Tottenham’s top-tier calibre eventually prevailed as the Premier League side ran roughshod over Rochdale in their FA Cup fifth-round replay at Wembley on a snow-bound Wednesday night.
After the first match ended in a 2-2 draw at Spotland, a Fernando Llorente hat-trick spirited Spurs to an emphatic 6-1 win in the second – though the evening will probably be best remembered for a series of calamitous VAR interjections.
Indeed, it took roughly six minutes for the first VAR blip to occur when Erik Lamela thought he’d opened the scoring only to have his goal taken away when, after a couple of minutes’ debate, referee Paul Tierney spotted the most meagre of fouls from Llorente on Rochdale defender Harrison McGahey in the build-up.
A “clear and obvious” error in the decision to award Lamela’s goal? Hmmm…
Son Heung-Min then actually broke the deadlock for Spurs in the 24th minute with a curling right-footed effort, only for the VAR nonsense to just keep on coming thereafter.
Just a few minutes after Son’s goal, Kieran Trippier was hauled down by Matt Done. The foul clearly began outside the 18-yard box but referee Tierney refused to make up his own mind as to whether it continued inside.
Another lengthy VAR consultation began, with the entire crowd beginning to get restless as snow-dampened boos began to echo around the cavernous stadium.
Eventually, after several more idle minutes of agitated confusion passed, Spurs were awarded the spot-kick, which Son dutifully converted.
However, what VAR giventh, it also taketh away – with referee Tierney once again leaning on his video assistant to deem that the South Korean forward came to a stop during his run-up, thus voiding the goal and earning the forward a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
This all proved to much to fathom for poor old Robbie Savage, who momentarily surrendered his scant grip on reality while struggling to comprehend a by-law that has existed in association football for decades…
VAR strikes again 👀
Spurs thought they had the lead, but Fernando Llorente was judged to have committed a foul.
Robbie Savage was less than impressed 🤔 pic.twitter.com/IePFp0rjWk
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 28, 2018
Amid the confusion, Rochdale then went and plundered themselves an equaliser when Stephen Humphreys slipped in behind a partially distracted Spurs defensive line and rammed a shot past Michael Vorm at the near post with a sliver over 30 minutes gone…
The chaotic first half then almost ended with the League One team taking the lead when Humphrys intercepted a deflected clearance from Vorm and fed it into Andrew Cannon who, fittingly, fired a low shot of the Dutchman’s right-hand post.
After what seemed like an tortuously elongated opening 45 minutes, normal service resumed after the restart.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side seized the upper hand from the as Rochdale gradually faded and Wembley began to increasingly resemble a scene from one of Robert Scott’s expeditions to the Antarctic.
Llorente took less than two minutes of the second half to score his first goal of the match (above) and a further 12 minutes to wrap up his hat-trick (below), putting Spurs 4-1 ahead inside the hour.
Son then added a second and Tottenham’s fifth in the 65th minute only to be immediately subbed off and presumably rushed to the nearest radiator to start thawing out before 20-year-old defender Kyle Walker-Peters completed the rout in stoppage time with his first goal for the club…
Madness. The weather, the scoreline, the decisions, the referee’s finger being constantly lodged in his ear. Madness. Entertaining, but also withering.
Fans of both teams booed VAR off at half-time. That’s how bad it was.
Pies aren’t overly given to subscribing to conspiracy theories on a whim, but could it be that officials are deliberately lousing up decisions in protest over VAR’s introduction?
Perhaps that’s giving both them and it too much credit.