Spot-on Spurs book fourth round berth after dramatic League Cup tie with Watford
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League Cup third round: Tottenham Hotspur 2 Watford 2 (4-2 on penalties)
Paulo Gazzaniga was the hero for Tottenham Hotspur in the third round of the League Cup as they defeated Watford 4-2 on penalties at Stadium MK after the clash had ended 2-2 come the end of 90 minutes.
After a dull first half, Isaac Success opened the scoring with a fine finish and it looked like being the winner for a long time.
Eventually Spurs got back on level terms in the 81st minute thanks to Dele Alli, who scored from the spot and then they went ahead through Erik Lamela.
Ex-Tottenham midfielder Etienne Capoue appeared to have the last laugh with a deflected equaliser, but he saw an effort saved in the shoot-out as the Lilywhites won 4-2 on penalties to reach the fourth round.
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Mauricio Pochettino made eight changes to the team which won 2-1 away to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League last weekend.
Toby Alderweireld, Lucas Moura and Gazzaniga retained their starting berth while Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Heung-min Son dropped to the bench.
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It meant a well-deserved night off for Harry Kane as well as Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen.
Coming into the Spurs side were Serge Aurier, Davinson Sanchez, Ben Davies, Harry Winks, Victor Wanyama, Moussa Sissoko, Lamela and captain for the evening Alli, who began his professional career playing at Stadium MK.
MK Dons were lending their home to Tottenham for the night and it was the second ground used by the Lilywhites this season after Wembley Stadium.
Stadium MK also added to Highbury, Upton Park, Stamford Bridge, Millfields Road and the Goldstone Ground in becoming a venue temporary used by Spurs in addition to Wembley, White Hart Lane, Northumberland Park and Tottenham Marshes, which were all more permanent fixed abodes for the club.
In the Watford team was former Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who was making his 150th appearance for the Hornets.
Ben Wilmot, formerly of Stevenage, was also included and the youngster was a player Tottenham were tracking before he made the move to Vicarage Road.
Given this was Spurs playing a good 50 miles away from N17, there was still a decent number of supporters in attendance getting behind the Lilywhites.
Captain for the night Alli was the star attraction for the evening, back in his home town, and he did well in the fifth minute to win a corner with a lung-busting dribble from deep inside his own half.
Lamela’s dangerous set-piece was eventually cleared by Watford, however, and it allowed the away side to ease their way into the third round tie.
Five minutes later and Tottenham threatened again when Alderweireld produced a trademark diagonal pass for Aurier, but his cross was well claimed by Gomes.
Spurs were dominating possession at Stadium MK, but they had failed to create a real chance of note with 20 minutes played.
Two minutes later Tottenham produced their best move of the match with Alli at the heart of it.
The England international spread play out wide to Aurier and his low centre was controlled by Moura, and the Brazilian fired an effort towards goal.
It rolled wide of Gomes’ goal, however, and also evaded Alli, who was stretching to get a touch at the back post.
That opportunity seemed to increase the tempo of the match with Lamela almost getting through on goal moments later before Success tested Gazzaniga from 20-yards with 24 on the clock.
Spurs’ third-choice goalkeeper saved comfortably and was called into action again in the 27th minute when Marc Navarro tried his luck.
Watford appeared to be growing in confidence and forced a corner two minutes later when Ken Sema ran at Aurier, who had got caught dragged inside.
Javi Gracia saw right-back Narvarro let fly from range again, but this effort flew over the crossbar.
On the half an hour mark another chance was created as Success passed inside to Sema, but as he was about to shoot, Aurier got back well to block the effort and stop a potential goalscoring opportunity occurring.
As the Hornets continued to assert their authority on the tie, the visiting fans began to enjoy their trip to Milton Keynes even more and mocked the Spurs supporters with chants of ‘you’re suppose to be at home!’
Tottenham were struggling to get any rhythm into their play and half time arrived at a good time for Pochettino and his coaching staff, who could use the 15-minute interval to remind the team of the game plan.
After finishing the first period sluggishly, Spurs needed a strong, fast start following the restart, but got the opposite.
It took Watford just 36 seconds to take the lead as Kiko Femenia played in Success and he held off Aurier before smashing home from inside the area.
