Harry Kane, Tottenham cruise into FA Cup quarterfinals by beating Fulham
LONDON -- Three quick thoughts from Craven Cottage as Tottenham eased through the FA Cup fifth round with a 3-0 win over Fulham on Sunday afternoon.
1. Kane tallies treble as Spurs cruise
Tottenham breezed into the FA Cup quarterfinals having made short work of Fulham. Harry Kane, a prematch doubt to play at Craven Cottage, grabbed a clinically executed hat-trick: his final goal came in the 73rd minute, just as manager Mauricio Pochettino was trying to substitute his captain for the day.
With Pochettino selecting a strong team, Spurs had far too much quality for Fulham, whose downfall was being forced into a series of individual errors. The visitors got into gear quickly, as both Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli came close to notching early goals. Their wait would last only as long as the 16th minute, when Eriksen found time and space to cue up Kane for a close-range finish.
Tottenham might have been out of sight by half-time. Eriksen, down the same right flank from which he assisted Kane's goal and backed by the overlaps of Kieran Trippier, had Fulham left-back Scott Malone in turmoil. One exquisite feint had Malone swinging at fresh air. Malone had been so beaten for skill that he even applauded Eriksen's quality after Tottenham's attack had broken down.
It was down that very same channel that Kane grabbed his second goal in the 51st minute. Trippier carried the ball forward and supplied Eriksen to give Kane another finish from close range. There were hints of offside, a case stated in vain by Fulham's players, but what might have been a difficult London derby had become a stroll by the Thames. The away fans in the Putney End could sing of reaching Wembley, plus some tongue-in-cheek pleas that Arsene Wenger stays on at Arsenal.
For the home contingent, there was disappointment at barely landing a blow on the North Londoners. Only when 16-year-old local boy Ryan Sessegnon came on in the second half did they gain anything of a foothold in the game. By then, Fulham were two goals down and though Sessegnon backed up Malone to quieten the previously rampaging Trippier, his arrival came too late for Fulham.
And it was Kane who killed off any lingering hopes of an unlikely comeback after slotting his third. Each of his goals had been converted with the assurance of a striker at the top of his game.
2. Pochettino refuses to rotate
Winning the FA Cup would be proof of the progress that Tottenham have made under Pochettino. That would appear to be his line of thinking for a team selection that was near first-choice, including captain Kane despite him picking up a knock on Thursday night at Gent in the Europa League.
With a 1-0 deficit to turn around on Gent on Thursday and Stoke to play in the Premier League next Sunday, Spurs have a packed calendar, but their manager doesn't rest players in the manner of Jurgen Klopp or Claudio Ranieri. Pochettino is dubious about the concept of tiredness and may have seen this as a chance to pep up a squad that has been flagging in recent weeks: Their hopes of a Premier League title have been fading after draws with Manchester City and Sunderland and a defeat at Liverpool last week.
It bucks the conventional wisdom that flagging players can be lifted by rest. Instead, Pochettino sought victory at Fulham as a means by which to lift his team's morale. That said, he has little leeway to rest players given Spurs' limited squad, beyond introducing Tripper and Ben Davies for usual full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose.
Harry Winks, the young midfielder whose regular role since his breakthrough into the first team has usually been as a second-half sub, was given a start and showed his continuing development with some neat touches and cogent link play with Kane, Alli and Eriksen.
Rather than introducing them all at once like many of his managerial peers, Pochettino gives young stars the chance to play alongside established players. And his record of development with Tottenham's team, the youngest on average in the Premier League, shows the wisdom of that approach.
3. Fulham were disappointing
Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic spurned the chance to start Sessegnon, scorer of two goals in this competition already and widely tipped to be the next starlet off Fulham's production line in the fashion of Moussa Dembele, currently ripping it up at Celtic. By contrast to Pochettino, Jokanovic had taken a trio of leading men out of the firing line: Sessegnon, lead striker Chris Martin and club captain Scott Parker, who was a Tottenham midfielder from 2011 to 2013.
The Cottagers, three years out of the Premier League and only a distantly outside bet to make the Championship playoffs, enjoy a reputation for the entertainment value of their football, with Tom Cairney one of the highest regarded midfielders in the second tier. Fulham did not seek to hang on grimly in the style of many a lower division club in cup competitions. They began with ambition and had Tottenham slightly rattled in the very early stages.
Yet that embracing of adventure did leave their back door open. Goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, another academy graduate, made an early impression by making a full-length save from Eriksen. That, and another shot fizzed wide by Alli, were premonitions of Kane's opening goal and Fulham's failure to deal with the attacking class of Tottenham.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.