Funny old game football and today’s match shows us just what a brilliant game it still is, even in these money-dominated, poorly-officiated times. So many ifs and buts, so much confusion about whether to feel proud or gutted and at the end of the day the stark reality of a widening divide from the top two, but thankfully, a status quo with the trailing four.
I thought we played pretty well as a team in the first half, but not individually in midfield or attack (which was probably the way Harry was happy for it to go). Bale was ineffective infield as an attacking force, Lennon needed to run more at Clichy after the booking, and VDV and Modric were uninspired and unincisive in the middle. But at the same time, we were keeping the league leaders comfortably at bay. The plan was probably to try and do this for as long as possible and then as their fans demanded more risks as the game wore on, break with pace and nick a winner. The plan was working up until they scored, it just wasn’t the plan I’d have followed or that Harry had promised pre-game, which was to take them on man for man and have a go at them from the first whistle.
Once they scored however, we had to take them on to get anything from the game. Unfortunately they scrambled a second in off Lescott’s arse before we’d had a chance to get the grip between our teeth. There was bad defending in both goals, but there was also excellent football in the first and the pot luck of a dangerous set piece in the second (just a shame we never invite lady luck along to our set pieces).
Even so, we had the spirit and courage and football and luck to take them on on an equal footing. The long ball that had been over-used in the first half was transformed by their weak link into an incisive pass in the second, well controlled and finished by Defoe, who had been anonymously battering his blonde lack of locks against a brick wall up until then.
And a sublime finish by Bale for the second, after Modric finally woke up from his slumber or shrugged off his shackles (take your pick). If only Luka had that type of finish in him himself. I initially blamed Bale for the goal that wasn’t since he played it in ahead of Defoe, who simply wasn’t ever going to reach it early enough to turn it in, but then how can you blame someone for the instinctive millisecond decision that his teammate will arrive at such a pace? How was he to know that Defoe had taken a slight knock or was tired enough to arrive a split second slower? If he’d put it in back an inch and Defoe had arrived at his full pelt, would it have been easier for Defoe to adjust and score anyway? It was just one of those things the beautiful game gives us.
And what was Ledders doing? Just one of those things. Should Balotelli been on the pitch? At full pace in the heat of the moment, difficult to decide he intended to stamp on him. We’re all looking at a slow motion replay and are thinking of all the things Balotelli’s done both on and off the pitch to cloud our judgement. The only thing that’s certain is that Webb wasn’t going to get all controversial on our behalf. As the Argentine summariser said ‘he has his own way of interpreting the regulations’, an eloquent way of admitting he never gives us anything.
At the end of the day, we’re still looking very good for third. We’re still playing excellent football. We still lack a world class striker that is proving impossible to find within the context we are offering. We still can’t compete on a level playing field without a superduper new stadium. We are still not getting the rub of the green from referees. We’re still Tottenham, super Tottenham, from the lane.