By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent, at White Hart Lane
Saturday, January 5, 2013
FA Cup: Tottenham 3 Coventry City 0
Clint Dempsey scored a brace as Tottenham scored three times in the first half to demolish Coventry and cruise into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Dempsey and Gareth Bale combined for all three of the goals as a much-changed but strong Spurs side dominated their League One visitors from start to finish and secured their place in the hat for tomorrow’s draw.
There were seven changes to the team that had beaten Reading on New Year’s Day, with Michael Dawson, Kyle Naughton, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Emmanuel Adebayor the only survivors.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto made his long-awaited return from a knee injury which had ruled him out since August, and Scott Parker made his first start of the campaign.
Tom Huddlestone was also handed a rare start, while Gareth Bale returned from suspension alongside the incoming Brad Friedel, Steven Caulker and Dempsey.
It was one-way traffic from the start as Coventry struggled to cope with Spurs’ intensity and unpredictable movement.
The Lilywhites were generally operating in a 4-4-2 system, with Dempsey and Adebayor up front and Sigurdsson on the right of midfield.
However, the hosts were interchanging positions at will – and at one moment in the first half Adebayor, Bale and Sigurdsson were all up top between the Coventry defenders, with Dempsey dropping in behind.
Sigurdsson, Parker and Huddlestone all tried their luck from distance before Tottenham opened the scoring in the 13th minute as Bale met Sigurdsson’s free-kick with a flicked header and Dempsey slammed the ball into the net from close range.
There was no let-up as Joe Murphy punched away an awkward Bale cross, and Dempsey was just unable to reach Adebayor’s ball across the box before Bale sent another dangerous low delivery across the goalmouth.
Murphy was forced into action again as the impressive Naughton cut inside from the right and shot towards the near post, and Bale then beat five men before firing narrowly wide of the far post.
Coventry were grateful to Adebayor as the Togo international inadvertently got in the way of Dempsey’s powerful goalbound 20-yard drive, and Naughton then came inside and found the American, whose shot was well blocked by Richard Wood.
The second goal duly arrived in the 33rd minute, and it was no surprise to see Dempsey involved as his 25-yard shot hit Wood and looped into the path of Bale, who slid in to finish at the far post.
It was 3-0 four minutes later as Bale and Dempsey combined once again, the Welshman whipping in a corner which Dempsey met with a superb looping header that dropped just inside the angle of post and crossbar.
Spurs quickly picked up where they had left off after the interval as Bale freed Adebayor, who ran through on goal but was levered off the ball at the crucial moment and went down appealing for a penalty – in vain.
The Tottenham forward then failed to make contact with Sigurdsson’s inviting low cross, and Caulker headed wastefully wide from Huddlestone’s free kick.
Bale went close with a 25-yard free-kick on the hour-mark, but Coventry then went close at the other end.
Huddlestone’s poor pass allowed Leon Clarke to run at the Spurs rearguard and tee up substitute Conor Thomas, who was denied by the sliding Caulker – and when the ensuing corner came in, Friedel then got down to make a fine one-handed save from William Edjenguele’s header.
The action quickly switched back to the other end though as Bale hared through a gap in the City defence and saw his prodded effort saved by Murphy – and the Welshman then departed to a standing ovation as Andros Townsend entered the fray, followed by Tom Carroll and Mousa Dembele.
Tottenham were denied a penalty as Edjenguele appeared to handle the ball in the box, and the lively Townsend went close with two decent efforts before Dempsey sent a 30-yard free-kick whistling wide.
Coventry thought they had scored a late consolation as Clarke ran through and squared for Thomas, who finished into an empty net - but the linesman’s flag had already been raised for offside.
In the end there was to be no second-half goal, but Spurs will reflect on a job well done with a minimum of fuss and plenty of panache as they wait to discover their opponents in the next round.
Tottenham: Friedel, Naughton, Dawson, Caulker, Assou-Ekotto, Parker (Dembele 79), Huddlestone, Sigurdsson (Carroll 79), Dempsey, Bale (Townsend 69), Adebayor