Values and philosophies are important in football but sometimes individual quality makes all the difference. Millwall worked heroically hard at White Hart Lane this afternoon but they ended up being steamrollered by Tottenham Hotspur 6-0.
It was not a fair reflection of the efforts of the two teams but the game was decisively swung by two brilliantly precise Heung-Min Son finishes, one with either foot, either side of half-time. He completed his hat-trick in added time, with help from a very generous Tom King error. That is what having a £25m striker does for you. That is why Spurs are going to the semi-finals of the FA Cup at Wembley while Millwall are fighting to get back into the Championship.
Spurs were running through Millwall at the end and even Vincent Janssen scored in open play, for the first time since his move from Holland last summer. But Mauricio Pochettino will need Son and Janssen in as good form as possible. The one bad point of this otherwise perfect afternoon was Harry Kane being forced off after just seven minutes after painfully turning his right ankle under an early tackle from Jake Cooper. If it is as bad as the ankle sprain he suffered at the start of the season, he will barely play again for Spurs this season.
Until then, though, Spurs can look back on a job well done under difficult circumstances. For the first 30 minutes, Millwall did succeed in making this precisely the type of match they wanted. They were never going to come here and play open expansive football. That is not who they are or how they have beaten three Premier League teams so far.
Neil Harris has his team playing compact aggressive 4-4-2, getting the ball forward to Lee Gregory and Steve Morison and scrapping for every 50-50, as Kane found out to his cost when Cooper tried to block his shot. Spurs dominated possession throughout but who would have come here and expected otherwise?
Tottenham peppered the goal of Tom King, Millwall’s stand in keeper playing in the absence of Jordan Archer. His handling never looked secure, twice spilling from Harry Winks shots from distance, but with his back four willing to throw themselves in front of everything, he had some good protection.
Millwall even had a half-chance to take what would have been a very unlikely lead. Gregory received a long-ball and held off Eric Dier, laying the ball back to Morison. He spied an angle towards the top corner but curled a difficult finish wide.
Tottenham 6 Millwall 0 player ratings
But when Spurs took the lead, to Millwall’s frustration, it was gifted to them by the most avoidable error. Byron Webster and Jake Cooper jumped for the same ball and collided. Dele Alli took the ball down and it fell to Eriksen, on as a substitute for Kane, to put it in on the turn.
It was one of those moments that underlined that, for all Harris’ brilliant work, there was an obvious gulf in quality between the two sets of players, one that no amount of motivation or organisation could bridge.
That was glaringly true with both of Son’s first two goals, scored either side of half-time, ending the game as a contest. Son’s first came five minutes before the interval, as Alli and Dier broke forward and passed to Son on the right. His first touch was poor but he shuffled back inside and curled the ball with his left foot into the far top corner of the net.
It was a brilliant goal but his second, 10 minutes after the re-start, was even better. Kieran Trippier chipped a hopeful long ball over the top of Cooper. Son ran onto it, watched the ball over his shoulder and volleyed it, this time with his right, into the net. After being racially abused by Millwall fans about South Koreans selling DVDs, it was a perfectly dismissive response.
At 3-0 Millwall’s resistance was over and Spurs could easily run through them. Dele Alli scored the fourth, putting Eriksen’s pass in at the far post after he was released by Trippier. The biggest surprise was yet to come, though, when Janssen, on as a substitute, found the bottom corner of the net, for an open-play goal that many thought would never come.
Millwall had nothing left to give and Son completed his hat-trick with the last kick of the game, with a goal that left an embarrassing tinge on an otherwise hard-fought contest. Millwall keeper King was struggling and when Son swept the ball towards him it should have been a simple save, but he let the ball straight through his hands.