So in the end the conclusion was more whimper than bang. The ugly combination of Gomesâ€™s fumbling of Ronaldoâ€™s 30 yarder and the powder puff finishing that has haunted us all season was enough to bring our Champions League campaign to a close with a defeat to a charmless and not totally convincing Real Madrid side. We didnâ€™t deserve to lose. We had the opportunities, especially towards the end to make sure that we left with our unbeaten CL home record intact at least but failed to make any of them count. The team left the field to heartfelt and grateful applause from those who stayed until the final kick and the fair proportion of the crowd who had already started their journey home missed what looked like genuine appreciation from the players as they trooped off, many with the purple shirts of the nightâ€™s victors draped over them.
After 28 minutes of the game against Young Boys in Bern on 17th August when we went three nil down, few would have predicted that we would still be in the competition nearly eight months later. The two games against the Swiss encapsulated the roller coaster nature of our efforts in Europe this season as we went from naÃ¯ve beginners to ultimate victors. In this quarter final second leg we again started slowly but this time were unable to come out on top. We struggled to get any possession in the opening period as the Madrid midfield pressed and harried very high up the pitch. We did battle our way back into it but the moments when Huddlestone, Modric or Van der Vaart didnâ€™t look hurried in their decision-making and in need of an extra touch were few and far between. On the wings Madridâ€™s aim was to stop Bale and Lennon by foul means or foul and with the cooperation of the referee, Arbeloa and Ramos were able to block the running of our wingers generally unpunishedÂ whether they had the ball or not.
In the first half Lennon did get to the bye-line once to pull back for Pav and that together with a number of penalty appeals represented our best chance of taking the first step towards the unlikely comeback we were attempting. Â There was nothing doing however as Pav side footed into row Z and the ref waved away everything else. Any thoughts of Barcelona disappeared completely when Gomes did the archetypal man-attempting-to-catch-bar-of-soap impression just after half time.
He wonâ€™t be the last keeper to let a speculative dipper from Ronaldo through his paws but combine it with the last goal in the Bernabeu, Drogbaâ€™s equaliser in December, the farce at Old Trafford and any number of other heart in mouth occasions and itâ€™s fair to say our keeper hasnâ€™t had a season to match that of last year. Iâ€™m all for an eccentric number one but a certain level of reliability is also a must. Gomes was one of the many Spurs players serenaded individually by the Park Lane towards the end of the game as our demise became inevitable.
Much should have been learnt from our adventure but it remains to be seen what has stuck. If we can bring an increase in tempo, technique, concentration and ruthlessness back in to our domestic performances as other teams have done then it seems inevitable that more success at home will follow. Itâ€™s these qualities weâ€™ll need in our remaining fixtures.
There are no distractions now. We have seven games in the Premier League left and then weâ€™re done. Champions League and weâ€™ve had a laugh. It wonâ€™t be easy but another chuckle next season is tantalisingly close.
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