After coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Juventus in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, Tottenham made 11 changes to its team on Sunday and was held 2-2 by English third-tier team Rochdale in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
“It was an amazing game and an amazing event for us,” Rochdale manager Keith Hill said of his bottom-of-the-table team. “We took the opposition on and we know how good they are.
“I can’t describe my emotions. It was special. I’ve never had a moment like that.”
Rochdale had decided to dig up and re-lay the bumpy, almost grassless pitch that was used in the previous round against Millwall _ and the reason became clear early on against Tottenham.
Not for this team the typical third-tier fare of long-ball football. Hill’s Rochdale stroked the ball around to excellent effect to nullify the gulf in class between the sides and secure a lucrative replay later this month at Spurs’ temporary Wembley home.
It was no more than Rochdale deserved when Ian Henderson capped a sweeping move on the stroke of halftime with a low shot from 12 meters (yards) to score his sixth goal in as many FA Cup matches this season.
Eight-time FA Cup winner Tottenham, which left the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen out of its starting lineup, stepped up a gear in the second half and Lucas Moura, signed from Paris Saint Germain in the midwinter transfer window, equalized in the 59th minute.
Moura, making his first start for Tottenham, lifted the ball over goalkeeper Josh Lillis after a clever series of passes from the visiting team.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino then sent on Kane and Alli for the closing stages and the England pair combined to put their team in front with three minutes to go.
Alli was sent flying by a challenge from Harrison McGahey and Kane stepped up to rifle Tottenham in front from the penalty spot with the 34th goal he has scored for his club this season.
Then, just as Rochdale’s dreams of a trip to Wembley seemed to have died, substitute Steve Davies pounced on a left-wing cross and drove in a stoppage-time shot to the delight of the Spotland crowd.
“When they bring on the big guns and Harry Kane scores, I’ve got to follow suit haven’t I?” Davies joked.
Hill believed his Rochdale side desreved another crack at Tottenham on Feb. 28.
“It was sacrificial behavior at times and going 1-0 up we almost lit the bomb and knew what would come,” he said. “The heads could have gone down at 2-1 but they didn’t.
“We got what we felt was a deserved equalizer. We’ll see the replay as an opportunity. We’ll go to Wembley and have a go.”
The winner of the Tottenham-Rochdale replay meets Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea in the quarterfinals.
Pochettino said Rochdale’s performance came as no shock.
“I was not surprised,” he said. “The FA Cup is magic. The motivation is always massive.”
On Saturday, Manchester United beat Huddersfield 2-0 and Brighton knocked out Coventry 3-1. Southampton defeated West Bromwich Albion 2-1 while second-tier Sheffield Wednesday drew 0-0 with Swansea.
On Friday, Chelsea crushed Hull 4-0 and Leicester beat Sheffield United 1-0.
The last match of the fifth round takes place on Monday when Premier League leader Manchester City takes on third-tier Wigan in a repeat of the 2013 final.
Man United, which has won the FA Cup 12 times, will host Brighton in the quarterfinals while last year’s runner-up Chelsea faces a tricky trip to Leicester.
Man City or Wigan will host Southampton.