Running beyond a deep dropping centre forward saw two goals scored. However, our FA Cup 5th round tie finished Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham at Spotland Stadium.
The pitch wasn’t the only talking point during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham in our FA Cup 5th Round clash. Mauricio Pochettino constantly ran two quick players in to the space beyond a deep dropping centre forward. The tactic paid dividends with two goals.
Throwing the Kitching sink
The first half started with Rochdale causing problems through their set up and closing down.
Keith Hill opted for a 3-5-2 system and continually pressed our centre backs on a slippery surface. Newly re-laid pitches are notorious for giving way underfoot. The Rochdale boss wanted to expose the potential for an error from the off. Just seconds in to the game and Toby Alderweireld lost his feet, almost gifting Rochdale an early opportunity.
Going with two strikers allowed Rochdale to close down both our centre backs. As a result, Victor Wanyama was dropping in-between them in order to bring the ball out.
The tactic allowed Tottenham to move possession forward with ease as the game wore on, but initially we had problems. Rochdale could send one of their midfield trio to close Wanyama, limiting his time on the ball. The ploy almost paid off as Cannon stripped a pondering Wanyama, but Ian Henderson couldn’t convert.
Quick closing down did pay off just prior to half time, as Rochdale were rewarded for their persistent pressing. Mark Kitching took the ball off Harry Winks and started a counter attack at an exposed defence.
Juan Foyth was drawn out from the back line to cover Stephen Humphrys on the initial pass. Toby Alderweireld was therefore left playing Ian Henderson onside. Alderweireld was first drawn towards the striker, but then broke his run off to challenge Andrew Cannon on the ball.
Alderweireld’s change of decision left himself in no man’s land. Henderson arrived to neatly stroke the ball in to the corner of the net and put Rochdale 1-0 up.
Spurs were shaky given Alderweireld’s deployment at left centre back. Coupled with our difficulties against Rochdale’s pressing, an upset seemed on the cards.
Spurs speed off the striker
The bright point for Tottenham was the combination of the hold-up play of Fernando Llorente with the speed of Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min. Both attacking midfielders pelted forward with frequent bursts beyond the deep dropping striker.
Llorente’s goal touch may have deserted him, but his feet still remain dangerously adept and possess an excellent weight of pass. He created the first real opening as he exchanged with Son in a neat one-two. Later, Llorente sent the Korean scampering through as he held up, span and laid in a perfectly weighted pass.
Son saw his shot saved. Llorente then took the rebound and calmly cut back inside, but rashly fired his left foot shot past the post.
Lucas and Llorente
The ploy by Pochettino to surround Fernando Llorente with quick players to run past him paid off as we levelled the scores.
Lucas Moura’s dribbles had been a feature of the first half. The Brazilian would combine with Llorente’s hold up play to fire his first Spurs goal.
Moura started the move by taking the ball from the back and fizzed it in to Llorente’s feet. The striker had drawn centre back Jimmy McNulty out with him. Space was now left behind and Moura headed straight for it.
Moussa Sissoko was the recipient of Llorente’s lay off. Seeing the space and Moura’s run, Sissoko wasted no time in hitting the wide forward’s run.
Moura made no mistake as he calmly slotted home over the onrushing keeper. The score was now Rochdale 1-1 Tottenham and we were gaining momentum.
Change of personnel
The goal had come from Pochettino’s tactic to continue running players off the deeper dropping Fernando Llorente. However, it was achieved through a change of shape that had three aims.
Firstly, to force wingback Joseph Rafferty, who had been getting forward extremely effectively in the first half, to retreat. Secondly, to switch Toby Alderweireld and Juan Foyth in order to get the Belgian on the ball on his preferred right side. Thirdly, to get Lucas Moura in to the space Rafferty had been leaving.
Speed running off Kane
The personnel changed, but the tactic to have the striker drop deep to draw a centre back out and run speed in to the space continued. Harry Kane entered the game for Fernando Llorente and persisted with the plan.
By this time Dele Alli and Erik Lamela had also joined the action and both looked to make surging runs. The pair was heavily involved as we won a penalty with minutes remaining.
Now on his preferred right side, the passage of play started with a gorgeous sweeping pass from Toby Alderweireld. Harry Kane then dropped deep to pull centre back Harrison McGahey out from the back line.
Lamela took the ball from Kane’s layoff and surged past the striker in to the space created. His neat pass found the even quicker Danny Rose jetting past him and bearing down on goal.
Rose was initially stopped, but the defence was out of position and now in panic mode. Lamela swept in to see his shot blocked, but it fell nicely for Dele Alli who had continued his run past Harry Kane. The recovering McGahey upended Dele and Referee Bobby Madley pointed to the spot.
A confident Harry Kane fired the spot kick in to the bottom corner beyond the outstretched arm of Josh Lillis. Victory now seemed assured.
Throughout the match, Rochdale had two avenues to goal. Closing and counter attacking had seen their goal scored and best chances created. However, crosses from the wingbacks had equally seen them flood the box with players to get on the end of them.
Right wingback Joseph Rafferty had been the main source, but left-sided Matt Done would set up a shock last-minute equaliser.
Spurs initially had what they wanted. A back pass to the keeper that was punted downfield under pressure. Victor Wanyama won the header, but as it ricocheted off the back of Mark Kitching’s head, Rochdale suddenly had their preferred means of attack.
Steve Davies picked up the loose ball, instantly sent it out to Done and then sprinted for the penalty area. While this was happening, Spurs were caught too tight closing up centrally to control the long clearance. Moussa Sissoko, who was now operating alongside Victor Wanyama in defensive midfield, and Kieran Trippier, were both caught too narrow.
Both Sissoko and Trippier raced out to challenge Done, but on getting close didn’t charge down the cross. Done was allowed to get his ball in to the box where Rochdale had numbers. As he stretched to try and head clear, Toby Alderweireld got a glancing touch on the ball that helped Davies. The substitute took controlled and swiftly swept the ball in to the corner of the net, sparking righteous Rochdale celebrations.
From having seemingly struck the killer blow from the penalty spot, it was suddenly Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham. An FA Cup replay at Wembley was the home side’s reward for a spirited performance.
Rochdale 2-2 Spurs overall
A newly re-laid pitch made it difficult, but so too did Rochdale’s approach to the game. The home side closed down well, but equally broke quickly upon winning the ball and were dangerous in crossing situations.
To expose Rochdale playing three centre backs, Mauricio Pochettino had our striker drop short and used quicker players to burst off him. A neat ploy that worked on both our goals. Could this be one way how Mauricio Pochettino will work the newly signed Lucas Moura in to the team?
Final score: Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.
MOTM: Lucas Moura.