Gary Lim: Cup exit could be blessing in disguise for Spurs
Tottenham can now focus on winning first league title since 1961
CRYSTAL PALACE 1
(Martin Kelly 45+1)
This time, there was no Harry Kane magic or Dele Alli wizardry to save Tottenham Hotspur.
In a fiercely contested London Derby at White Hart Lane yesterday, it was Crystal Palace who grabbed an unlikely 1-0 victory to seal a quarter-final spot in the FA Cup for the first time in 21 years.
Mauricio Pochettino will wonder how they allowed the game to slip through their hands.
Defeat, though, may not be that bitter a pill to swallow for Spurs.
As the Premiership season reaches its business end, fatigue and pressure often overcome the unsuspecting.
Spurs, second in the English Premier League table, are well-positioned to win their first league title since 1961.
They are also one of the favourites to win the Europa League, where they eked out a 1-1 away draw with Fiorentina in the first leg of their Round-of-32 clash in midweek.
Forget about winning the Europa League too. With the FA Cup out of the picture, it may actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Lilywhites.
Despite the defeat, Spurs displayed the kind of form that saw them string together an eight-match unbeaten run. They could have wrapped up the game by half-time.
The host of chances that came their way were either spurned by the Spurs players or saved by the impressive Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
By the end of the match, Spurs chalked up 19 goal attempts, 10 more than their opponents.
Alli saw his third-minute diving header cleared off the line by an alert Yohan Cabaye on the goal-line.
Spurs' biggest chance came 20 minutes later, when a stunned Alli saw his shot bounce off both posts before being cleared to safety.
Then it was Kane's turn to go close, but he was denied by Hennessey.
Palace were almost always on the backfoot, but they came prepared.
Their gameplan was straightforward - sit deep and hit on the break.
At times, they rode on their luck, but they pulled off the only thing that mattered - scoring.
Just before the break, Spurs played right into Palace's hands.
There was such patience in the build-up to their goal that one couldn't help but admire its beauty.
Wilfried Zaha orchestrated the move, using his speed to drive through the middle, then timing his pass to Martin Kelly to perfection.
The unmarked former Liverpool defender made no mistake from an acute angle, rifling the ball in at the near post on the stroke of half-time.
Spurs returned for the second half looking determined to find the equaliser. Kane soon tested Hennessey, but again found the custodian in unstoppable mood.
The proceedings continued in the same vein until the end, with Spurs camped around their opponents' penalty area and Palace continuing to threaten on the counter-attack.
Three minutes from the end, Connor Wickham thought he had confirmed Palace's win with a tap-in, but the goal was chalked off for offside.
They were made to go through several more scares in the final moments but, in the end, Alan Pardew's (left) side reaped the rewards of a tactically disciplined performance.
They might have also done Pochettino a big favour.
BY THE NUMBERS
Alan Pardew's (above) Crystal Palace are in the FA Cup last eight for the first time since 1995, and this was their first win at White Hart Lane since 1997.