Opinion: Europa League progression and a cold, rainy night in Stoke awaits

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

A had a few headline ideas after watching the weirdly entertaining win against Maccabi Haifa:

“Europa League Qualifier is One Thing, but What About a Rainy Night in Stoke?”
“Harry to Gareth (that Gareth)—I’ve Done My Bit. Let Calvert-Lewin do the Rest”
“Harry to Gareth (the other Gareth)—And We’ll Have Fun, Fun, Fun ‘Til Her Daddy Takes The T-Bird Away”
“Isn’t the Handball Rule Fun?”
“Yid Army v Maccabi Haifa—Something Had to Give”
“Oh Mi Dio (Gio)—When Else Can I Have a Shout at a Hat Trick, Gaffer?”
“Dier to Vinicius” (In Portuguese) “Come Here, Mate. I’ll Show You Where the Loo Is”

Oh but maybe the most meaningful—or maybe not—would be this one: “He Didn’t Move a Muscle. Not One Twitch”. And of course it relates to Jose’s reaction—or non-reaction, actually- to Dele’s well-earned moment from the spot at the death. Maybe in a 7-2 contest, he did not want to rub it into his guests. Maybe he didn’t want to show some prospective suitor any false ebullience and spook a deal that might be in the works. Or maybe he is far from done with the mind games—and we are still in Act One. Dele played pretty well in a game that didn’t provide much of a challenge to anyone other than Joe Hart’s reflex drills. His move to get around the Maccabi defender was a thing of near genius and reminds one and all that he still has game. And the kick was strong. But Jose is in this for the long haul. It mattered more that Dele got some experience—45 minutes worth– in a more restrained Number 10 role where Gio Lo Celso is clearly now the preferred option. And he acquitted himself well. Baby Steps.

As for the other trophy, well Stoke at the Britannia or whatever it is now named is fine. The other big boys will eat themselves—and who knows? Maybe we’ll get Newcastle in the semi at Wembley if we advance. But why can’t we win it? Chelsea and Liverpool are two of the three most dangerous teams in this league and they’re both gone. And the other—while it has specialised in winning this trophy, is hit-and-miss enough these days that Spurs or someone could catch Pep and them on the right day and the door to the trophy could swing wide open.

As for the game, we defended poorly after that nice opener—great cross, Ben. Haifa scored on a wondrous strike but could easily have scored a couple of times earlier with better chances. Then it was the Harry and Gio and Lucas show to establish our dominance. We had a nice Handball Corner where two penalties were correctly, and I thought fairly given—which is saying a lot these days. Then Harry was left to produce a nice finish for the hat trick Gio had left on the table, through no fault of his own. And Dele did Dele at the end.

And one day soon…. We will see a certain dynamic Welshman start to maraud down the wing—and a certain lightning-fast South Korean will join him. Not this Sunday—we have to try to get a result at Old Trafford the old fashioned way. But remember early 2018 and Lucas Moura at that same ground? This is a chance for Spurs to plant their flag clearly in Top Four land—amidst all the Blues and Reds that are lining up for what could be, fans excluded, sadly, a very interesting season indeed.

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