Davies' injury time goal earns Rochdale a cup replay vs. sub-par Spurs
ROCHDALE, England -- Three things from Sunday's dramatic 2-2 draw between Rochdale AFC and Tottenham Hotspur at Spotland Stadium.
1. Spurs stumble again vs. lower-league opponents
If Tottenham are to win the FA Cup, they will have done it both the easy and the hard way. Easy because they have been pitted against AFC Wimbledon, Newport County and Rochdale. Hard because like Newport, Rochdale took Tottenham to a replay.
Just when Harry Kane seemed to have set up a quarterfinal against either Swansea or Sheffield Wednesday, Rochdale responded. One substitute had already scored for Spurs and another did for the Dale, as Steven Davies provided the 93rd-minute finish (and Toby Alderweireld the inadvertent assist) to take them to Wembley.
It was a formidable show of spirit from League One's bottom club and ultimately, an unconvincing performance from Spurs. Their last three away results, strange as it sounds, are 2-2 draws at Liverpool, Juventus and Rochdale.
Tottenham were caught on the counter-attack when Rochdale struck first as a controversially relaid pitch at Spotland Stadium proved conducive to passing football. That suited Keith Hill's team, which scored first from a slick, quick move. Mauricio Pochettino's side were poor in the first half as Rochdale tended to hoover up the loose balls.
Pochettino made 11 changes, but Tottenham have sufficient strength in depth that, as he pointed out, their alternatives are nearly all internationals. Too few lived up to their billing, however. Fernando Llorente was a particular disappointment, with Kane's arrival reflecting on another utterly ineffectual performance from the former Spain international. He should have scored, but perhaps in a move that summed up his Spurs career, steered his shot wide instead.
Salvation came first from a January signing. Lucas Moura got the goal his display deserved before Kane entered for his 200th Tottenham game that, inevitably, brought his 133rd goal after Harrison McGahey rashly upended Dele Alli, another replacement Pochettino had to summon. They appeared to have averted a replay but Davies then intervened to set up a reunion at Wembley.
2. Scorer Moura stars on full Spurs debut
The FA Cup has a way of providing new experiences for glamorous imports. Adrien Silva, a Euro 2016 winner with Portugal, got his first Leicester start at Fleetwood. Two rounds later, Lucas' full bow for Tottenham was in similarly homely surroundings at Rochdale.
It was a far cry from the Parc des Princes, home of his previous club, but the former Paris Saint-Germain forward flourished. They were separated by time, too: it was nine months ago when he lined up for PSG against Caen. The Brazil winger is a sign of the times, a man displaced by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, rendered surplus to requirements as they assembled a £400 million forward line. While some of his colleagues scarcely took the opportunity to impress at the Crown Oil Arena, Lucas did and not just by serving as Spurs' rescuer, either. His attitude was faultless and his ability apparent. He offered immediate indications that he may represent another astute piece of business, a player who can reliably give Spurs another dimension.
Moura's willingness to come and look for the ball spoke of that nine-month wait, suggesting he will bring the pace and urgency to render him suitable for the British game. His acceleration was immediately apparent. There was a step-over near the centre circle and a burst of pace and a dart to the byline that led to a menacing cross. He also won free kicks simply by being too quick for Rochdale.
While ostensibly serving as Spurs' right-winger, Moura was free to veer infield, opening up room for the overlapping Kieran Trippier. One such cut inside led indirectly to his first shot in Spurs colours, which whistled wide. He switched to the left in the second half, a tactical move from Pochettino that reaped a reward when Moura ran on to Moussa Sissoko's pass and finished calmly.
Moura reverted to the right when Erik Lamela came on before being replaced by Alli, perhaps because he was tiring. His grounding at MK Dons meant that unlike Lucas, he had played at Rochdale before.
3. Veteran Henderson takes his chance
It is not something any of his Tottenham counterparts could say. Ian Henderson almost quit football to become a dentist, but instead he became one of the great stalwarts of the lower leagues, and the Rochdale captain put smiles on faces at the Crown Oil Arena by putting his side ahead.
It was his fourth goal in three games and it came from Andy Cannon's low centre, with Henderson doing well to stay onside before supplying the assured finish. Whereas many a Rochdale forward in recent years has gone on to bigger and better things -- Rickie Lambert, Glenn Murray, Adam le Fondre and Scott Hogan, to name but four -- Henderson won't. He's 33 and if his goal on Sunday was the highlight of his career, it has come late.
Davies' late equaliser, however, gave Dale more to celebrate on the day and amid a bleak season. Tickets sold out in four hours; Rochdale aren't used to sell-outs as the club with the second lowest average attendance in League One. They have not knocked out a top-flight team in the FA Cup since 1971, but they cannot say they've had many memorable cup days in the years since.
Rochdale are accustomed to life at the lower levels, but another drop beckons. The reality is that they are 11 points from safety. They may be in League Two soon. If a performance of this quality, marrying determination with organisation and spirit with confidence in possession, makes it hard to understand why, the fact is that while they have up to six games in hand on some of their rivals, they've only won five league matches all season.
Sunday's draw offered a boost of around £300,000 to their coffers, and the replay will offer further revenue to a club who are adamant they will not overspend.
Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.