Tottenham miss golden FA Cup chance with stunning Sheffield United loss
Tottenham Hotspur were dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship opposition for the second year in a row after Iliman Ndiaye fired Sheffield United to a 1-0 fifth-round win at Bramall Lane.
Exactly one year ago to the day since they were beaten by the same scoreline at Middlesbrough, Spurs again succumbed to a team in the division below them after a limp display in South Yorkshire.
After starting Harry Kane on the bench, they fell behind to Ndiaye’s 79th-minute opener and could not find a way back into the game.
Defeat means another chance of ending their 15-year trophy drought goes up in smoke and they exit the premier domestic cup competition at this stage for the fourth successive year.
With Antonio Conte still out of the country as he recovers from gall bladder surgery, the manager will evade some of the flak for this defeat but, with his future still up in the air, the pressure is mounting on him ahead of a crunch period in the Premier League and Champions League.
It was a glorious night for the Blades, who reached the last eight for the third time in four years and they are now one win away from Wembley, which is supplementing their promotion campaign in the Championship.
This fixture had all the hallmarks of that night on Teeside for Spurs, but they still opted to leave Kane on the bench.
Spurs have been notoriously slow starters this season and were so again in a largely forgettable opening 20 minutes.
Lucas Moura, making his first start since November, wasted a good opening as a stray Sheffield United pass played him in but after driving into the penalty area he dallied and could not find a man.
Spurs’ dominance began to grow and Richarlison, starting as a number nine, had a good chance after being played in by Davinson Sanchez, but fired over while Moura saw an mis-hit cross skim off the crossbar.
For all of their control, the Premier League should have gone in at half-time behind.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg got his header back to goalkeeper Fraser Forster all wrong and Ismaila Coulibaly stole in but, with Billy Sharp screaming for a square pass, he skewed a shot into the side-netting.
Spurs started the second half with some purpose and Ivan Perisic glanced a corner over while Son Heung-min could not find the target after creating room for himself on the edge of the area.
But they could not keep up their momentum and the hosts began to come into the game more.
Even the introduction of Kane did not help Spurs regain their verve as Pedro Porro curled wide after Hojbjerg’s long ball sent him clear.
As the second half wore on it seemed more and more obvious what was going to happen and it did 11 minutes from time.
Some sloppy defending from Sanchez and Porro allowed Ndiaye to wriggle free in the box and he fired a low shot in at the near post, which did not cover Forster in much glory.
Tottenham had to wait until deep into injury time to muster a chance at sending the tie to extra-time but Kane inexplicably headed Perisic’s cross over and United saw it through.