Spurs crash out of FA Cup as returning Wickham sets Palace on way

Connor Wickham scored his first goal in 799 days to inspire Crystal Palace to a 2-0 FA Cup fourth-round victory over Tottenham that eliminated their visitors from a second competition in four days.

Spurs lost on penalties to Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and their FA Cup hopes were extinguished on Sunday, their former player Andros Townsend scoring from the spot to double Palace’s lead.

Defeat, which came after Mauricio Pochettino selected a significantly-weakened team that featured seven changes from Thursday’s fixture at Chelsea, leaves Spurs with only a Premier League title race they are unlikely to win and the Champions League to focus on.

In-form Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund stand in their way in the knockout stages of the European competition, meaning Spurs could live to regret the defeat to an under-strength Palace team which contained six changes.

It was in only the ninth minute when Wickham, starting for the first time in two years and two months that have been wrecked by an anterior cruciate ligament injury, gave his team the lead.

When Joel Ward advanced down the right wing and centred to Jeffrey Schlupp on the edge of the area, the midfielder carried the ball towards the near, right post before shooting and forcing a save from Paulo Gazzaniga that left Wickham with a routine tap-in into a near-open goal.

With Christian Benteke again fit and Bakary Sako’s return to the club from West Brom confirmed before kick-off, Palace are again rediscovering the attacking options they have missed, but it was Kyle Walker-Peters’ inexperience that gifted their second goal.

His careless handball when leaping under a relatively harmless cross left referee Kevin Friend with little choice but to award a 34th-minute penalty, giving Townsend the chance to score his first goal against the team he left in January 2016.

He took it, sending his effort down the middle as Gazzaniga dived.

He then wasted a chance to score his second when Patrick Van Aanholt and Wilfried Zaha combined to put him through in front of goal and he could barely test Gazzaniga, before Palace had to rely on their goalkeeper Julian Speroni.

The 39-year-old was criticised for an error that last week contributed to their 4-3 defeat at Liverpool, but, when Kieran Trippier played a clever short free-kick to Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, the keeper impressively denied him not once but twice.

On the stroke of half-time he then faced a penalty when Van Aanholt clumsily fouled Juan Foyth, but Trippier, potentially unnerved by having to re-position the ball when wind blew it from the spot, wasted Spurs’ finest chance by placing his effort horribly wide of the left post.

Pochettino responded by introducing Erik Lamela as a half-time substitute, but, as the absence of Christian Eriksen and the injured Dele Alli and Harry Kane bit, his team’s struggles in front of goal continued.

Spurs were improved after the break, but they offered little beyond two efforts from Fernando Llorente that Speroni saved as another chance of silverware disappeared.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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