Home » EPL, FA Cup, Latest » FA Cup Match Report: Watford 0 Tottenham 1

Lying low in the Championship, Watford so nearly embarrassed a team flying high in the Premier League in a thrilling FA Cup tie. Spurs were as poor as Watford were good but Rafael van der Vaart’s strike still sent Harry Redknapp’s side through into the fifth round. Spurs were grateful to Lady Luck and a Dutchman.

As Watford fans screamed themselves hoarse, Sean Dyche’s men delivered a performance in the very best traditions of the Cup. Marvin Sordell, one of six Watford Academy products on view, was marvellous, running Spurs defence ragged, justifying the good reviews he has received this season.

Joe Garner, a letter away from being a cricketing legend, was a whisker away from being a footballing one with a header just wide. Watford’s captain and central midfielder, John Eustace, “ran the game” in Redknapp’s opinion. At the back, Adrian Mariappa enhanced his reputation in front of watching Newcastle United scouts with Swansea City also reportedly interested.

How do you solve a problem like Mariappa? Don’t ask Emmanuel Adebayor. He didn’t have a clue. Few of Redknapp’s men played well. Luka Modric, who had been feeling unwell, disappeared at the break. Scott Parker has rarely been so consistently outmanouvred this season.

Van der Vaart had done little until letting fly two minutes from the interval. Until then, Spurs were utterly anaemic. Too flat. Too disinterested. Even after the goal, they remained disappointing. “I thought we were fantastic,’’ joked a relieved Redknapp. “The football was mind-blowing. I’ve never been so excited watching us play. It was just unbelievable. How we won that game I’ll never know.

“They say it’s better to be lucky than good sometimes, and we were lucky today, that’s for sure. We just never played today. How they lost I don’t know. We always play and pass the ball great, but tonight we couldn’t put two passes together. We was hanging on at the end.

“It’s been as tough as anything that we’ve had away from home. We don’t normally hang on like that. I said at half-time: ‘Listen, if we play like this second half, we’re in trouble here.’ We made wrong decisions, played in the wrong areas, and suddenly everybody was uncomfortable with the ball, which is not like us.”

Dyche took great pride in his players’ performance. “The minimum I felt we deserved was a replay,’’ said Watford’s manager.

From the opening whistle from the excellent Chris Foy, Watford sensed a vulnerability, a lethargy, attacking with hunger and intelligence. Set up in a 4-4-2 formation, although Garner did drop off Sordell, Watford flooded forward. Carlo Cudicini had a busy old night, tested early on by the excellent Sordell. Sean Murray, cutting in frequently from his left-sided station, darted through, alarming Cudicini, who was almost punished by the lurking Sordell. Spurs’ goalkeeper was being given little protection by his centre-halves, Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul.

Sordell then almost profited from a good run down the right by Troy Deeney. Watford’s threat emanated from all angles. Prince Buaben, who sounds like one of Elton John’s backing singers, almost hit the high notes with a long-ranger. Another of Buaben’s drives almost snapped Dawson in two.

Watford were impressing all over the pitch, delighting their fans. Two of Alan Pardew’s Newcastle coaching allies, John Carver and Steve Stone, were present, watching Mariappa. The Watford centre-half was alive to most dangers, moving out sharply at one point to stop a promising attack building between Van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe.

Mariappa’s central-defensive colleague, Nyron Nosworthy, was equally alert to dispossess Van der Vaart. Yet the Dutchman was beginning to find his thoroughbred stride. Two minutes from the break, Van der Vaart collected Kyle Walker’s pass and tried his luck from 20 yards. Scott Loach is a keeper of real promise, highly regarded in the England age-group system, but he was badly caught out here, allowing Van der Vaart’s shot to progress sheepishly into the net.

The visiting fans loved it, chanting “Spurs are on their way to Wembley”, which they might have passed on the way here. Spurs were arguably worse in the second period. Eustace shot over.

Then dreadful defending by Spurs allowed the lively Murray a glimpse of goal. He bent the ball around Cudicini but was thwarted by the post. Still the danger refused to subside. Deeney had a clear sight of goal but swept the loose ball wide. Watford fans sighed in frustration.

Danny Rose sped down the left and lifted in a high cross met by Spurs’ other full-back, Walker. Loach juggled the header unconvincingly over. In a briefly impressive period for Spurs, Defoe acquired possession in a central position and swiftly found Aaron Lennon, Modric’s replacement who was roaming down the inside-left channel. The England winger checked back and laid the ball off Van der Vaart, whose left foot sent the ball arcing goalwards, beating Loach but not the bar.

Back came Watford again, refusing to go quietly, totally ignoring the gulf in league positions. When Sordell made good ground down the right only a stretching block from Kaboul cut out the danger. Still Dyche’s men attacked, urged on by their fans.

Eustace even hit a post as Spurs froze at a corner.

Redknapp, Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan stood anxiously in the dug-out as Watford refused to give up. Cudicini somehow saved a shot from Nosworthy and then Sordell’s follow-up was blocked.

Watford (4-4-2): Loach, Hodson, Nosworthy, Mariappa, Doyley; Deeney, Eustace, Buaben, Murray (Yeates 67); Sordell, Garner (Whichelow 80). Subs: Bond, Dickinson, Iwelumo, Forsyth, Jenkins. Booked: Hodson

Tottenham (4-3-1-2): Cudicini; Walker, Kaboul, Dawson, Rose; Modric (Lennon 46), Parker, Livermore; Van der Vaart; Adebayor (Pavlyuchenko 90), Defoe (Pienaar 80).

Subs: Friedel (g), Bassong, Kranjcar, Assou-Ekotto

Referee: C Foy (Lancs)

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