A perfect hat-trick from Fernando Llorente helped us to a resounding FA Cup fifth round replay win against Rochdale at a snowy Wembley Stadium on Wednesday evening – but that doesn’t begin to tell the story of a crazy game!
The Spanish striker hit a 12-minute second half treble, Heung-Min Son netted a brace of his own and Academy graduate Kyle Walker-Peters scored his first professional goal as we turned on the style after the interval, having seen two goals disallowed - the first one by the Video Assistant Referee - in the first period and our League One visitors draw level after Son’s opener.
The drama began after just six minutes when Erik Lamela tucked home a loose ball which seemingly gave us the lead, only for VAR Graham Scott to advise referee Paul Tierney to disallow the goal for a foul by Fernando Llorente in the build up.
We did open the scoring on 23 minutes with Heung-Min Son curling home from just inside the area and we thought we’d doubled our lead five minutes later when Son converted from the penalty spot, awarded thanks to VAR after Matt Done’s foul on Kieran Trippier. But the South Korean stopped midway through his penalty run-up, an illegal manoeuvre, and so the goal was ruled out.
Rochdale took full advantage and levelled the game through Stephen Humphrys, almost going ahead just before half-time when Andrew Cannon beat Michel Vorm but not the far post.
There was real bewilderment inside Wembley at half-time following the events of the first half, but thankfully the players cleared their heads quickly during the break and blitzed Rochdale with four goals in the opening 20 minutes of the second period to put the tie to bed.
Llorente did most of the damage, chipping Dale goalkeeper Josh Lillis with his right foot before poking home with his left and then heading in from close range, all within the space of 12 minutes and thanks to great build-up play from those behind him.
Son converted Lamela’s pass for 5-1 after 65 minutes and there was a great moment deep into stoppage time when Walker-Peters played a one-two with Dele Alli and beat Lillis with a right-foot shot.
The victory sees us progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals where we will face a trip to Swansea City on Saturday, March 17, kick-off at 12.15pm at the Liberty Stadium.