Tottenham survive scare to brush Rochdale aside amid VAR confusion

Date published: Wednesday 28th February 2018 9:43

Tottenham overcame Rochdale 6-1 in the FA Cup but video technology reduced the fifth-round replay at Wembley to a farce.

Spurs had two goals disallowed, were denied one penalty and awarded another all at the hands of the video assistant referee during a chaotic first half.

BT Sport pundit Robbie Savage led the latest round of criticism, branding the system “ridiculous, bizarre and shambolic” while Jermaine Jenas called it “comical at times”.

The controversy totally overshadowed the efforts of Rochdale, who cancelled out Son Heung-min’s goal – the one that was allowed to stand – through Stephen Humphrys.

League One’s bottom club also hit the woodwork with the score at 1-1, but were ultimately undone by Fernando Llorente’s second-half hat-trick and strikes from Son and Kyle Walker-Peters.

VAR had already caused a mild stir before kick-off by requiring the lines on the pitch to be repainted, after they were initially painted dark blue to help the officials in the wintry conditions.

But the system really got into its stride after five minutes, when Erik Lamela thought he had fired Tottenham ahead.

Referee Paul Tierney dutifully held his finger to his ear as VAR Graham Scott apparently alerted him to the slightest of tugs on Harrison McGahey’s shirt by Llorente, and after the now customary lengthy delay what appeared a legitimate goal was disallowed.

Tierney was holding his earpiece again after Spurs winger Lucas Moura was felled by McGahey in the area, with no penalty the eventual – but far from definitive – decision.

At least there could be no doubt surrounding the effort which did put Spurs ahead, Son cutting in onto his right foot in the area and curling a shot home from 15 yards out.

But VAR was back in the thick of the action two minutes later when Kieran Trippier was held back by Matt Done as he charged into the area.

As Done was holding his man long before he reached the corner of the box, Tierney gave what looked a perfectly reasonable free-kick.

But VAR again intervened, this time seemingly deciding that because the foul had continued into the area Tottenham should be awarded a penalty.

So it was only in keeping with the tone of slapstick when Son, having paused during his run-up, had his successful penalty disallowed and was booked for his troubles. Tierney double-checked with VAR, naturally, with more time wasted and players and fans becoming more and more bemused.

Tottenham’s frustration then turned to dismay as Rochdale equalised, Humphrys controlling Andrew Cannon’s pass over the top and taking the ball past keeper Michel Vorm before slotting home.

Dale also hit the base of Vorm’s far post through Cannon as a mess of a first half drew to a close.

Order seemed to be restored after the break, though, and the tie was over as a contest within 14 minutes of the restart as Llorente grabbed a perfect left-foot, right-foot, header hat-trick.

The Spaniard had scored more goals in 12 minutes than he had managed in the 26 previous games he has played for Spurs.

With the snow now falling heavily Son added the fifth, and his second, after he was played in by Lamela.

And sub Walker-Peters steered home a sixth in stoppage time as Spurs wrapped up an eventful, yet ultimately comfortable, win and booked a quarter-final trip to Swansea.

 

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