Away win. One – nil. Three points. Last minute goal. It’s a special kind of joy.
Of course, just one of the three stonewall penalties would have helped … but there we go.
Until that point – 89 minutes – our play was … cavalier. Not cavalier in the sense gung ho attacking though we had enough possession. We weren’t wearing fancy hats or driving terrible Vauxhalls. Just cavalier in terms of … careless. Careless at the back with mistakes, in midfield possession given away without pressure and up front chances squandered. It had that stricken look – a game we should have won but could so easily have thrown away.
Thing about defenders is that it’s a ninety plus minute game; for attackers it’s all about one minute. A defender can’t play brilliantly and then make one crucial mistake. An attacker only has to be brilliant in a moment. Enter, stage right, one Harry Kane. And so it simply goes down in the records as a game we won.
Lloris – 6
Selective amnesia is not a quality to be enjoyed by a match reporter but I can’t remember him doing anything except collect a couple a back passes. You can’t criticise a man who does nothing at all / nothing wrong.
As I suggested earlier, everyone across the back four made mistakes but Sanchez made the fewest. It speaks volumes that we should be without Alderweireld and Vertonghen and looked relatively untroubled at the back. He’s both quick and strong and his judgement and positioning gets better all the time. Great.
Dier – 7
OK, I’ve been critical in recent months, but I was delighted here. OK, there was an early terrible misplaced pass under no pressure. But I’m going to break my ninety plus minute rule: he grew into the game and bossed Benteke. He has qualities. He’s calm, has leadership skills and, increasingly, experience. I always observe him as being our principle threat in set pieces – I expect to find he was crucial when the goal finally came. Well done.
Aurier – 5
Oh, God. I want to say he wasn’t disastrous i.e. he made a saving tackle and didn’t give away the game changing penalty. He functioned fine and he may make a player in the end. But he was found out of position at times, beaten for pace. He scored a hat trick of … foul throws … and missed a glorious open goal. Hardly a cross he attempted produced any threat at all. He might be work in progress but they’re going to need scaffolding and local authority planning permission.
Davies – 7
On the other side, Davies looks unspectacular. Because he knows his job so clearly, nothing he does seems exceptional – it’s just he does the right thing, all the time. OK, not all the time, like everyone else he made his careless slips today. He is organised defensively and purposeful and direct in attack. He won a clear penalty. His crosses carry threat. All this summed up by his drilled cross which Aurier failed to convert.
Dembele – 7
As the game began, I thought ‘OMG he’s going to terrorise this lot’. In the litany of praise for this exceptional player, this week two things: I love how direct he is (he turns and sets off like a bull in the direction of their goal and you feel the dynamic change in an instant) and he doesn’t dribble past people, he just ‘goes past them’ as if they weren’t really involved in playing – never quite seen anything like it. But then, no, he didn’t, didn’t terrorise them, didn’t exactly produce impact.
Wanyama – 5
There was one moment when he was lying on the pitch waiting for a foul because otherwise it was clear he had simply lost possession – and the ref waved play on. He was immense and mobile last year. This was a much better performance than last week but he is still clearly … making his way back. My thought from last week was, against teams of minimal threat, could you sacrifice a player like him for a more creative midfielder and thus bring in another attacking option. I fear I will be accused of being naïve!
Lamela – 5
Do love his energy and aggression, his desire to be direct, to shift the ball quickly, the potential he has to do the unexpected but, I have to say, he had little impact on this game. Son is wonderfully two footed and defenders don’t know which way to show him. He is a one footed Son and one player I wish actually did have two left feet. Son was better when he came on and carried more threat. That’s not to say Lamela won’t have his day.
Eriksen – 6
Wildly uneven performance. The man with the magic feet, hit one ball over the top, in the first half, into space that no one was anywhere near … but that was because we were all clearly operating in a completely different space-time universe. Somehow, in the second half, he lifted a corner in off the far post … of a goal that clearly existed in his head but was actually situated twenty yards beyond the goal everyone else was playing with … in the real world. He shinned a great opportunity. Played jinxy in between.
Dele – 7
Hasn’t scored for a while, didn’t materially affect this game, but I’m shaping into an Alli apologist. He has more time on the ball than anyone else – clue. He attracts fouls in dangerous areas because of his quick feet – a certain penalty today. His pass into crucial areas where chances emerge is more sure than anyone’s. He didn’t make many critical runs into space in this game, not sure why – his fault or other people’s? Looked the most likely of our creative players today to … create.
Kane – 7
Missed some chances, including two sitters. People talk about his wonderful temperament. He scores so many goals, he can’t ever plunge into a crisis of confidence but, it is absolutely true, he never doubts himself for a second. Aurier, like I would definitely have been, was visibly berating himself, for the foul throws, let alone the missed open goal. Harry Kane, not a flicker of doubt. He is truly remarkable. Unshakeable belief. Consequently, we won the game.
Moura didn’t find it as easy as Rochdale but no matter, still excited by him. Son carried threat.
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