Let's summarise the first half banter.
Erik Lamela scored a goal and it was wiped clean out of the space time continuum thanks to VAR. Or rather thanks to the bin bags sat in front of monitors reviewing replayed footage and deciding they saw something nobody else did and ignored Llorente being fouled because he apparently fouled McGahey. Confused? You should be because none of it made sense. Nothing clear and obvious about this one. Paul Tierney on the cusp of the Twilight Zone. The vacant energy zapping wait for a decision isn't football. The fact most of us today are talking about VAR pretty much sums up the reality that this - in its current state - is not viable. It's not fit for purpose.
Then Son scores for the 1-0. Happy days.
Then we win a penalty that wasn't a penalty. Trippier was fouled outside of the box. This was pretty evident and gravity did the rest when both players motioned into the area. So naturally it's given as a spot kick to the surprise of everyone. You should be well on your way to the depths of confusion at this point. Son steps up and scores. Except he didn't quite step up, he sort of two-stepped and thus didn't score legally.
Run, pause, run, hits ball, goal. No goal. In the book you go.
I briefly look at rules for football. If someone shares them on Twitter, I might take a look. I retain this attitude mainly because it's football and we don't need microscopic analysis for most of it. It's a very simple sport complicated by the daftness of language and its translation by fans and pundits alike. The refs also struggle to retain a sense of consistency with it too. On this occasion, I think (and I might be wrong, so perhaps I do need to re-read the rules) that Son didn't do anything that could be deemed technically illegal by the letter of the law. If you stop your run at the end of the run (ouch my head) then sure, it's a self-contained infringement. His feint was arguably okay because of when he feinted. Much like keepers leaving their line too early but always being ignored (cause they concede and are thus duly punished).
However, let's not pretend his exaggerated stop wasn't asking for trouble. He stopped dead. That's just asking to be pulled up on it. After-all, we're talking about officials that can't be trusted to make decisions themselves so they rely on technology and still get it wrong. Why give them the opportunity to disallow another legit goal? At least a goal that has a healthy chance of being legit. Run up and smack it into the net lad. Son shagged this one up sadly.
The fact I've written the above couple of paragraphs also goes a long way to prove that if we want the game to remain simple, then we embrace common instinctive sense. Son's run and stop didn't look right and I'd rather go with that than anything else. Because we can't have it both ways (in terms of translating things to benefit us rather than what benefits the game). Try reading the rules by the way. It's like a dissertation on sub atomic particles.
Regardless of all of this inane attempt at finding logic, I'm fairly certain the pen should have been re-taken. Laugh out loud. There was encroachment. Alas no. Yellow card and the banter was compounded when Rochdale equalised with a smart goal. Spurs were rattled. I could smell the stench of an ominous narrative playing out. The visitors then hit the woodwork. Gulp.
Did I miss anything else?
Lucas got fouled in the pen area and it wasn't given. Not sure it was blatant enough so no surprise. I'm sure there was other mishaps in that opening half. I can't get this image out of my head of the ref constantly holding his ear piece. My word, what a disaster this VAR implementation is. Is it not meant to be used for when the officials can't agree on a decision or if the ref gets it completely wrong? I don't actually understand it anymore. The understanding has been pillaged out of my sensory drive to want to understand it in the first place.
The stop start nature of it is borderline comical. Especially when play has to continue and everyone has to pretend this is perfectly normal for the momentum of the match. The fact that human mistakes can cost teams and their supporters, it's scary to think that technology that exists to eliminate these history defining moments only adds further disdain to it all.
Two things that tickled me last night was the suggestion refs are purposely turning it into a shambles to protect their authority and influence. Good on them if this conspiracy is true. It's just too coherent a theory sadly. No way could they stage such a Machiavellian act. The other is changing VAR to the cricket style 'challenges' where the team captain has three per game to go to the replay decision.
Let's take a moment here.
NO NO NO.
