Opinion: Two halves are better than one

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

So I guess the first half was what used to pass for a complete Spurs 90 minutes. We score, we dominate, we waste chances, and then we concede the equaliser late. Only this time there was another 45 minutes to be played. I had expressed the view during the first half that I hoped we could get two goals ahead and then the expected Wilfried Zaha substitution might not matter so much—little did I think that our best moments would occur with Zaha on the pitch. 

Let me start with the left-footers—for this was really a day for all three of our outfield players who play from that side. Sergio Reguilon was brilliant—were it not for the fantastic goal scoring by his two attacking teammates, he would be my MOTM. The game simply is entirely different for us when he plays down the left flank—and he was, as all our players were yesterday also tracking back furiously on defence. His cross for the second goal was one of several beauties our side unleashed today. Erik Lamela in a cameo was omnipresent—and his ball to Sonny for the final goal also spot-on—he is playing some of his best football in years and I would think he will continue to alternate between starting Europa League games and subbing for Bale or others in league games throughout the next two and a half months. 

And Bale? Well, wow, This was a world-class player on display yesterday in both halves; bossing things with moves subtle and spectacular. He was there to finish twice from Kane but he was also flinging the ball around with impeccable judgement and placement—his long diagonal crosses to Reguilon are a wonder to behold. And I thought he and Doherty are starting to develop an understanding of how to play the right-wing together.

The effort was impressive. Winks and Hojgberg each made a few giveaways that on a different night might have been more costly. The build-up for their goal—when everyone was a little slow from Doherty to Sanchez to Alderweireld—began with a needless Winks foul on Ayew. But they both played well, our Dane growing into the game and becoming all Gandalfian “You Will Not PASS!!” by the middle of the second half. 

The centre backs, but for the goal, both played well and seem to have really stabilised our backline. Son won’t be in any of the headlines but both he and Lucas were springing out and upfield to put Palace under pressure all game. And as for Kane, well what can you say? Great cross for the first goal, great headed pass for the second, a wonder goal pure and simple for the third, and the deserving spoils of the final easy header to complete the game. If he can stay healthy—whether it is Son and Bale, Son and Dele, with Lucas or Lamela playing alongside—there will be plenty of goals remaining.

What else did we learn this weekend? Those in the top four aren’t going to make it easy. United got a break early, and then rode it to an impressive win over City. Leicester found the magic necessary to come back and beat seemingly cursed Brighton. I expect Chelsea to beat Everton this evening.

We may not get there because of all those dropped points in November, December and January. But the side that we are now playing, and the style it enables us to feature, is every bit good enough to be there. Every bit good enough to keep advancing in the Europa League. And who knows? Maybe we’ve got a shout in the final against City. This was the team we all thought we had back in September. Once Lo Celso returns—and where exactly will he play and against whom?—we will be the healthiest we have been all season. Dele and Bale are both cooking. Kane and Son are still fearsome. Lucas and Lamela are doing what they can do to disrupt things. Ndombele and Hojbjerg are solid; maybe the back four are becoming stable too. This might be a really fun final third of the season. The doldrums appear to be over. Bring on Zagreb…and THEM.. this week. Can’t wait. 

 

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