By Chris Slavin
It needed England international Harry Kane's intervention to finally break AFC Wimbledon's brave resistance at Wembley today.
Premier League Tottenham Hotspur eventually won 3-0, but a side in the last-16 of the Champions League took until the 63rd minute to finally score against Wimbledon. Kane quickly notched his double, before Jan Vertonghen sealed it.
Despite the final score-line, it was certainly an encouraging performance and the 7,700 Dons inside the famous stadium made plenty of noise to get behind their team.
Neal Ardley made four changes to the side that won so impressively against Southend United last time out. Barry Fuller came back in to captain the side after injury and there were also recalls for Jon Meades, Andy Barcham and Darius Charles. Callum Kennedy, Harry Forrester, Will Nightingale and Egli Kaja all had to settle for places on the bench. Mauricio Pochettino selected a strong Tottenham Hotspur side with Harry Kane and Erik Lamela among a host of star names chosen.
Wimbledon defended deep early on with only Lyle Taylor left in an advanced position and Tottenham showed their Premier League quality early on. George Long remained alert to stop Kane in the first few minutes, but the offside flag was already up. Shortly afterwards, the England forward was just unable to get his head to a cross from Lamela. Long showed the goalkeeping qualities that Dons fans had become accustomed to seeing during his loan spell when he reacted well to beat out a fierce shot from Lamela.
As we edged towards the midway point of the first-half, Wimbledon had a first spell of meaningful possession with Fuller bursting forward to show he had well recovered from injury. Though Kane fired over the crossbar with another good effort, Wimbledon went onto enjoy an impressive spell that almost brought the opening goal. Deji Oshilaja won a header from a corner and Darius Charles almost converted at the back post, but Michel Vorm just managed to scramble the ball clear. Wimbledon came even closer in the 30th minute when a fine move ended with Lyle Taylor creating a shooting chance for Jimmy Abdou, who struck a cracking effort that Vorm just managed to tip onto the crossbar, Liam Trotter's follow-up also saved.
The Dons had come tantalisingly close to an opener and it provided encouragement for Wimbledon that Spurs could be threatened. However, Long was required to make a superb save just a couple of minutes before half-time. Following a rapid Spurs counter-attack, Lamela went clean through on the Dons keeper, but he showed excellent reactions to tip the ball wide. After absorbing early Spurs pressure, it had been a good 15 minutes for Wimbledon leading up to the break and the 0-0 half-time score was a reflection of how well the Dons had defended.
It was far from a case of Wimbledon just sitting back at the start of the second-half with Neal Ardley's men having several good moments in attack. Barcham showed lovely skill to burst down the left flank, but his cross was just to high for those men waiting in the box. Then came another close one for Wimbledon with Vorm forced to make another impressive save. Darius Charles won a header in the box from a free-kick and his effort produced a finger-tip save from Vorm.
It had been a fantastic effort from Wimbledon in the first hour with the score still at 0-0. However, the pressure had been steadily building and Mousa Dembele cracked a shot against a post with Long beaten. Spurs eventually opened the scoring in the 63rd minute and it was that man Harry Kane who broke the deadlock. Moussa Sissoko found space down the right and his cross fell nicely for Kane, who steered home from close range. Less than two minutes later, it was 2-0, with Spurs benefiting from a slice of fortune. A cross from Kyle Walker-Peter was deflected into the path of Kane, who made no mistake for his second.
With Wimbledon 2-0 down, Neal Ardley responded by making a double change with Harry Forrester and Cody McDonald introduced for Andy Barcham and Jimmy Abdou. With 19 minutes to play, it was 3-0 when Jan Vertonghen's powerful drive took a slight deflection off Barry Fuller and arrowed into the top corner. Shortly afterwards, Long pulled off another cracking save to stop Kane notching his hat-trick. In the latter stages, Spurs threatened a fourth goal with substitute Heung-Min Son having a shot deflected against the crossbar. However, conceding another would have been harsh on Wimbledon considering their overall efforts and it had certainly been a good performance from the Dons on the day to limit Spurs to just three goals.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Jon Meades, Deji Oshilaja, George Francomb, Jimmy Abdou (Cody McDonald), Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham (Harry Forrester), Tom Soares (Anthony Hartigan), Darius Charles, Lyle Taylor.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.