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Tottenham 2 – Newport 0: Lamela scores as Spurs walk past County into FA Cup fifth round

TOTTENHAM managed to win Mauricio Pochettino’s 200th game in charge at the club without the help of Harry Kane but another horror show from Fernando Llorente showed just how much they will be relying again on their talisman this Saturday.

An unfortunate own goal and Erik Lamela’s first goal since September 2016 were enough to see off plucky Newport at the second attempt but north London rivals Arsenal promise a far harder hurdle to clear in the next game here.

Pochettino reserved praise for Lamela, saying: “After more than one year out it is never easy to come back.

“But he showed that because he loves football and loves to train, his mentality is fantastic. He will recover to a new level. In tough moments you learn a lot.” 

Lamela said: “I was out for a long time and it was difficult for me but I am back playing now and it is good to get a goal. We have a very good team and we need everyone fit to fight for places.”

Nevertheless, Pochettino insisted Fernando Llorente’s failure to find the net again on one of the rare occasions Harry Kane was rested is not a ground for concern.

“I am worried, yeah,” Pochettino joked. “It was a great opportunity for him to score, he missed.”

In a way, Newport had already won just by being here.

Their 8,000 fans filled a corner of a national stadium that was left largely by disinterest by their Premier League opponents, who will feel with Arsenal and Juventus to come in the next six days they had other priorities.

Just keeping going, though, is incentive enough for the Welsh side, and their best run in the competition had already swelled the coffers by an estimated £700,000.

On a more individual level, it had also given 37-year-old manager Michael Flynn a bit of extra long-term security. The club announced in the hours leading up to kick-off that he had put pen-to-paper on a new deal trying him to Newport until June 2020.

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This time last year, the club were in the middle of a run of just one win in 19 which had threatened them with non-League football, but on the plus side, prompted Flynn’s appointment.

Now, bubbling with the confidence that had earned them the draw in the original tie, they were not frightened to come at Spurs, putting some early pressure on a defence that contained Toby Alderweireld for the first time since he limped off in a somewhat different atmosphere on this same stage against Real Madrid at the start of November.

After scoring within 11 seconds the last time they played here, it took Tottenham 23 minutes to produce anything of any note whatsoever – Son playing in to Sissoko’s and when his deflected chip fell to Danny Rose, the left-back marked his first start since Boxing Day by hitting the side netting.

Newport’s luck disappeared just three minutes later. Sissoko hit a low drive this time, it caught the heel of Dan Butler and crept apologetically into the gaping net.

Pochettino had long since shown his frustration at the slow start from his players by kicking at the phalanx of drinks bottles lined up with military precision on the edge of his technical area. But sometimes, when you are being a bit “Spursy”, it just takes that little bit of luck for things to snap into place.

Soon after taking the lead, both Harry Winks and Heung-Min Son had tested Newport goalkeeper Joe Day with fierce swerving shots and the latter followed his effort up with another that flashed inches wide.

In the end, just eight minutes after the opening goal, it was the softest of rolled shots from Erik Lamela that doubled the lead after he slid his way through the heart of the Newport defence.

Quite simply, Tottenham were just too strong to give up that sort of lead. Newport did their best to try to squeeze a chance out of them, but the individual battles were being lost too often and the collective pressing was being tested by the speed with which Tottenham were moving the ball.

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Just as a proud lion will injure prey in such a way to encourage a young cub to discover the killer instinct this should then have been Llorente’s half-hour.

However, Llorente fluffed a great chance to add a third after 60 minutes when he failed to make connection with the ball but the low point of yet another subdued, lackadaisical performance in the white of Tottenham was still to come.

A simple header from Lamela’s cross, met just eight yards out in yards of space, bounced once, twice and trickled past the post. It was cringe-worthy.

But just in case you missed it, the misfiring striker still managed to squeeze a volley at the far post back wide past the near one when the simpler thing would have been to tap substitute Christian Eriksen’s sublime cross in a third glaring miss of the night.

Sat huddled on the bench, Kane saw it all. If Spurs have any sense, that giant club coat wrapped around him is 100 per cent cotton wool.

TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1) Vorm; Aurier, Alderweireld, Foyth, Rose (Walker-Peters 86); Wanyama, Winks; Sissoko, Lamela, Son (Eriksen 61); Llorente. Booked: Wanyama. Goals: Butler og 26, Lamela 34.

NEWPORT (4-5-1): Day; Pipe (McCoulsky 67), Demetriou, Butler, White; Willmott, Labadie, Tozer (Dolan 59), Bennett, Nouble; Amond.

REFEREE: S Attwell (Warwickshire)

Source: www.express.co.uk

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