Classy Erik­sen hits dou­ble to help Spurs cruise with­out Kane

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Sam Dean at the Lib­erty Sta­dium

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

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