By Gerry Cox
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (Sissoko 12, Son 70)
JOSE MOURINHO masterminded it, Chas and Dave sang it loudly round an almost empty Tottenham Hotspur stadium at the end of an action-packed cup semi-final, and their fans can look forward to an April cup final, as Spurs are on their way to Wembley.
Goals from Moussa Sissoko and Heung Min Son were enough to see off Brentford and take Tottenham through to a Carabao Cup final showdown with the winners of Wednesday’s all-Manchester semi-final between United and City.
But it was no easy ride for Spurs against a sophisticated and spirited Brentford side who had already beaten four Premier League teams en route to this one-legged semi-final. That is a departure froim the usual two-legged semi-finals, and another rule change that worked in Tottenham’s favour was the introduction of VAR at the last-four stage.
The Video Assistant Referee not only demonstrated to Mike Dean that Ivan Toney was offside when thought he had equalised for Brentford in the 63rd minute, it also highlighted a dangerous tackle that earned Bees midfielder Josh Dasilva a red card in the closing stages as his side tried to come back for an unlikely giant-killing.
Tottenham were deserving winners in the end, but Brentford showed why they are fourth in the Championship with a gutsy and at times skilful display.
Both teams were at full strength, a measure of what was at stake and how seriously managers Mourinhjo and Thomas Frank were taking this tie. Although it did not have the feel of a cup semi-final, with no crowd to make the sort and atmosphere associated with a big cup tie, there was plenty at stake for the victors.
Not surprisingly Spurs made the early running and took the lead, although the scorer and method were far from predictable. Sissoko had not scored for 13 months, and is hardly renowned for his heading ability. Perhaps that is why Brentford’s defence inexplicably left him unmarked nine yards from the goal when Sergio Reguilon swung in a cross from the left. Central defenders Ethan Pinnock and Mads Sorensen were so fixated on trying to keep Harry Kane from getting to the ball that they let Sissoko slip in between them unnoticed, and he duly took advantage by steering his header beyond David Raya’s reach and into the far corner of goal.
Heung Min Son almost doubled Tottenham’s lead moments later, and it took a full-length save from Raya to keep out the Korean’s 20-yard shot.
And the keeper made an even better save five minutes before half-time when he clawed away the ball as it was dropping under the bar at the far post, when Lucas Moura and Ivan Toney both got their heads to Son’s corner, with the Brentford forward the last man to touch the ball.
The forward, who is Brentford’s top scorer, had limited chances before the break, apart from one header that was high and wide. But he was denied by a last-gasp block from Serge Aurier when he looked odds-on to score early in the second-half, after good work on the right by Bryan Mbeumo, the young Brentford forward.
Toney did find the net in the 63rd minute, heading over the goalline from close range when Ethan Pinnock nodded a corner back across goal, but VAR intervened to show that the striker was offside, and Mike Dean amended his original decision.
Reprieved, Tottenham doubled their lead within seven minutes. Kane played a short pass to Tanguy Ndombele who shuttled the ball forward allowing Son to ran between two defenders with a burst of pace and fire a shot past Raya from the penalty spot. It was the Korean’s 16th goal of the season and his 101st for Tottenham.
Spurs should have made it 3-0 soon afterwards when a slick counter-attack gave Ndombele the chance to shoot or set up Kane, but the French midfielder carried the ball out of play and the chance was lost.
Brentford kept going, gamely, and Mbeumo headed over at the far post. But their chances of a late comeback were ended effectively when Dasilva was sent off for raking his studs down the shin of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who had been running the show from midfield. Dean was only alerted to the seriousness of the offence by VAR, and the referee checked a pitchside monitor before producing a red card for Dasilva, as Hojbjerg hobbled down the tunnel for treatment to a gashed shin.
He may miss Tottenham’s trip to Marine for their FA Cup encounter on Sunday, and if the non-league side produce the same spirit as Brentford, Spurs will have another tough match.
TOTTENHAM 4-2-3-1: Lloris 7; Aurier 7, Sanchez 7, Dier 8, Reguilon 7 (Davies 71); Sissoko 8, Hojbjerg 8 (Tanganga 85); Lucas 6 (Winks 71), Ndombele 7, Son 7 (Vinicius 89); Kane 7
BRENTFORD 4-3-3: Raya 6; Dalsgaard 6, Pinnock 6, Sorensen 7, Henry 7; Janelt 6 (Emiliano 74), Dasilva 5, Jensen 6; Mbeumo 7 (Forss 81), Canos 6 (Fosu-Henry 74), Toney 6.
Ref: Mike Dean