Tottenham Hotspur 1
(Van der Vaart – 42)
Rafael Van der Vaart struck just three minutes before the break in a game manager Harry Redknapp admits his Tottenham said ‘rode their luck’.
Watford had 25 efforts compared to the North London sides six, but it was the Dutchman’s 42nd minute goal that was enough to see Redknapp’s men through to the fifth round of the illustrious competition.
The veteran tactician, having spent the past week in court on tax charges, made five changes from the team that fell to Manchester City with Michael Dawson, Carlo Cudicini, Danny Rose, Jake Livermore and Emmanuel Adebayor all starting the tie at Vicarage Road.
The home side started brightly with Marvin Sordell and Sean Murray forcing Cudicini into action early on as Spurs started on the back-foot.
Prince Buaben came close from distance while Joe Garner fired just wide after meeting Troy Deeney’s low cross to the front post.
It took until the half-hour mark for the Premier League side to grind out their first real effort of the encounter, Jermain Defoe firing a difficult volley straight into the arms of Watford ‘keeper Scott Loach.
And a somewhat unspectacular first-half suddenly sparked into life in the 42nd minute. Watford looked to make their early pressure count before play broke down. Kyle Walker broke forward with the ball, intent on reaching the Hornets half.
The England hopeful found Van der Vaart, who had space to pick up the ball and turn around 35 yards out. The diminutive schemer took a couple of strides forward being firing at Loach, his effort skidding off the surface and bouncing over the 23-year-old.
Redknapp was forced into one change at half-time, the ill Luka Modric being replaced by Aaron Lennon, but again Watford looked the stronger of the two sides.
John Eustace came close to turning in Murray’s corner five minutes after the restart. From the resulting goal-kick, Livermore lost possession 25-yards out, Joe Garner capitalised before releasing Murray. The 18-year-old thought he had levelled the tie but Cudicini was on-hand to deny the Republic of Ireland U-19 international and tip his effort onto the post.
Deeney fired the follow-up wide in what proved to be the best chance of the second half.
At the other end, Walker forced Loach into action, with the England man forced to tip his looping header over the bar while Van der Vaart came close to doubling Spurs’ advantage after rattling the crossbar from 16-yards-out.
Eustace only found the post from Yeates’ corner before the same player glanced a free header just inches wide as Watford pressed for an equaliser.
It was a resolute defensive display with Cudicini, Walker and Dawson keeping out Nyron Nosworthy, Sordell and Yeates, respectively, but the Hornets failed to break Spurs down and it ended 1-0 to the away side, who can consider themselves fortunate to have a spot in the fifth-round.
What Redknapp had to say
“They say it’s better to be lucky than good,” he told ESPN after the game.
“And tonight we were lucky not good. That was not the Tottenham team I know.
“Watford were fantastic, they were brilliant. The boy Eustace ran the game. We rode our luck and got away with it.
“Sometimes you need a bit of luck. We got it tonight.”
Man of the match
Carlo Cudicini was on-hand to keep the Watford attack at bay and did superbly to ensure Spurs progressed to the fifth-round. Managing to get his fingertips to Sean Murray’s 49th minute effort and tip it onto the post was the pick of the saves from the encounter.
Moment of the match
Rafael Van der Vaart’s strike just three minutes before the break was enough to break the deadlock and seal Spurs’ passage to the fifth round. Kyle Walker broke out of defence before finding the Dutchman in the Watford half. He turned, strode forward and fired past Scott Loach to win the tie 1-0.