London: Fernando Llorente’s hat-trick helped fire Tottenham Hotspur to a crushing 6-1 victory over third-tier Rochdale on Wednesday in an FA Cup fifth-round replay packed with contentious decisions that thrust the VAR system back into the spotlight.
Llorente’s second-half treble, a double from Son Heung-min and a late effort from Kyle Walker-Peters in driving snow at a freezing Wembley Stadium settled an game where tensions had threatened to bubble over before the break.
The Video Assistant Referee disallowed an early Tottenham goal before awarding them a disputed penalty, which was converted by Son, only for referee Paul Tierney to chalk off his effort and book the player for stopping during his run-up.
Rochdale’s Stephen Humphrys cancelled out Son’s opener, rubbing salt into Spurs’ wounds and ensuring the halftime debate centred on the VAR system, which is being trialled in the FA Cup this season.
Spurs made those arguments academic, however, with five goals after the break to set up a quarter-final tie away to Premier League strugglers Swansea City.
Part of the debate surrounding VAR is about the length of time it takes for decisions to be made and how fans are often left in the dark about the reasons behind them. Both issues were illustrated after six minutes at Wembley.
Spurs thought they had opened the scoring when Erik Lamela tapped into the net, but a lengthy pause followed before the goal was chalked off by the VAR, with replays suggesting it may have been for shirt pulling by Llorente.
Son gave Spurs the lead when he curled home from 12 metres after 23 minutes and two minutes later the VAR was called upon again after the referee said Kieran Trippier was pulled down by Matt Done outside the area.