Classy Eriksen hits double to help Spurs cruise without Kane
According to the Mauricio Pochettino world view, it is the “process” that matters most not a single moment of triumph. The journey, his thinking goes, is more than important than the final destination. By that logic, we can safely deduce that he will have enjoyed his side’s performance here, against an outclassed Swansea City, just as much as the comprehensive scoreline.
This was an afternoon, and a Tottenham showing, that could be savoured in its purest sense, rather than because of what it means in their search for a trophy or what it shows they can do without the injured Harry Kane.
This is not to belittle reaching a second consecutive FA Cup semi-final or the significance of attacking so fluidly without their top scorer.
It is more to marvel at the quality they showed in these 90 minutes, the ease with which they savaged their opponents and, above all, the brilliance of Christian Eriksen.
One of only four players to keep his place in the side from last week’s thrashing of Bournemouth, Eriksen was at his surgical best against a Swansea ripe for slicing. A master of angles and movement, he drifted and schemed, passed and moved, slowed it down and sped it up. He also scored, twice, from outside the penalty area.
Joining him on the scoresheet was Erik Lamela, who also floated around South Wales at will, while there were similarly impressive performances in attack from Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min. Even Moussa Sissoko, playing in the centre of midfield, did not look out of place.
The only sour note for the visitors was another unwelcome intervention from the dreaded video assistant referee, branded a “nightmare” by Pochettino after Son was denied a goal by a contentious offside decision. “We are going to have a massive problem for the future,” Pochettino said, a day after Fifa confirmed VAR will be used at this summer’s World Cup.
Swansea’s future attentions will now be fully diverted towards their fight to avoid relegation. A first FA Cup quarter-final since 1964 promised much but delivered little, and more than a few chunks of the home fans did not resume their seats after half-time.
“I am not disappointed,” said Carlos Carvalhal, their manager. “A storm came today, but good weather will follow for us.” With three central defendweek, ers and just two central midfielders, Carvalhal’s side had problems from the start against Tottenham’s posse of attacking playmakers. Eriksen, Lamela and Moura had too much time and space, while Son, playing as the lone striker in Kane’s absence, was all too willing to drop in and join in the fun. It left Swansea outnumbered in the area of the pitch where Eriksen does the most damage, and it was no surprise to see the great Dane ambling through the home side’s midfield after little more than 10 minutes.
Swansea retreated, Eriksen kept going, Swansea backed off some more, and he smashed the ball into the top corner. It was a wonderful finish, both powerful and precise, from Eriksen’s left boot. “He is fantastic,” said Pochettino. “He is so important for us. Every season, he takes one step up.”
The Tottenham dominance continued unabated after the goal. Lucas nearly added a second after a delicate turn inside the area, while Son threatened with his darting bursts in behind.
Son then looked to be in on goal after a chipped pass by Eriksen, but the South Korean was flagged offside just as he prodded the ball into the net. It was a close decision, and close enough for the referee, Kevin Friend, to consult with the VAR. Once again, the decision took an age, with the baffled home crowd eventually erupting in boos as Friend stood motionless, his finger pressed firmly to his ear, in the freezing Welsh wind. “I feel sorry for the people trying to use that system,” Pochettino said. “I prefer it when the referee and the assistant make mistakes than to wait three or four minutes for things.”
The replays finally confirmed that the decision was marginal, and the original decision stood. But there was a second problem, and one that has yet fully to rear its head this season, in that Friend had blown for offside before Son had put the ball in.
If the VAR had conclusively shown that Son was onside, what then? The goal, surely, could not have stood because Kristoffer Nordfeldt, the Swansea goalkeeper, had stopped playing once the whistle had been blown.
Fortunately for all involved, the incident was swiftly reduced to little more than a sideshow. Eriksen continued to probe, striking the bar with another fierce left-footed shot, before Eric Dier headed over from close range. The second was always coming and it was Lamela who scored with a cool finish from the edge of the box after rolling the ball artfully beneath his studs. Lucas, who was causing no end of trouble on the left wing, soon teed up Eriksen to blast in his second.
From there, the visitors could have had their pick of how many they wanted to score. Gradually, though, they settled into a walk, content with another job well done, and another step forward in Pochettino’s muchloved journey.
Swansea City (3-4-3) Nordfeldt 6; Van der Hoorn 5 (Roberts 81), Bartley 4, Mawson 6; Naughton 4 (Narsingh 45), Ki 5, Carroll 5, Olsson 5; Dyer 5 (Routledge 86), Abraham 6, Clucas 5. Subs Mulder (g), Britton, Fernandez, Byers. Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1) Vorm 6; Trippier 6, Sanchez 6, Vertonghen 6, Davies 6; Dier 7, Sissoko 6; Lucas 7 (Llorente 73), Lamela 7 (Alli 81), Eriksen 8; Son 7. Subs Lloris (g), Alderweireld, Dembele, Foyth, Aurier. Booked Sanchez. Referee Kevin Friend (Leicester).
Great Dane: Christian Eriksen fires home Tottenham’s opening goal