Do we need any more evidence for how different this year’s version of our beloved Lilywhites are? The first half was true to form—Spurs had the better run of play, but frustrated themselves—and us—with countless failures to make the final touch, shot, pass, etc. to finish the deal. And then when Palace got frisky, particularly with Zaha marauding past Danny Rose on the right wing, they got lucky as well off an unfortunate Jan Vertonghen’s leg, who was enjoying one of his most assured halves in a season of increased confidence in the back.
In prior seasons Spurs would have been fortunate to emerge with a draw, and more likely would either never have equalized or, after doing so, would have allowed the crushing winner late. Not this year, mates.
Firstly all credit to the manager for the insertion of Nacer Chadli and some needed spark—he made
an immediate difference and the hook-up to Kane—reminiscent of the NLD winner last February off a similar Bentaleb chip—seemed inevitable. So did the renewed Palace effort: under Alan Pardew—they don’t fold and, come to think of it, they didn’t either when Liverpool came calling in May 2014 looking for a title. I counted four—or was it five—first-rate scoring chances—two ran into the crossbar and two ran into an exceptional Hugo Lloris.
So all Spurs did was say “thank you, Madam—we’ll take it from here”. Dele Alli had just experienced a frustrating spell where his normal sure touches went awry, he gave up possession twice, and this viewer started wondering if perhaps Erik Lamela might be the better option for the game’s final fifteen minutes. Me of Little Faith. Our nineteenth nervous breakdown ( for the opposition, that is) responded from somewhat innocent balls from Kane and Eriksen with the goal of the season—a Harlem Globetrotteresque one-two bounce, all in air, followed by a sublime rocket to the bottom left corner of the net. If Kane’s winning header vs Arsenal was the magical moment of Poch’s first season, surely this London Derby winner will stand above all others in his second. Unless of course greater glory and possible silverware yet awaits.
Palace kept pressing and forced another Lloris save, but the field had opened and first Alli was inches away from a brace, and then Chadli meandered to his right just outside the box and slammed home the clincher.
Who will blink now? United, for certain—and could it be that Spurs will have an easy run to Top Four. Liverpool won but their defending was horrendous (Norwich was worse). United frankly lacks the firepower to win consistently any more, whether Van Gaal goes or stays. The real drama may involve the placement of this top four, which means a title race. The Foxes are showing no signs of weakness; And while one can argue that Spurs are at least the equal of the Gunners and Blue Mooners, the home defeats to Leicester and Newcastle mean they’ll have to earn any advancement on the pitch—it won’t be handed off.
Those issues—and two Cup competitions—are for another day. Tonight we’re feeling glad all over.
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