Kane 63, 65 Vertonghen 71
AFC WIMBLEDON 0
By DAVE HUNT-JACKSON at Wembley
AFC Wimbledon bowed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon, but not without giving a fine account of themselves in a display full of passion and commitment that saw them hold their illustrious London neighbours for more than an hour.
It was a performance that surely must breed confidence for the League One relegation battle that lies ahead against a side that will shortly contest the latter stages of the Champions League.
Perhaps understandably given the array of attacking talent Spurs had on offer, Dons boss Neal Ardley opted for a defensive line-up with Lyle Taylor the loan striker in front of a five-man midfield with captain Barry Fuller restored to the side following his recent injury lay-off.
Spurs played a very strong side that included a start for the Premier League’s most prolific striker Harry Kane and a line-up and bench crammed with internationals.
This was one occasion when the possession stats were never going to please the Dons boss. Tottenham enjoying long spells of almost uncontested time on the ball – ending with 80 per cent possession – as Wimbledon were forced to spend most of the first half pinned back and defending for their lives. Deji Oshilaja made a number of perfectly-timed last-ditch tackles.
It was almost out of the blue when the Dons so nearly grabbed the lead. Michel Vorm was at full stretch to push Jimmy Abdou’s curling effort onto his bar before recovering to save on the rebound from Liam Trotter.
That was to prove the best chance of a goalless first-half. Spurs had been constantly camped in the Dons half but so often squandered the final ball. George Long was in fine form to deny both Kane and Eric Lamela.
It was the Dons who created the first chance of the second half with Vorm making another fine save to deny Darius Charles’s goal-bound header.
Then it was the host’s turn to strike the woodwork shortly afterwards as Mousa Dembele’s low shot came back to the grateful Long from the upright.
That only proved a temporary reprieve as just after the hour mark Tottenham finally broke the deadlock. Kane lost his marker before bundling in a Moussa Sissoko cross. Then two minutes later he knocked in the rebound from a Kyle Walker-Peters’ effort after the Dons had left themselves exposed following a wasted free-kick in the Spurs’ half.
The North Londoners added insult to injury with a third goal in nine minutes, Jan Vertonghen’s long-range shot flew in via a deflection off Fuller’s backside.
There was time for Long to produce a great save to deny Kane his hat-trick and for Tottenham to strike the woodwork again but further goals would have been harsh on Wimbledon.
This was a fine effort from Ardley’s charges and had Abdou’s shot gone in or Andy Barcham found the cross to match his run with the scores still level it could have been even better.
Yes, Harry Kane too easily lost his marker, but then he is arguably one of the top half-dozen strikers in Europe and it would be churlish to be too critical of the ease with which the Dons ceded possession for the second goal against a top Premier league outfit.
The fact is that if the Dons reproduce this level of performance over the coming weeks they will surely prove too strong for most League One sides and how the 7,700 Wimbledon fans at Wembley will hope that starts with victory on Saturday – with a chance to leapfrog their despised opponents Milton Keynes and climb out of the relegation zone.