from a calf injury sustained against Stoke in the Carabao Cup quarter final.
Gareth Bale should have given Spurs the lead in the opening five minutes, as the Welshman connected with Lucas Moura’s corner but his header was wide of the Wycombe post.
Only a couple minutes later and accomplished backup goalkeeper Joe Hart was all that stood in the way of the hosts taking the lead. A flicked header from Leicester City loanee, Admiral Muskwe looked destined for the top corner but the former England number one was able to claw the shot away for a corner.
Not long after regaining control of the fixture, another opportunity arose for Bale as the ball fell to him on the edge of the eighteen yard box but he failed to convert once again.
Despite having come close to conceding on multiple occasions, the Chairboys were able to take the lead in the 25th minute after Davinson Sanchez’ attempted block landed perfectly for an incoming Fred Onyedinma to slot into the bottom left corner.
Shortly after going ahead, Gareth Ainsworth was forced into making a change due to injury. Joe Jacobson had tried to battle through the pain but was clearly not in any condition to continue and was subsequently substituted for Darius Charles.
It seemed as if it just wasn’t going to be Tottenham’s night in the closing stages of the first half, with efforts from Moussa Sissoko and Japhet Tanganga smacking the crossbar.
After trying to find a breakthrough all half, Spurs fans were able to take a sigh of relief. Gareth Bale finally took advantage of the lack of concentration from Wycombe’s defenders by getting on the end of a Lucas Moura cross before guiding the ball into the back of the net.
Jose Mourinho had decided to go with a new approach for the second half, as Japhet Tanganga made way for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. A move that would see Moussa Sissoko play the right-back position instead of his usual role in the heart of the midfield.
Not much had changed for the two sides after the restart, Spurs were unable to make their numerous chances count while Wycombe sat back and hoped to take advantage of the few chances that they had.
The sixty minute mark seemed to be when Mourinho had seen enough as superstars Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Tanguy Ndombele entered the frame over the course of the next fifteen minutes in place of Carlos Vinicius, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela.
Gareth Ainsworth tried to counter the opposing substitutions by making a few of his own over the same time span. Matt Bloomfield, Admiral Muskwe and Uche Ikpeazu had their time cut short and were replaced by Garath McClary, Scott Kashket and fan-favourite Adebayo Akinfenwa.
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min continued the Lilywhites’ streak of not finding the back of the net but a new sense of danger could be felt upon their arrival.
Harry Winks would break the hearts of many Wycombe fans in the 86th minute, as he broke the deadlock with a curling effort from twenty yards out. A goalmouth scramble had led to a poor clearance from the defender which eventually fell to the England international.
It seemed as if Spurs just needed that late goal to spring into action, as Tanguy Ndombele would increase the lead just a minute later with a calm one touch finish into the bottom eight corner.
With just a minute remaining in added time you would expect Spurs to just maintain possession and see the match through, but Ndombele had other ideas. The Frenchman would remind everyone that he is one of the most technically gifted footballers in the world by dancing his way into space, before using an outrageous piece of skill to split the two defenders and strike the ball between them for his second goal of the game.
Ndombele’s game consisted of two shots on target, two goals, sixteen touches, three duels won, two key passes, one big chance created and a 75% pass completion in only twenty-two minutes of action.
Jose Mourinho admitted that he feared his side would be taken to extra time by the Championship outfit.
What can we do? We want to progress in the competition. We don’t want to throw it away. We don’t want to lose. We needed a good strong team and a good strong bench.
“It would be more of a problem with 30 minutes extra time because Kane’s 30 minutes becomes 60 and so on, but hopefully nothing. I didn’t see huge fatigue. Ben Davies, I hope just a bad feeling and not anything on his calf.
“But I knew that the game was going to be difficult. We prepared the game knowing it could be hard and it was. It’s not easy to handle their style of play.
“I showed the players clips of when we played them four years ago and it was a difficult game then and it was again.”
Everton will be Tottenham’s opponents in the fifth round of the FA Cup, having beaten Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday.
Spurs will now be looking to avenge their last minute defeat at the hands of Liverpool on Thursday. With only a point separating the two teams a win for the North London side would take them five points behind leaders Manchester City.
By Reece Coughlan