Well, it took all of about 55 hours to flush all the bad feeling from Peter Bankes and the insane handball rule down the proverbial toilet. This was one of the most enjoyable two hours—start to finish—that I’ve had watching Spurs in a long while, barring the Champions League run in 2019.
By the end, I was happy with any outcome, even a late Chelsea winner, satisfied in the knowledge that the team had played hard, increasingly well, and managed brilliantly all on a night when it could have all gone very south very quickly.
So, let me start by toasting Sergio Reguilon, who despite overrunning the ball which led to directly to Chelsea’s lone goal grew into the game increasingly, showing the most danger down the left flank we have witnessed for at least three years since peak Danny. And the cross to Lamela for the equaliser came from his WRONG foot. Extraordinary. Shout out to Lamela as well who was active the entire night in an accustomed role all the way up front—he deserved that goal as much or more than any other player.
What about Eric Dier? On a night that will live in infamy (why does he keep leaving the pitch for strange reasons) he was increasingly a bulwark in the middle with Toby and Tanganga and the first penalty established a confident pattern for the other four shooters to follow. Hojgberg arrived late, bur began to instantly organize the attack which was increasingly likely to produce the desired result, particularly with Kane and Lucas subbed on with him. My only criticism and it is a mild one given the result was Stephen Bergwijn, who seemed particularly wasteful on the attack when a better man (Including the one who cost £5mill, I’m afraid) might easily have found the net or a teammate for a goal a couple of times.
My special regards have to go out to what I believe may have been the first time in Spurs history—at least in recent years—that four French-speaking players occupied the pitch for all 90 minutes. We know about our captain, and even if it was the post and not his hand that parried Mount’s spot shot away, we all know it would have been the former if the strike had been more accurate. I was actually touched to see him and his World Cup-winning teammate, Olivier Giroud, chatting at the end. They deserve it—and after all the London derbies they’ve faced each other in—I was happy not to see their Frenchman in that penalty lineup.
And the other three? Well, I delayed watching the final episode of All or Nothing (“Tout ou Rien”) until last night. I knew it would focus not only on the restart and the run-in but also Tanguy Ndombele—what I didn’t realise was the focus on him listening to the advice given by both Sissoko and Aurier. And there the three were—giving a pretty heroic performance for all 90 minutes—and increasingly by the second half, beginning to boss the game. So I’ve got a name for them—not very original but maybe it sticks. Not the Three Amigos, but the “Trois Amis”. Serge may not be here long, but for now Vive le France! (and Cote D’Ivoire, too)
And finally, I have to put the ultimate praise directly where it belongs. When Jose said he was “sacrificing” this game because of the crowded fixtures and the Europa League’s better odds in a group stage if we win Thursday, a little voice whispered to me “he’s setting Frank up”. When I saw a lineup with five defenders and Bergwijn and Lamela up front, I knew it was a smash and grab strategy. Chelsea’ press pretty much dictated the game in the first half, but they only got the one Werner goal.
I could almost put myself in the dressing room for the halftime talk, and know he would be urging them to press forward, that the game could be won. The three substitutes were perfectly timed, the team responded, and frankly whether we scored or not, I was content in the knowledge that we were the better side in the second half and that overall they had played well. And then Lamela. And then Mount. All to play for, lads—and you know what? You showed them last night. You have balls!