In the best game of football we’ve seen this year, with the prospect of more to come, Spurs showed the world they belong. Period. And with Dortmund’s draw, the way to the knockout stage is wide open and the prospect of a rematch in London two weeks is sweetly appetizing.
Both teams could have won—let’s be fair. Kane had the best chance, but Navas made an incredible save to deny him and Eriksen—the one Spurs player a moment late for much of the night—was denied as well. Lloris of course made his own wondrous (and fortunate) save with his trailing leg and denied Ronaldo twice more. In the first half if the two penalty decisions had gone the other way, Spurs probably win, but of Ronaldo’s header hadn’t hit the woodwork and Benzema hadn’t missed a wide open goal on the rebound, the same could be said for Madrid.
The point is we competed, and we belonged. The back four was simply resolute throughout, with Aurier and Vertonghen having particularly impressive evenings, even if the Ivorian was whistled for a very soft penalty on Kroos after his cross had led to the own goal opener. Kane should have scored, of course, if he had simply lifted the ball, but the same could be said for CR7, at least twice. Harry Winks continues to shine, never outclassed by the reknowned midfielders he was placed against, keeping his cool throughout and making us not miss Mousa Dembele in the least. The fact that I can’t think of any particular plays involving Alderweireld, Dier and Sanchez is proof of how solid they were against the best attacking force in the world outside of the Etihad. When Spurs did lose possession, or not quite close the ball down, the difference between this team and all the Premiership sides we have been facing was immediately apparent. Zidane seemed to have conceived a game plan trying to exploit Vertonghen down our left in the first half, but after the initial scares it didn’t bear much fruit.
Other than the brilliant Lloris, the two rather unsung and surprising standouts were Llorente and Sissoko. The latter combined several times with Aurier to produce strong attacks down the right flank—he is now firmly in the heart of this team and one can only hope his injury will not be too severe. And I doubted Llorente’s presence, but by the second half he was imperious in the middle, winning possession several times, and making the initial passes that set Kane and Eriksen free to nearly score. Poch got this one dead right.
With victories by Man City and Liverpool, England appears ready to claim all five of its possible knockout spots—the European resurgence I felt could be in the offing is here. And Spurs are the biggest reason. There is no limit to what this team can achieve. None. We belong.
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