The FA Cup 5th Round waited until Sunday to really spring into action but it was worth the wait as Rochdale shocked Tottenham Hotspur at Spotland and earned themselves a trip to Wembley in a replay.
Rochdale’s pitch was looking far better than Mauricio Pochettino would have expected as Spurs looked to follow up their 2-2 draw against Juventus with a hassle-free win over the League One side. Pochettino made eleven changes, including a first start for Lucas Moura, the January signing from Paris Saint-Germain.
The first half was an even affair, Rochdale more than matching their Premier League opponents and on the stroke of half-time the unthinkable happened as skipper Ian Henderson, a journeyman striker who once plied his trade alongside Darius Vassel in Turkey, put the home side a goal to the good.
Tottenham Hotspur approached the second half in pretty much the same vein, little panic but by the same token, little urgency. An equaliser did come from Moura, thoroughly deserved by the Brazilian although caution has to be offered when judging a £25m signing playing against a side bottom of the third tier.
Pochettino was keen to avoid a replay and threw Dele Alli and Harry Kane into the action to try and finish the game on the day. As is often the case, Dele Alli tumbled in the Rochdale area and won a penalty which Kane converted. Time was in short supply and the tie looked over.
But no, not a bit of it. Rochdale, urged on by their crowd, went again and it was the burly substitute, Steve Davies, who finished clinically in injury time to send Rochdale snooker loopy and get them an evening out at the Home of Football.
Unfortunately for the purists, the preceding ties offered far less in terms of drama and excitement.
Chelsea eased past Hull City 4-0 on Friday night as they turned their attention to Barcelona in this week’s Champions League tie. Olivier Giroud opened his Chelsea account. Brighton & Hove Albion moved into the Quarter Finals for the first time since 1986, beating the 1987 winners Coventry City 3-1, including a debut goal for the club record signing Jurgen Loc.
Claude Puel will be hoping for a second successive trip to Wembley in a domestic cup final and saw Jamie Vardy score the only goal in the game against Championship side Sheffield United. United’s neighbours Sheffield Wednesday held Swansea City, now managed by their former manager Carlos Carvalhal to a 0-0 draw at Hillsborough.
There was controversy at the John Smiths Stadium as Manchester United, without an ill Paul Pogba, beat Huddersfield Town 2-0, both goals coming from Romelu Lukaku. Juan Mata had a goal disallowed by VAR, yet the lines shown on the TV screens to the viewing public looked somewhat squiggly giving the VAR naysayers even more of a voice. The incident did not affect the outcome, but it was another kick in the shins for the use of a video referee.
Wigan Athletic and Manchester City play tonight, the winner knowing they will face Southampton in the last eight. Manchester United and Brighton will play in a repeat of the 1983 final, Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea will play Rochdale or Spurs and, finally, Leicester will play Chelsea.