Surely by now we can’t expect anything else than what we saw tonight. Highs, lows, doubts, celebrations, frustrations, exultations—all in a season, a month, a week, a night, a half. I can’t possibly imagine how it might end but somewhere the Spurs scriptwriters are cackling, knowing that the next bit of drama might just top the last.
Let’s get the basics out of the way. Games late in season against teams threatened by relegation, no matter how remote the threat might be, are the worst. Thank God this was our last. Chris Hughton set his team up to one thing, and one thing only, and for 88 minutes it worked. I can pound my fists on the table about Llorente’s lack of position and much of the team’s lack of imagination and how if we play like that—and it was our best possible side we started given injuries to Winks and Sissoko—Ajax will take us to the cleaners—but it doesn’t really matter. After three brutally hard games against the best side in the world, we had to fight our way past Brighton as Arsenal couldn’t do v Palace and Chelsea had to scrap Burnley when the whistle blew to make up for what they failed to do in 90 minutes.
And we did it. Christian Eriksen who, along with Heung-Min Son and Danny Rose, were the only players with a notion of doing something which might lead to a goal, simply has class of a sort we will sorely miss if he does go to Madrid. And he finally found a way through the Hughton wall and Ryan couldn’t get there in time. The goal had been advertised in the previous 10 minutes as the Seagulls finally started to crack—Alderweireld off the post and Danny and Dele with good opportunities. I thought it would be the most consistently bizarre thing in this consistently bizarre season if Vincent Janssen had done it, but any Spur will do. All failures of ill-advised shots, poor linkup play, poor passing were forgotten in an instant. Rose would have been my MOTM (seems as if Trippier was deliberately held back by Poch for fear of another marking failure until the final twenty minutes or so) but in this case the goal trumps all—so the Great Dane did something great and if it is the last thing, we’ll always have Brighton to remember him by. Though I suspect it’s not the last thing.
What might the Hammers be up to Saturday? They are so schizo that we might roll them 4-1 or it might be a crazy 3-2 game with even more spills and thrills. 1-0 and a Pellegrini wall seems the least likely possibility. I hope no one got a knock that was serious today, though Dele and Danny each went down. Poch has to rotate Saturday—he can’t simply play everyone straight through and expect to have 11 players standing in Amsterdam or, we hope, Madrid. All I know is that we could win a maximum of 4 more times and get everything in this madcap campaign. Third place. And a European win to live forever. Until it is totally impossible, don’t tell me it can’t happen. Late goals against Eindhoven, Inter, Barcelona, City (twice) and now Brighton—and several others (Winks v Fulham)—have been our sustenance. There just might be more coming.
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