Harry Kane strike saves Tottenham from FA Cup nightmare vs. Newport
NEWPORT, South Wales -- Three points on Newport 1-1 Tottenham in the FA Cup on Saturday evening.
1. Abject Spurs face unwanted replay
Mauricio Pochettino has made it clear that he would rather win the Premier League or Champions League than the FA Cup, and judging by this performance, his players are not particularly interested in the old trophy either.
Pochettino's team narrowly avoided a humiliating fourth-round exit at Rodney Parade, drawing 1-1 with League Two Newport County after Harry Kane's late equaliser cancelled out Padraig Amond's first half goal.
The draw leaves Spurs -- who play Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal in the next three league games, as well as facing Juventus in a two-legged Champions League round-of-16 tie -- facing an unwanted replay at Wembley.
While a win would have been the best result in Newport's history since the 1981 European Cup Winners' Cup run, a draw leaves the League Two side with a lucrative trip to the 90,000-seater national stadium, which could be even more beneficial than a place in the next round.
The raucous home fans finished the match, which had the feel of a proper cup tie, by chanting: "Wem-ber-ley, Wem-ber-ley!"
The dreadful pitch at Rodney Parade, shared with two local rugby teams, proved to be a leveller and left Tottenham struggling to play their usual passing game.
Newport, though, looked right at home, flinging throw-ins, free kicks and long balls at Spurs' three-man defence at every opportunity.
The hosts should have made the dream start on three minutes, but Frank Nouble wildly blazed over from 15 yards before captain Joss Labadie robbed Victor Wanyama and tested Michel Vorm's handling from range.
It took Spurs half an hour to have a sustained spell of possession, and even then it was uncomfortable and nonthreatening, with Newport players constantly hassling their Premier League opponents.
Newport's opening goal, unsurprisingly, came from another throw into the box, Ben Tozer launching one from the left which Robbie Willmott hooked to the back post where Amond rose above Kieran Trippier to head home.
Spurs introduced Son Heung-Min at half-time and Dele Alli shortly afterwards, and the visitors dominated the second period.
Kane, who scored twice against AFC Wimbledon in the last round, was predictably the man to break Newport's resistance, tapping in at the back post after Son had flicked on a corner.
Spurs piled forward in the final minutes, but Newport held firm and the roar at the final whistle was as loud as for any victory at this stadium.
2. Spurs lack spark in attack
Pochettino understandably decided against risking Erik Lamela and Serge Aurier, who had knocks, or Christian Eriksen -- still recovering from a nasty virus -- ahead of Manchester United's visit on Wednesday.
Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Harry Winks and Danny Rose were also missing from the squad, meaning rare starts for Kyle Walker-Peters, Juan Foyth and Fernando Llorente.
Spurs' dismal performance raises questions about the quality of their backup players -- if they can't do it against Newport, should they be at the club? -- and further underlined their reliance on Eriksen creatively.
Spurs were impotent without the Dane in last Sunday's 1-1 draw at Southampton, and they managed just one attempt on goal in the first half, Joe Day turning Kane's effort around the post.
Spurs improved after half-time when Son replaced the injured Walker-Peters and Alli was introduced for the anonymous Llorente, and the South Korean's shot from Alli's pass was superbly saved by Day's outstretched leg after 66 minutes.
But either side of interval, Spurs were too often short of ideas, meeting a wall of yellow shirts whenever they got close to Newport's goal.
It is no surprise that the club is close to signing Paris Saint-Germain winger Lucas Moura for around £25 million. The Brazilian, a speedy dribbler, would add something different to Tottenham's attack, which, on this evidence, they desperately need quickly.
3. Newport heroes deserve replay
If the last-gasp victory over Leeds United in the third round was impressive, Newport took their game to a whole new level against Spurs.
They could feasibly have gone in at half-time leading by more than one goal and although Spurs dominated the second period, goalkeeper Day only had one save to make, denying Son before Kane's leveller.
Pochettino had warned his players that Newport would "fight" and "battle," and that's exactly what they did, denying Spurs space and time on the ball at every opportunity.
While the Spurs players trudged down the tunnel at full-time, the Newport squad stayed on the pitch to milk the applause. A famous trip to Wembley awaits, and they have thoroughly earned it.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.