Tottenham Hotspur left it late to progress into the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday evening.
Jose Mourinho’s side had to come from behind to overcome a battle-hardened Wycombe Wanderers outfit at Adams Park. Indeed they sealed the victory with three goals in the final seven minutes.
The Championship side took the lead after 25 minutes when Fred Onyedinma slotted past Joe Hart before Gareth Bale marked his rare start with a hooked finish right on half-time.
Spurs then needed an array of changes from the bench to spark them into life, none more so than Tanguy Ndombele’s introduction as he bagged a six-minute brace in the dying embers having only been introduced in the 68th minute.
Whilst midfield enforcer Harry Winks received the Man of the Match award from BT Sport’s Steve Sidwell, who was on commentary duty and dubbed the out-of-favour Englishman the “driving force” in the middle (25/01, 21:37pm).
However, another player may have actually stolen the show and as a result, changed the game completely in Spurs’ favour – that being Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who came on for Japhet Tanganga at half-time.
It was a risky ploy as it saw fellow central midfielder Moussa Sissoko pushed out to an unnatural right-back position in the absence of Matt Doherty (injured) and Serge Aurier, who was seemingly too ill to start or feature here.
Though, the switch paid dividends as the Dane’s imperious influence in the middle was instantly felt. In the first half, Spurs had only won five more duels than the Chairboys – you could be forgiven for thinking they were doing well in the Championship, but instead, they are actually rock-bottom.
That changed through the introduction of Hojbjerg as the £15m summer signing won 80% of his ten duels in the second period, which saw Spurs also record 14 more duels won this time, per SofaScore – hardly a coincidence as they now had that ruthless presence in the engine room.
Indeed, the £45m-rated (€50m) powerhouse also recorded four clearances, a figure well above his Premier League season average of 1.7 per game, which makes those resolute 45 minutes all that more impressive.
Hojbjerg also made more passes (35) than Gareth Bale (24), who played the full 90, Lucas Moura (32) and Erik Lamela (34), who both played until the 68th minute, which only goes to show how strong of an influence the 25-year-old beast had in Buckinghamshire.
His game was topped off by one key pass which provided the fourth and final Spurs goal of the game in injury time.
The Evening Standard’s Dan Kilpatrick graded the £65k-per-week Denmark international a 7/10 and claimed: “Provided a midfield platform for Spurs’ forward in the second half, which was essentially a contest between attack and defence,” which merely reinforces the point of him being an integral change.
Whilst Ndombele and Winks will take the plaudits in the press with a trio of simply sublime goals, it was Hojbjerg’s introduction that swung the game’s control in their favour as outlined throughout this piece.
He did the dirty work, and that is often so vastly underrated.