What a stunning second half, and what an astonishing last ten minutes.
We may be out of the domestic cups but in our role as plucky underdog we’ve done our best to instil a bit of magic into the ducat and doubloon dripping Moneybags League.
Dortmund, five points clear at the head of the Bundesliga, and their depressing as f*ck, drumming and flag waving, monotonous, robotic, non-reactive and non-interesting (or interested) fans were put to the sword, not by a team of celebrated and lauded internationals but by Winks & Foyth & Sanchez & Aurier & Sissoko.
And by Vertonghen. What a week he’s had. Paraded as the sacrificial lamb to the press on Tuesday he said all the right things with regard to his potential role at left back and his young opponent Sancho. He then did all the right things on the pitch by dominating his side of Wembley. An assist. A goal. A clean sheet. The London German golden boy substituted.
Sancho’s was part of a subdued performance by Dortmund. Perhaps their missing players would’ve injected the pace and incisiveness that was missing, perhaps those characteristics were disabled by the Trojan performances of Winks, Sissoko and the five defenders, or perhaps they’re no good? They didn’t seem very good to be honest. (Chelsea fans in particular won’t have seen enough from Pulisic to think that Hazard’s replacement is a like-for-like).
Pochettino’s selection of every fit centre-half came as a surprise. Juan Foyth’s Champions League debut will be a game he’ll remember for ever but it was nearly for the wrong reasons as after once wriggling clear of two German forwards in a dangerous position he tried the same thing again a few minutes later but this time had the ball taken from him and Hugo was forced to save from Pulisic.
This was the closest Dortmund came in the first half until the very end of it when a cross from Sancho was met with a firm header and once again, Lloris’s right hand came to the rescue. Everything else he had to deal with was from range.
At the other end Lucas was very close with a volley but we didn’t really get going as an attacking force until 30 minutes plus when Son and Eriksen had efforts on goal.
The second half though…
There’s nothing like an early goal to make you think this might be your day and what a top quality goal this was. Vertonghen & Eriksen robbed the full back out wide about twenty yards out, the Belgian looked up, saw Son and curled a beautiful beautiful pinpoint cross which our favourite Korean coolly sidefooted home.
Cue rapture & mayhem in the home stands and howls of disappointment from the away end. Erm no. Bash bash bash. The drum sounds, I must jump up and down, the monotony of the yellow wail stops for no-one, no matter how many goals we concede. Dull.
So how would Dortmund react to this setback? Pretty badly as it turned out. Post half time we had made some adjustments including pulling Eriksen further back. His influence on the game grew and whilst we weren’t cutting them open like – insert your own favourite German sausage here – we were creating pressure and opportunities; we had the energy and the momentum.
Previous to the game I suspect that for most people, just being still in with a chance going in to the return leg would’ve been enough and here were, in the last ten minutes with a lead. Little did we know how much better it was going to get.
Lucien Favre blinked first and made a substitution that seemed to significantly weaken the visitors in midfield. Dortmund were caught in possession by the alert and marauding Sanchez, Serge Aurier had one of those moments of surprising brilliance that he’s capable of and after taking control of the loose ball, he spotted Vertonghen heading towards the far post. Another pinpoint cross and sidefoot finish. A goal made and scored by the defence.
The Germans were rocked now, even the band had noticed that things weren’t going to plan on the field and we got a moment’s respite from migraine inducing nonsense in the seats.
We won a corner, Eriksen delivered to the near post and Llorente – on for a tiring Lucas – flicked home.
Oh my word. The disbelief and delight in the stands was matched on the field as the players celebrated wildly. It seemed ages before the shell shocked visitors were allowed to restart. Amazingly the Spanish referee allowed only two minutes of added time, a restriction that possibly saved Dortmund even more punishment we were so dominant by then.
No signings, no ground, no signings again, no ground again, no Harry, no Dele, still no ground.
He’s magic you know?
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