The archetypal game where the scoreline hides the reality. 2-0 looks like we brushed them aside when in fact our display was a horror show for all lovers of decent defending especially during the first half when we were caught high and square an embarrassing number of times. Only the profligacy of the home side’s strikers, their inability to stay onside and an athletic goal line clearance from Chiriches kept us ahead following Vertonghen’s early opener.
Lennon could and should have put us two up almost immediately afterwards (following a lovely flick from Eriksen) but Sheriff sat deep, hit us on the break and made a host of chances. They’ll rightly feel hard done by that they didn’t come away with anything from the game.
The second half was a quieter affair punctuated by Defoe’s 75th minute deflected shot that made the game safe for us and put him level with Big Chiv as our most prolific goalscorer in Europe.
The positives? Well, there were some lovely moments of skill from Eriksen and Chiriches, especially with one audacious, risky and heart-stopping flick over his own head, showed that he’s an experiment worth continuing with. Chadli looked lively when he came on and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were given a start in place of Sigurdsson on Sunday. And the negatives? We were overrun at times in the first half and defended very badly. It reminded me a lot of our preseason where our back four seemed to spend the vast majority of matches haring back towards their own goal whilst Lloris looked into the whites of the eyes of the onrushing attacker. Our defensive record proves that the currently deployed system works but Sheriff, and to an extent West Ham and the Gooners in the second half at the Emirates, proved that the simple tactic of allowing us possession and letting us over commit players can find weaknesses. Erik Lamela started and was very disappointing. He looked like a little boy lost rather than a 25 million pound goal machine. He’s obviously struggling with the speed and physicality of his new environment but with goals a priority at the moment we could really do with him snapping out of it and providing some of what we paid for sooner rather than later.
Another win sees us as ‘runaway leaders of Group K’ and qualification for the knock out stages only one point away. Is it worth it though? Fryers and Naughton both suffered injuries that mean we’re down to the bare bones for full backs on Sunday. Dawson, Vertonghen and Chiriches played for all or most of the ninety minutes against tough opponents. Steve Bruce will have been delighted. COYS.
Have something to tell us about this article?