Tottenham have crashed out of the FA Cup following a 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough after extra time at the Riverside Stadium, squandering their last chance of silverware this season.
Having dumped out Manchester United on penalties at Old Trafford last month, Boro had every reason to believe they could cause another upset here. Spurs came into the match in highly unpredictable form, having punctuated dire defeats to Southampton, Wolves and Burnley with mercurial victories against Manchester City and Leeds.
Boro shaded the first half, though Spurs had the best opportunity to score when Matt Doherty got in behind following a lightning counter-attack. Having hurdled the onrushing Joe Lumley, he blazed over – albeit from a narrowing angle – with the goal at his mercy.
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Nonetheless, the hosts went in with 55 per cent possession at the break having exerted sustained pressure on their opponents and pinned them back on the flanks for long periods. With Chris Wilder and Antonio Conte both favouring back threes there was a fierce battle between the wing-backs, with Boro’s Isaiah Jones nearly getting in behind on several occasions.
The two sides went hammer and tongs after the restart, Jones seeing a tentative penalty appeal dismissed after minimal contact from Ryan Sessegnon before, at a corner, Matt Crooks failed to steer a free header on target. Harry Kane had the ball in the back of the net following a corner at the other end a few minutes later, but was flagged for a narrow offside.
Both sides chased a winner late on but, with each near miss, extra time felt more likely. Having won the ball in midfield, Jonny Howson initiated an attack which ended with substitute Folarin Balogun, on loan from Arsenal, looping a shot over the crossbar when he should have tested Hugo Lloris.
Steven Bergwijn, on as a substitute, almost got in behind only for Paddy McNair to make an excellent tackle, before Jones forced a reflex save from Lloris and, at the other end, Son Heung-min failed to beat Lumley with a low header. For all their endeavour, neither side had found a breakthrough at full time.
Boro turned the screw in extra time, overrunning the visitors and creating chance after chance. They finally won it when teenage substitute Josh Coburn nipped in and rocketed a shot into the top corner, securing his side’s place in the quarter-finals and leaving Spurs facing the reality of another season without a trophy.
Eric Dier of Tottenham Hotspur cuts a dejected figure during the Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at Riverside Stadium on March 01, 2022 in Middlesbrough, EnglandEric Dier of Tottenham Hotspur cuts a dejected figure during the Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at Riverside Stadium on March 01, 2022 in Middlesbrough, England
Eric Dier of Tottenham Hotspur cuts a dejected figure during the Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at Riverside Stadium on March 01, 2022 in Middlesbrough, England
Conte’s changes fail to pay off. When Conte swapped out both his wing-backs just after the 80 minute mark, it seemed like a smart move. Much of the game had been contested in the wide areas, with Jones and Neil Taylor making headway against Sessegnon and Doherty.
Rather than going for a straight swap between Bergwijn and Sessegnon as he did against Burnley, however, he switched to a back four with Ben Davies shifting from centre-back to left-back. While Spurs had some initial success in their new formation, they were caught cold when Boro upped the tempo in extra time, found themselves overwhelmed on the flanks and, soon enough, lost their defensive shape, with Conte belatedly realising his mistake when he brought on Sergio Reguilon.
Having criticised his players at various points this season, Conte will have to take his fair share of the blame for this defeat. Ultimately, Wilder’s switches proved to be much more effective than Conte’s and that disparity was one of the main factors in Spurs losing the game.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jonny Howson (Middlesbrough). While Jones deserves a special mention for his swashbuckling performance at right wing-back, Howson was an absolute whirlwind in midfield.
A veteran of the Premier League with Norwich, the 33-year-old hasn’t played in the top flight since 2016. It didn’t show whatsoever, with a steady stream of turnovers, interceptions, tackles and quick transitions allowing Boro to dominate in the middle of the park.
Middlesbrough: Lumley 7, McNair 8, Fry 8, Dijksteel 7, Taylor 7, Tavernier 7, Howson 9, Crooks 7, Jones 8, Watmore 6, Sporar 6
Subs: Balogun 5, Coburn 8, Bola 6, Peltier 5, Bamba N/A
Tottenham: Lloris 8, Romero 6, Dier 5, Davies 5, Doherty 4, Hojbjerg 5, Winks 4, Sessegnon 5, Kulusevski 5, Son 4, Kane 5
Subs: Emerson 4, Bergwijn 4, Reguilon 5, Scarlett N/A
7’ GOOD CHANCE! Sessegnon gets in behind on the left and looks to pick out Kane five yards out, but Dael Fry reads the cross and clears.
38’ HUGE MISS! Watmore latches onto a mix-up in defence and gets a cross into the box, but it’s cleared and Spurs go on the counter-attack. Doherty finds himself in acres of space on the right and sprints in behind. Lumley hares off his line, but Doherty hurdles him. With the goal gaping, the Spurs wing-back blazes over the crossbar.
54’ GREAT CHANCE! Boro win a corner and Howson whips in a great delivery. Crooks rises highest, but can’t get his header on target.
58’ NO GOAL! Kane has the ball in the back of the net only for the flag to go up for offside.
80’ BIG OPPORTUNITY! Howson wins the ball in midfield and initiates an attack which ends with Balogun looping a shot over the crossbar from a promising position. He should have tested Lloris there, really.
107’ GOAL! Boro might just have won it thanks to Coburn, who gets in behind and rockets a shot past Lloris and into the top corner.