Do you have a better explanation for those final five minutes? Did the soccer gods all of a sudden decide they’d been harsh enough on us? Did the Bridge-collapse meme that has guided their league finishes the past two seasons get microscoped into five minutes of one game? Did Stevie B’s agent tell him “might be nice if you scored a couple”? Did Antonio Conte make a deal with some devil at halftime, pleading “I want a win. If you’re telling me subbing Doherty for Royal is the one way to do it, I’m on board?”
All I know is I haven’t screamed like that since Amsterdam May 2019, and I’m not sure it wasn’t louder last niight. We bossed that game—in nearly every respect save our untimely leaky defence—and yet with barely two minutes left to play we were staring defeat—and yet another fixture v Chelsea—in the face. Two miraculous goal-line clearances, Kane hitting the bar, two or three standout Schmeichel saves, the usual lack of finishing, only this time the pressure to score had been constant for more than an hour. Pressing, getting the ball back Barcelona style, runs down either wing– and all for nowt when Maddison’s shot struck Tanganga’s leg and bounded up and over Lloris for a punch to our collective guts. Everything was negated. Kane’s best game of the season. An active Reguilon and Davies down the left. Skipp, Winks and Hojbjerg—for all their limitations– each contributing with runs, passes, tackles. Lloris keeping it level or close the few times he was tested and had to respond. And the wondrous sight of an energized Matt Doherty roaming down the right-wing, causing all sorts of bother to the Leicester defence—the type Emerson Royal never creates. It would ultimately add up to nearly 5 goals of xG—the 6th highest output for an away side in the history of the league—or at least since this stat has been recorded. And nothing for the table.
And then.. well, we didn’t quit. There was Doherty causing havoc for about the fifth or sixth time, and damn if Steven Bergwijn—who just a minute before had gone down easily trying to win a penalty, then shoved Caglar Soyuncu down to the ground, somehow avoiding a red card from Jon Moss didn’t find the back of the net. Bergwijn, who hadn’t scored in the top flight this season, rarely played, was seemingly bound elsewhere before the end of the month, almost an afterthought final substitution, had just saved a point. And then, as we were all still yelling our lungs off somehow Kane, who had been everywhere on this night—perhaps the effect of the cancelled NLD—sent yet another brilliant through ball forward and there came Stevie B again, collecting it in full stride, rounding a gambling Kasper Schmeichel, and brushing the left post just as Kane had on the first goal as it nestled into the net and— DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN—we had won! Hojbjerg prevented our hero from jumping into the stands which would have earned him a second yellow and a one-game suspension—but we can worry about Chelsea then, not now.
So what does this mean? Maybe we will finish 4th. Maybe Conte is a miracle worker. Maybe there are still valued contributions to come from previously disregarded players. If Doherty and Bergwijn can do this, why not Dele? Why not Gio? Why not Tan…. No, not gonna go there. On the day in which Granit Xhaka—apparently—may have come into question for a yellow card he earned at the end of a game with Leeds. Steven Bergwijn earned a yellow card at the end of a game with Leicester—and then may have saved our season. I do know this.
After Amsterdam. And after this. I’ll never walk away from a game that is still close again. Good things might come in threes. And maybe this manager is magic… you know.
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