On another night, Cristiano Ronaldo converts one of those gilded opportunities in the first half. Madrid don’t stumble around and botch another chance in front of our goal. They defend better than they did for big swaths of time against our three class attackers and Kieran Tripper on the right wing.
This wasn’t that night. What it was was the biggest win for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in the last 55 years. Period. We stand first in our group. We should go on to the knockout round in first position and avoid the likes of Barcelona or PSG in the next round. Most importantly, we went through a gauntlet of four games with our heads held high—two wins, a draw, and one loss primarily because we were missing our best player.
Before I get to the obvious plaudits, how about a shout for Moussa Sissoko? Yes, he fluffed an easy chance for what would have been the second goal in the first half (as did Kane a second or two later). But he entered the game in the first half hour, unexpectedly, against the two time defending champions and their talented midfield, and I though he acquitted himself well. Harry Winks was good until he wasn’t and two consecutive giveaways before the third goal led Poch to sub him for Dembele—experience needed and besides we got the Mousa-Ramos fireworks and something tells me, whether in a World Cup or Champions League game, we haven’t seen the last of that confrontation. Eric Dier played well in both roles, and I was quite nervous when Alderweireld’s injury forced him to the back three. Davinson Sanchez was once again simply solid—he’s this year’s Wanyama.
The stars included the two wingbacks—Trippier having a fantastic night and Davies also solid. Jan Vertonghen had one of his best games in a Spurs shirt, and it was necessary, particularly in the second half when Madrid had to push forward. And Hugo Lloris shook off his injury to make several fine stops in the second half at a time when a goal might still have changed the balance of the game. And of course our attacking troika have rarely been better, particularly Harry Kane and Dele Alli. Kane’s hustle created the quick throw-in that was whipped around to Winks and then Trippier (a tad offside, but it happens) and then the beautiful cross to a surging Dele (who had stayed a stationery a few minutes earlier on a near-identical play. Dele was brilliant and impetuous throughout—our pressing for much of the first half set the tone, and eventually it paid off with a terrific effort by a player itching to make a statement in his first European game of the campaign. The final goal involved all three on a counter—Dele to Kane and then to Eriksen and the night was complete. CR7 got his goal and it would have seemed wrong not to grant him one. It could have been one or two others.
I have had a good feeling about this particular competition for months—ever since the draw, which was the yin of difficulty to last year’s seeming yang of simplicity. Bring them on, I thought, and this team will show the world just how good they are. Well, it’s happening. We can’t say whether City will prove vulnerable in the League or not, it is largely out of Spurs’ hands. But in this trophy fight, everything is in front of us. And you worry about losing to the Hammers and the Mickey Mouse Carabao Cup? Keep your eyes on the real prizes—that’s where Poch is gazing. It is a brave new world, folks. And more—much more—to come. This dream has only just begun.
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