In the end, it all felt a bit cruel. Tottenham were six goals up by the time Harry Kane entered from the bench. Typically, Kane would add a seventh.
Andre Marriner felt so sorry for Tranmere that he awarded just one minute of stoppage time at the end of a second half whereby Spurs relentlessly embarrassed their League Two hosts.
It is not often we have witnessed a Tottenham team quite so aggressive, quite so ruthless when presented with shaking lambs and they went for the jugular. That is what Mauricio Pochettino demands.
Fernando Llorente scored a hat-trick as Tottenham Hotspur thrashed Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park on Friday evening
Right back Serge Aurier scored twice for Spurs who cruised into the last 32 of the FA Cup with a thoroughly dominant display
Aurier opened the scoring with a curling effort which found the top corner of the hosts’ net from long range after 40 minutes
Aurier then overlapped down the right to score his second of the night to put Tottenham in total control at Prenton Park
South Korea international Heung-min Son continued his fine run of form with a superb individual goal to put Spurs four ahead
England captain Harry Kane then came off the bench to round off the scoring as Spurs romped to victory in Birkenhead
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Tranmere (5-3-2): Davies 5; Caprice 5, Ellis 5, McNulty 5, Monthe 5, Ridehalgh 5; McCullough 6, Harris 5.5 (Banks 57, 6), Gilmour 6; Jennings 6.5 (Mullin 82), Norwood 5
Subs not used: Passant, Buxton, Sutton, Stockton, Bakayogo
Manager: Micky Mellon 6
Tottenham (3-5-2): Gazzaniga 6.5, Foyth 7, Sanchez 6.5 (Eyoma 79), Davies 7; Aurier 8, Skipp 7.5, Alli 7, Lucas 6.5, Walker-Peters 7; Son 8.5 (Marsh 57), Llorente 8 (Kane 74).
Subs not used: Vorm, Alderweireld, Sissoko, Eriksen
Goals: Aurier (40 and 55), Llorente (48, 71 and 72), Son (57), Kane (82)
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino 7
Ref: Andre Marriner 7
No 7 Heung-min Son collected the ball in his own half before dribbling past No 16 Mark Ellis to score Tottenham’s fourth goal
Fernando Llorente touched the ball 37 times with most of his involvement coming in central areas, as shown by his heat map
First of all, the housekeeping. Fernando Llorente left with a hat-trick, taking his season’s tally to four and Pochettino admitted afterwards that the Spaniard could leave this month.
Heung-Min Son scored after a wondrous run, moseying through the home defence. Serge Aurier snatched two, the first of which looked astonishing but faded into Scott Davies’ top corner via a significant deflection. Then Kane poached his towards the end.
Tottenham headed for home having trodden on Tranmere and, crucially, were not drawn into the sort of games they endured at Newport County and Rochdale last season. The margin of this massacre was the largest in the club’s history away from home.
‘It was about respect, respect the people, respect the opponent,’ Pochettino said. ‘They’re not going to have many chances to see Harry Kane play here.
‘For different reasons I decided to make a change and put Kane on the pitch but one of them is that it’s important to show respect to the people here so they could see Harry Kane who is an icon in English football.’
Kane needs medals if he is truly to become an icon and it is that time of year when the merits of Pochettino’s broader achievements at Tottenham are weighed against their thirst for trophies.
Spurs are into an 11th year without silverware and, while Pochettino’s stock can now only really rise with a major honour to his name, it is the club who are more desperate for immediate success.
Aurier raised his right arm in celebration as his first-half shot flew into the Tranmere net to break the deadlock on 40 minutes
Ivory Coast international Aurier was mobbed by team-mates after Spurs took the lead in Friday’s FA Cup third round clash
Llorente provided a simple finish to make it 2-0 to Tottenham after 48 minutes as the floodgates opened on the Wirral
Son, who set up Llorente, congratulated the Spaniard, who looked happy to be getting some rare game time for Spurs
Aurier looked pleased with himself after putting Tottenham into a 3-0 lead on 55 minutes with his second goal of the night
But in the right here, the right now, that Tottenham squeezed the life out of Tranmere and left the Wirral without the need of a replay is success itself.
A draw – like those against lower league opposition in 2018 – would have left Spurs playing three games a week for the next month. The two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea is on the horizon and the prospect of no free midweeks was not palatable.
Particularly without the authoritative Heung-Min Son, who is now off to the Asia Games with South Korea. It might have represented a logistic nightmare for Pochettino. Fatigue is not exactly ideal for a team with genuine title ambitions up against the northern juggernauts.
‘I try to ensure that the squad is strong enough to push forward,’ Pochettino said when asked about Son’s impending absence. ‘You want your players but we knew we’d suffer because he was going.’
All four sides of Prenton Park applauded when Son came off and the home supporters refused to cower despite the deluge. For Pochettino, Oliver Skipp had another fine game and George Marsh was handed a debut.
A thoroughly professional evening all told, certainly given this is an arena steeped in FA Cup giantkilling history. There was once an 18-month stint whereby seven top-flight teams became scalps. It is some pedigree. Not this Friday night under the lights, though.
The team lying ninth in League Two had earlier attempted to pounce on an early indecision by Spurs but were eventually blown away. Top scorer James Norwood, who has 18 already this season, fluffed his lines and Connor Jennings volleyed over. Chances came and went and then Tottenham turned the screw.
‘You have to say that Spurs are fantastic haven’t you?’ Tranmere manager Micky Mellon said. ‘We will be disappointed with certain moments and a lot of the goals. But you get punished. We got punished very, very heavily. They have outrageously good players.’
Red-hot Korean forward Son provided a fine piece of individualism to fire Tottenham four goals ahead before the hour-mark
Llorente added two more goals for Spurs to complete his hat-trick — his second since joining the club from Swansea in 2017
After completing his hat-trick, Llorente was subbed off and replaced by Harry Kane who came on for the final 15 minutes
Kane scored No 7 with a crafty chip as Spurs made light work of beating their League Two opponents in front of TV cameras