For my first trick? End a 14-year trophy drought of course. For all Antonio Conte’s talk of future title challenges, an infinitely more achievable here and now is FA Cup glory. And the Italian has history, reaching the final twice with Chelsea, victorious the second time around.
If the season is to end in silverware, Harry Kane seems intent to be the man to lead them. Perhaps it is premature to speak of such things, but he has the bit back between his teeth from him.
Having arrived as substitute to spare Spirs’ blushes against League One Morecambe in the previous round, a brace under the Saturday night lights helped secure much safer passage to the last 32. In doing so the England captain grabbed goals 24 and 25 for club and country in what is supposed to be a season of discontent.
Kane’s sumptuous opener was followed by an unfortunate own goal. Graham Potter’s side deservedly got back into it in the second period through Yves Bissouma. Kane’s response was swift and fatal.
After relatively manic Mondays and near fortnight breaks, both Conte and Potter were doubtless keen to return the narrative to on-field matters. A barometer of managerial attitude toward a cup competition comes between the sticks; both first-choice goalkeepers – Hugo Lloris and Robert Sánchez – started.
Conte had Son Heung-min and Cristian Romero available after injury, while deadline day duo Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski were amongst the substitutes.
The lure of a return north-east was too much for Dan Burn to resist, so Lewis Dunk’s return was timely for Potter. As was the widely-courted Bissouma’s, after missing a fortnight on duty for Mali.
Brighton’s philosophy under Potter is based on passing from the back. But for the opener that proved their undoing. Seconds previously, the visitors had got away with one when Sánchez’s miscued clip in Adam Webster’s direction just evaded Kane. Rather act as a warning, that simply served for Webster to become an unlikely guilty party. Mooted for an England call-up, his ability on the ball caught Jamie Carragher’s eye in Brighton’s last trip to London. But Son – full of zip – nipped in, stole possession and found Kane via Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. Not that a goal was a formality mind; Kane still had plenty to do, but he produced a curled edge-of-the-box finish.
Going behind is not new to Potter’s side, who have now netted first in just eight of the 27 games across all competitions this season. And a little hiccup will not see them depart from their principles. But what felt like a terminal blow came 24 minutes in. Emerson made a powerful, if lonely, surge forward on the break, and his cross from him took a wicked deflection off Solly March to leave Sánchez helpless. The Brazilian sprinted toward the bench appearing to shout toward the crowd; rather than a confrontation though, he simply sought liquid refreshment.
Brighton’s luck was summed up when Bissouma deceived Harry Winks to open up a space 20 yards out, only for his left-footed strike to roll harmlessly wide off his standing foot. Jakub Moder might have done better from Neal Maupay’s lay-off shortly before the break. Leaning back, his scoop from him was never troubling Lloris.
Potter tinkered at the interval, Joel Veltman replacing Adam Lallana. That allowed a switch to a back four, giving Marc Cucurella, one of the Premier League’s stand out roaming full-backs, license to push forward.
And they almost found an instant route back into the game, Moder shooting narrowly over immediately after the restart. Soon after, Lloris did well to shift his weight rapidly when Bissouma’s attempt threatened to wrong-foot him after deflecting off Romero.
Encouraged, Potter turned to Moises Caicedo just hours after arriving back in England. Three minutes after his arrival from him, Brighton were deservedly back in it, Bissouma this time the beneficiary of a deflection off Højbjerg. If anyone on the pitch served a slice of luck, it was Bissouma.
Any nerves on Tottenham’s behalf were only momentary. They are burned past Webster and into the box. The Brighton defender did well to seemingly cover but failed to clear and Kane was able to slide in at the back post.
A madcap spell nearly continued but Maupay’s attempted dink was straight at Lloris. Conte then used his years of nous to draw sting from the tie with a double substitution that included debutant Kulusevski.
Bentancur followed not long after, picking up a quick booking. Kulusevski might have had an assist had Steven Bergwijn not blazed over.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism