There was no commotion to end all commotions; actually, how could there be? – but Tottenham’s surrealism visiting Marine in the FA Cup third round was not erased by a simple away win. As Gareth Bale sprayed passes around Rossett Park, José Mourinho sat in a chair with the 19 Rossett Road outfield behind him and a cardboard cutout of Jürgen Klopp a few feet above his right shoulder. “Three Lions” played from the back of 11 Rossett Road as Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer threw some shapes on the nearby makeshift television gantry.
A magnificent cup race is over for the only second team in English football’s eighth division to reach the third round, although its impact will be lasting. Marine launched a virtual ticket appeal to make up for the £ 100,000 in business revenue that would be lost from the game behind moved behind closed doors. By the time the final whistle of the Spurs’ professional victory sounded, more than 30,000 tickets had been sold and more than £ 300,000 had been raised. With their league suspended until at least March 6, Crosby’s non-league club needs every penny it can get. His players adapted admirably to the biggest test of their lives, holding on for 23 minutes until Carlos Vinícius scored the first goal of his hat-trick. Alfie Devine came off the bench for Spurs at halftime and went straight into the record books as the club’s youngest goalscorer when he added fifth.
Social distancing disappeared before kickoff when hundreds of people lined College Road to witness the arrival of the team’s coaches. Mourinho and his players alighted on the road in front of the Marine Travel Arena, in front of Smithie’s Hairdressers and a few meters from ‘The Bug’ (as The Edinburgh Public House is known locally), before heading to the function room that served as your wardrobe. Even with nine changes to the team that beat Brentford in the Carabao Cup semi-final in the middle of the week, this was still a Spurs team worth going to the bottom of the garden to watch. Heung-Min Son and Gareth Bale may have been on the bench, and Harry Kane was fully rested, but Moussa Sissoko, Lucas Moura, Toby Alderweireld and Dele Alli all started and the visiting team boasted over 400 international matches between them.
For Marine, the task was easier in theory than in practice: keep things tight, stay in the game, and seize whatever opportunities they might create. For 23 minutes they were compliant almost every time, and they came within inches of taking a really impressive lead from their first attack on Joe Hart’s goal. Neil Kengni, catching the ball deep in the Spurs half, ran on a follow-up defense before unleashing a 30-yard drive that slammed into the top of Hart’s crossbar. The former England goalkeeper tipped the rebound for a corner after being caught by the knockdown on Kengni’s opening shot.
“Come on Marine, these are shit!” yelled a hometown fan, clearly intoxicated by the near miss, from behind Bayleigh Passant’s goal. The Spurs soon fixed it. The fairy tale evaporated in the space of 14 minutes into the first half when Alli took another step and four goals, all from Brazil, pierced Marine’s bubble.
Alli made the first when he exchanged passes with Gedson and crossed low to the far post where Vinícius messed the ball around Passant before whipping the goal on the goal line. His second was just a little further away, and again created by Alli. The Spurs playmaker selected Matt Doherty’s run at the far post with a perfectly weighted cross. Passant, thrown by Tranmere last year, made a good save to deflect the defender’s header, but was only able to tip the ball into Vinícius’s path for another touch. Moura scored the third, directing a free kick from 20 yards that he had won, and Vinícius claimed his hat-trick after a good job from Alli down the right. The Brazilian forward reacted sharply after Josh Hmami failed to clear and beat Passant with a shot from inside the area.
The romance of the occasion had faded for Marine, but it didn’t disappear from the tie completely. Alfie Devine replaced Sissoko at halftime to become the youngest rookie in Spurs history at 16 years and 163 days. He quickly added the title of youngest scorer in Spurs history to his list of achievements as a midfielder, signed from forced punt to Wigan Athletic when he entered administration, got inside two Marines defenders on the left and beat Passant with a powerful drive down to the near post.
Neil Young, the Navy manager, made good on his promise to make five substitutions so that most of his team could compete in the game. They shared the pitch for the 25 minutes with Bale, who replaced Alli upon his return from injury, and enjoyed his strongest spell of the game at a stage where the superior aptitude of the Premier League could have said so in a punishing degree.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism