Four games, three of which were played, and in none of them have Spurs had to come up with a first-class effort. The final will undoubtedly be different. It doesn’t matter how you get a trophy, but for the next three months, this team will know they are 90 minutes away from one—and still in competition for three others, at least as of this writing. This game could have gone differently, but based on the overall skill level, it went the way it should.
We might have scored two more for a blowout—they might have scored a couple to force extra time. There was an exasperating stretch which spanned both halves where, once again, our possession consisted of ineffectual long kicks from Lloris or one of the back four and where Brentford was nearly capable enough to break our generally sturdy defence down. But then Kane, far from his best, laid a ball off to Tanguy and Son had anticipated with one of many runs he made and in this case his teammate found him with a perfect through ball and game over. Let’s see who the Derby spits out this evening, and know that in all likelihood whichever Manchester side it is will be in a tight fight for a title, perhaps including us, when April rolls around.
As for the rest, massive props to both Reguilon and Sissoko for producing that first goal—a terrific cross and an even better run and perfectly-placed header into the far corner. It gave us the ability to play the way we did for nearly an hour afterwards. There was some aggression soon after the goal, Son coming close to scoring with a curler and Kane later in the half stopped at close range. But mainly it was a classic Jose hold back surrender possession, see what happens. But we didn’t do it very well. The distribution from Lloris was substandard, the long balls forward rarely found their intended target, and here came the Bees again looking for a break and a bounce and then it would be game on.
They got both when first Sissoko headed a free-kick backward, forcing Reguilon to smack the ball near to goal over the bar. And then the corner with a breakdown at the back end by our markers and but for Toney’s knee being a few inches beyond Sissoko’s foot the score would have been level. Now I don’t believe we would have lost in the end—the talent difference was too great—but it is the type of play and development which had typified much of the past month or so, and finds us in fourth where, but for a few late goals, we might be second or even top of the table.
As for specific players, I liked Aurier’s defending other than the late needless foul when we were two goals and a man up which gave them their final shout at scoring. Clearly, however, he was under strict instructions not to go forward—until we got a man up—and any ball down the right flank would either be headed forward, and usually to Brentford as a result, or passed back and any impetus was stalled. Sanchez I thought had one of his better games and his work with Dier was generally impeccable. He was beaten once in the first half but avoided a foul that could have caused a penalty and then Aurier got to Toney before he could make the flick from the cross into something concerning. Reguilon was beaten once or twice and lost possession as well, but his cross was first rate and he was allowed to venture forward and was generally a threat. Hojbjerg before the mauling was average, losing possession a few times and generally not being willing or able to move the ball forward.
I thought Winks was anonymous for his first ten minutes, but actually became a bit more aggressive and effective in his second. Sissoko deserves credit for the goal, some blame for the bad header which almost led to their goal, and was somewhat inconsistent as he often is with possession in their half. Lucas ran around a lot but it didn’t come to much, but for a shared header with a defender that gave their keeper some trouble. It was an average game for Kane but for the nice layoff to Tanguy to lead to Son’s goal. Son got that one, almost got another, and did what he does, threatening deep runs throughout and pressing fairly well. Ndombele would be my MOTM for the beauty of the pass and his generally strong effort. Not a perfect game, but as usual a valuable one. And poor Dele didn’t get in even when five players could have been inserted.
27 games and a forfeit. Six knockout games (counting the Europa qualifiers) and we have won them all. Only four defeats in those 27. We’re not the finished article. We may or may not remain near the top of the table through the stretch of games later this month and next which includes Liverpool, Chelsea and City. But we’re in a Cup final. Up there with the favourites to win the Europa League. Four points from top in the league. And now… Marine!!
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