Given how Gracia’s team had ended the opening 45, they deserved their lead and now this incoherent Tottenham side were facing an early exit from the League Cup.
Watford continued to dominate and Femenia tested Gazzaniga in the 51st minute, but the wide-man fired straight at the Argentinean.
A mistake by Craig Cathcart nearly allowed the Lilywhites to equalise five minutes later, as his pass was intercepted by Sissoko and he chipped into Alli’s path, but the ex-MK Dons ace disappointed the home faithful by volleying widely over.
Less than 60 seconds later and Tottenham also equalised again as Aurier cut back for Sissoko, but his goalbound shot was blocked by Watford captain Adrian Mariappa and referee Lee Mason waved away appeals for a penalty.
Finally Spurs had clicked into gear and Davies was the next to have a chance on the hour mark, but he volleyed handsomely over Gomes’ goal.
Even though the Lilywhites were dominating, Pochettino had seen enough and called on the services of Dembele and Son in the 64th minute with Wanyama and Sissoko making way.
Son was straight into the action and had a couple of efforts blocked before Watford made their first substitution with Will Hughes replacing the lively Femania.
Pochettino made his final change with 20 minutes left as Fernando Llorente come on for Moura and three minutes later he should have equalised.
Aurier, who had a solid game, again did well on the right and produced a peach of a cross, but the Spaniard headed over from six-yards.
It was the type of opportunity he would have scored with his eye shuts at Swansea City, but this effort failed to test Gomes.
Then Tottenham had a big let-off as moments after Dembele had done tremendously well to win the ball back, Davies was caught on his heels and Hughes raced into the home penalty area.
Although Alderweireld prevented Nathaniel Chalobah from getting a shot off, the ball rolled for Sema, but he had a complete air kick and the opportunity had gone.
Spurs continued to look for a leveller and thought they had it with quarter of an hour left, but Son, freed by Lamela, saw an effort cleared away from goal by Wilmot.
Gracia made his second substitution with 77 on the clock as Christian Kabasele come on for Navarro, but it proved a fatal decision.
Three minutes later the menacing Lamela played a through ball into Alli’s path and he got ahead of Kabasele and went down inside the area and referee Mason pointed to the spot.
After awarding the spot-kick, Kabasele was given his marching orders less than 180 seconds after coming on.
Man of the moment Alli stepped up and although his penalty lacked pace, it was put in the corner enough to beat Gomes and level the scores.
The former MK Dons ace received a massive ovation from the home faithful after marking his comeback appearance at Stadium MK with a goal.
Now, with nine minutes left, Spurs scented an opportunity to grab a winner and in the 86th minute they thought it had arrived.
A stunning counter-attack which started with Lamela was finished off by the same man to spark jubilant scenes in Milton Keynes.
The Argentine found Winks deep inside his own half and the England youngster put Dembele through on the right, he produced the perfect through ball for Lamela and the attacker wonderfully chipped past Gomes to make it 2-1.
It was a truly stunning goal, but the drama was not over yet and a minute from time the visitors equalised.
Watford kept the ball well deep inside Tottenham’s half and it was worked back to substitute Capoue and his curling effort took a deflection and found its way past Gazzaniga to level the scores.
Four minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the 90, but neither side could find a winner and so it went straight to penalties.
After Success and Son had converted their spot-kicks, Gazzaniga made himself the hero by denying Capoue.
Lamela, Hughes and Llorente all scored from 12-yards and then Quina saw his shot brilliantly stopped by Tottenham’s Argentinean goalkeeper.
It was left to Alli to send Spurs through to the next round and he duly delivered on his special night.
Tottenham will find out their fourth round opponent on Saturday and with Liverpool and Manchester United already out of the competition, they have a good chance of going far in this season’s tournament.
Tottenham Hotspur: Gazzaniga; Aurier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies; Wanyama (Dembele 64); Sissoko (Son 64), Winks; Alli ©; Lamela, Moura (Llorente 70).
Unused substitutes: Whiteman, Foyth, Walker-Peters, Dier.
Watford: Gomes; Navarro (Kabasele 77), Cathcart, Mariappa ©, Masina; Femenia (Hughes 69), Wilmot, Chalobah, Quina, Sema (Capoue 84); Success.
Unused substitutes: Dahlberg, Hoolebas, Pereyra, Gray.