What a disappointment the first half was against Dnipro and the second half got worse with their early goal and it looked as if we were on our way out even after the stunning free kick from Eriksen.
We were pressing forward and making inroads for the first time in the entire tie and some Dnipro players seemed to be getting rattled by our more aggressive approach. And then came the moment on which the match hinged and everything suddenly changed just on the hour mark.
Having scored only a few minutes earlier Zozulya clearly head butted Vertonghen as they both lined up for a free kick. Contact may have appeared minimal but from a different camera angle you could clearly see big Jan´s head jolt backwards before he fell to the ground.
Did he make a meal of it as some have suggested, was he playacting? I think not. We have seen before when on the receiving end of violent assault his reactions are those of someone with ice running through their veins.
In the game against Chelski last year, Torres clearly scraped his fingers across Jan´s face but our Dutch defender did not react unappropriately.
Having been butted on Thursday, Jan reacted as any professional footballer would and gave French referee – who had given very little in our favour in the previous 60 minutes – little option but to show a red card.
After the match he is reported as saying – “I walked into him I think, I walked again and he gives me one. Then I go down. He gave me reason to go down and I think it’s his fault, not mine. I had a thing with him all game long and in the away game actually. It was fair until then. It could have been the turning point.”
If Dnipro were looking a little rattled before that decision they fell apart over the next ten minutes during which time we played our best football of the match and Adebayor scored the two goals which ensured our survival in the competition. The game, the tie, changed in our favour with that moment of madness from Zozulya.
Dnipro rallied and but for a couple of very fine saves from Lloris could have got a second which would have put the game out of reach but we clung on and got through to the next round.
One thing is certain – we will need to play a whole lot better over both legs to get anything against Portuguese giants Benfica.
Two weeks ago we played some of our best football of the season when we travelled to Newcastle yet since then we have been seriously poor – against Norwich and in both games against Dnipro. It was precisely this type of inconsistency that contributed to the downfall of AVB. Putting together a run of victories and then capitulating against someone like Citeh or Liverpool.
In order to get consistency of results we need consistency of performances, and that has not happened on many occasions. With really big, big games coming up – Chelski, Le Arse, Liverpool and the two against Benfica later this month we really must get our act together immediately and who better to start with than the team currently stuck at the bottom of the table, who are seemingly as much in turmoil off the pitch as they are on it.
The former Bluebirds of Cardiff have lost their last six away games – admittedly four of them were against in the top six (Liverpool, Le Arse, and the two Manchester teams) – but they haven´t won away all season.
Not just a much win game more a must thrash the living daylights out of them. Anything short of 4 or 5 – nil could be seen as a poor result so we need to start as we did against Newcastle, fast and sure, get in behind their defence put them on the backfoot and get shots in on goal.
And two final points before departing – Goodbye to Jermaine Defoe – a great servant to the club over the years who scored many important goals and in doing so wrote himself into club history, may you time in Canada be laiden with even more goals.
And good to finally see the return to action of the Beast. But what was he thinking with that weird hair and beard – doesn´t anyone give him advice on how he looks?
Sorry, forgot, this is the Beast we are talking about – no-one in their right mind would even mention it.
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