Football has lasted for as long as it has because for all its quirks, it works. Mistakes happen on the pitch amongst the players and with decisions. Yes, some are costly and having goal line tech is fine and obvious and helps thanks to its instant confirmation. But using VAR constantly undermines the flow of the game and that aforementioned authority the ref has. His responsibility is to conduct the game by virtue of not constantly meddling in it. I know some refs want to be the centre of attention but I'd rather hate on a figure I can see running around the turf than those sat indoors re-watching incidents and still getting it wrong.
Poch nailed it in the post-game. "It's a game of emotions" and he's right. We can kill it if we try too hard to get things right by getting it completely wrong. The opening forty-five minutes was not a football experience.
Anyways, at half time I was doing one of my rationalising melting pot things. It went something like this...
I've really tried my best with domestic cups but I can't pretend any longer. As much as I want to win one to consolidate these players in history with a memory, an association with silverware - how can I when time and time again we fall foul of game management and rotation. Look, Spurs have been desperately unlucky in the past. We've got to countless semi-finals. Within touching distance of a final(s). We've also lost two such occasions at Wembley in recent years. It's not like we haven't endeavoured, but it's circumstantial. We get serious about these competitions once we're in the Quarters then still f**k it up when we're 90 minutes away from a decent day out.
In this case, even though on paper we should be smashing Rochdale with the second string eleven (with plenty of first team players in there too), the attitude, tempo and rhythm are incomparable to the actual first team and more importantly to the Premier League injection of importance. It's risk management. It's a gamble that is likely to pay off but twice now away from home against lower league teams we could easily been got knocked out.
This is why the second string won't ever line up for a league game - because we'll likely lose it. But alas, starting the first team in the cup is a no-go for inspiration. So we get treated to a half arsed mix and match display of mostly diabolical nonsense. Add to it the comedy value of the VAR debacle and my desire to sit through the game was drained in the opening forty-five minutes.
Then came the second half. Oh ye of little faith. Shut your mouth Spooky you narc.
Spurs decided to turn up and turn them over like the big club versus little club encounter this has always been. It won't disguise some of the shocking early game performances mind, but hey, it was snowing. Allow it. Seriously though, how grand was it to be comfortably arrogant, swaggering in the downpour and raising the temperature with goals goals GOALS?
Fernando with three bread and butter finishes, a perfect hattrick. Left foot, right foot and header. Son taking the p*ss asking for VAR after one of the goals was peak. I'm shocked VAR didn't interject and dish out a second yellow card. The Korean then scored a second and KWP notched a sixth in injury time. A rampant scoreline and far more pleasing on the eye. We smashed them like we were meant to. That second eleven dismissing my long standing doubts with plenty of pomp.
It's still tricky to take any of it seriously thanks to my own personal perspective but it was a joyful evening for the likes of Lamela (assist master) and Lucas. Both creatively active and perhaps a preview of the squad competition for places in our forward line-up with the League and Europe in mind.
Winks looked off the pace. We've had this problem with many of our injured players. Toby looked awkward in his comeback game in the first encounter with Rochdale. Rose is still trying to 'get there'. Wanyama has yet to retain the levels of last season. Lucky we have depth whilst they work towards consistency and that refined quality we know they can produce. But Harry does seem to be low key at the moment.
Dele and Dembele coming on was a head scratch considering the scoreline. I won't lie, I was gutted that Dele didn't take a tumble in the pen area just to see if VAR could produce a worthy encore. When the groundsmen came on to clear the lines around the pitch I laughed at the potential for the game to be called off. It was that kind of night.
Swansea up next. We're close again. Not close enough for me to start thinking of a final. But close. Here's the crux of it. As much as I work towards disowning domestic cups because they are so detached from the ilk of cups runs we were blessed with in the 80s and early 90s, when you know there's a chance of a final you can't help to want it more than anything else. Usually the journey is the destination. It isn't here. Nobody cares how we get there. It's being there that remains paramount. Until we get knocked out and I (we) can return to devaluing these distractions. Pesky fixtures, getting in the way of Champs League qualification.
Up the Spurs.