Tottenham Hotspur safely made their passage into the fifth round of the FA Cup in the replay against Newport County on Wednesday, running out 2-0 winners, thanks to a Dan Butler own-goal and Erik Lamela’s first of the season.
Mauricio Pochettino made 10 changes for the game and while Spurs had 26 shots, they only scored twice. The likes of Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld and Harry Winks found the perfect platform to gain match fitness following their respective injuries, while Fernando Llorente disappointed on the night, squandering a couple of chances that could have been an embarrassing reading for the travelling League Two opponents.
However, out of many positives, the performance of Erik Lamela stood out. The Argentine scored his first goal since September 2016 to seal Tottenham’s spot in the 5th round of FA Cup.
Lamela has had to battle back from horror hip problems, which have kept him out for more than a year and now that he’s back, Pochettino has high expectations from the winger. So far, the winger has contributed a goal and 3 assists in just 482 minutes of action for Spurs, being involved in a goal every 120.5 minutes.
The 25-year-old started against Newport in the No.10 role and provided endless problems to the Newport defence, with his running and trickery. The attacker showed good vision every time he got forward with intent, to make things happen.
Lamela has played in the attacking midfield role earlier in his career but since joining Spurs, he has largely played on the wings. On Wednesday, he showed no problems playing in the role, and in fact, excelled by scoring a goal to cap off a fine night for the North Londoners.
Many would suggest the performance came against a lowly League Two opposition. Although it is true that Newport offered very little, there is no denying that the winger has just made a comeback from a horrific hip injury, returning only late in November 2017 as a substitute against Leicester City.
The Argentina international has made 12 appearances since returning from injury and has just started four matches this campaign, including the one against Newport County last night and AFC Wimbledon in the round before that.
On Wednesday, Lamela was at the heart of Spurs’ best football. He drifted where he wanted to, finding pockets of space and terrorised Newport defenders the whole game. Apart from the goal, the 25-year-old should have at least finished with an assist, only to be let down by Llorente’s profligacy.
“It’s always important to feel the net for offensive players and for him to play 90 minutes,” said Pochettino after the game.
“More than one year out is never easy to come back from and perform in the way he was before. But he showed because loves football and loves to train. I think his mentality is fantastic. He will recover to his real level and more, to a new level. In tough moments you learn a lot.”
Lamela will have more opportunities to impress in the upcoming months after his best performance in more than a year.