Tottenham pulled out of their recent slump to book an FA Cup fourth-round place with a 2-1 replay victory over Middlesbrough.
Jonathan Woodgate, the former Spurs defender, saw his team take the lead and battle to a 1-1 draw at the Riverside Stadium 10 days ago but they were the architects of their own downfall in north London.
Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela were the respective first-half beneficiaries of poor errors from Boro goalkeeper Tomas Mejias and captain Jonny Howson.
Jose Mourinho’s men travel to Southampton in the round of 32, having lost the Premier League version of that fixture 1-0 on New Year’s Day, despite Boro substitute George Saville setting up a grandstand finish.
Middlesbrough’s hopes of an upset were severely compromised within two minutes when Mejias’ loose pass was intercepted by Lo Celso, who capitalised with a composed finish into the bottom-left corner.
Davinson Sanchez overhit his own pass from the back and then lost his footing, allowing Lukas Nmecha to turn inside Japhet Tanganga and draw a fine save from Spurs goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Boro were quickly made to regret not capitalising on that opening when Howson lost possession and Lamela eased beyond Paddy McNair and Dael Fry to double the Tottenham lead.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 14, 2020
Lamela fizzed over on the turn midway through the first half before Spurs full-backs Ryan Sessegnon and Tanganga went close.
Middlesbrough attacks were becoming increasingly rare, although Ashley Fletcher – their goalscorer in the initial game – could have pulled one back when he headed Marvin Johnson’s 44th-minute free-kick wide.
Sessegnon blazed an inviting Tanganga cross over from close range in the 51st minute but Spurs did little else to quicken the pulse for most of the second period.
Saville had a speculative effort deflected on to the roof of the net and Spurs did not heed the warning as he was allowed to advance and slot past Gazzaniga’s apologetic dive to prompt a nervy finale.
What does it mean? Mourinho’s men back to winning ways
Spurs were winless in four games since Boxing Day heading into Tuesday’s match, with a serious hamstring injury to captain Harry Kane compounding their woes. It will take more than earning a fourth-round trip to St Mary’s to restore the fleeting feelgood factor of Mourinho’s first couple of weeks in charge, but this was a step in the right direction.
Lo Celso and Lamela sparkle
Injury has hindered Lo Celso’s debut season at Spurs, much as fitness problems have frequently hindered his compatriot Lamela throughout his time in north London. The Argentina duo dazzled here and were responsible for most of Spurs’ brightest moments. How Mourinho would love them to retain form and fitness.
Slack Sanchez gets away with it
Tottenham’s aversion to clean sheets has been a notable feature of the Mourinho era. They have one in 14 matches now and Sanchez’s frequent lackadaisical moments were enough to keep Boro interested.
Key Opta Facts
– Tottenham have now reached the FA Cup fourth round for the 13th time in the past 14 seasons, only missing out in 2013-14, when they lost to Arsenal in round three.
– Timed at one minute and 55 seconds, Lo Celso’s opener was Spurs’ earliest goal scored at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and their earliest home goal in any competition since Christian Eriksen scored against Manchester United at Wembley in the Premier League back in January 2018 (11 seconds).
= For just the second time during his 923-game managerial career, Tottenham boss Mourinho has seen one of his clubs concede at least once in nine consecutive matches in all competitions, also suffering the same fate with Chelsea between May and September 2015.
Spurs travel to in-form Watford in the Premier League on Saturday, while Middlesbrough are back in London to take on promotion-chasing Fulham in the Championship on Friday.
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