It was a good night, but marred with a severe injury to Kane. The challenge – by Fabian Delph – was over the top. We watched the challenge and then the follow up (Delph seemed to elbow Kane in the head) on the TV screens. There should be a more in-depth investigation as this sort of thing needs stamping out. The TV pundits over and over again analysed this incident (from various angles); there was no doubt that there was intent. Sadly, that incident has ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Did you know that we have progressed to the next round on each of the past nine occasions in which we have won our first leg of a European knockout match (excluding qualifiers). On the other hand, Manchester City have lost all five of their European matches against English opposition, including all three in the Champions League (sounding good, so far!). Our Son has scored as many goals in 40 games in all competitions this season for us as he managed in 53 appearances in the whole of 2017-18 (18 goals).
On top of all that, we have won 13 of our past 16 home matches in all competitions (D1 L2). The statistics are crowing in our favour. Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero has missed more Champions League penalties than any other player since his debut season in the competition in 2008-09 (four).
Hugo Lloris has saved all three of the penalties he has faced in all competitions in 2019, saving efforts against Leicester City, Arsenal and now Manchester City. City have been eliminated from all three of their previous Champions League knockout matches when they have lost the first leg.
So, the omens are looking good.
This was the sort of night our glorious new stadium was built for – and how Mauricio Pochettino’s side delivered in front of all of us who viewed his and his team’s endeavours.
But first up, we had to ride out Aguero’s penalty, which, lucky for us, he missed (Lloris saved) and, as I said, the Kane injury setback to knock an off-colour Manchester City out of their usual stride. No-one can dispute that this was a first-leg advantage we totally merited.
Harry Winks gave a performance of real maturity in midfield and when Kane went off it was the talismanic figure of Son who again showed his liking for his new surroundings with the winner – after scoring the first Premier League goal here against Crystal Palace. If Son carries on this way, the focus might start shifting away from Kane to the “nice one Son”. He is the ideal modern attacker: tireless, unselfish but with an eye for goal and a willingness to take responsibility, which he did here as he led the charge after Kane’s departure, culminating in the turn back from the byeline and shot underneath Ederson to give us a precious lead to protect at Etihad Stadium. Two goals in two matches at our new stadium. The Etihad stadium will be a different kettle of fish, but still crackable, and we have the tools to crack it.
I thought it was devastating that Kane went off, but I don’t think it is an earth-shattering disaster. When Kane has been absent before, Son and the rest have stepped up to the mantle and have performed brilliantly. So much so that some have whispered “Kane… don’t rush back”. And maybe that is how it should be; no one person should dominate a team. I remember watching Gazza; when he was in the team, we did well. When he wasn’t, disaster… it should never be that way. If we, as a team are just one person, then we don’t deserve to be challenging for top honours.
Another hurdle overcome in our Champions League quest. Another one next week in the return leg. In between, we have another home game, this time against the first team to get relegated this season, yes, Huddersfield. I can hear some of you shout “easy-peasy,” like hell it is. There are no such things as easy matches, and nor should there be. That attitude or mindset has no place in a top team challenging for trophies and a top-four spot. Every team is a potential threat. In fact, it was the easy ones where we came unstuck against(Burnley, Wolves, Watford, Southampton). If we had won those matches, then we would be in second place, not in fourth fighting for a top-four finish. We’ve only got ourselves to blame, and underestimating teams at the wrong end of the table have been our undoing.
Just because Huddersfield’s season is over, and they’ve got nothing to play for, and the pressure is off them… the whiff of an upset could be in the offering if we are complacent. Be warned… and remember the story of David and Goliath; David kicked the shite out of Goliath because the big guy was arrogant and inward-looking. He got what he deserved, with David’s victory over the shit for brains big fellow, he got a place in the history books because he slew the giant, and there are a lot of giant killers in the footballing world.
So there you have it. We’ve had a bumpy ride over the last couple of weeks, ending with our victory over Palace in our new stadium. Our second stadium event saw us get a second victory (over 60,000 people saw that game live). But we mustn’t rest, underestimate or be arrogant, otherwise we could be in for a very nasty shock… ending in being replaced by either Arsenal, Chelsea or United… followed by Europa diarrhea football.
Be optimistic like me and think positively and aim for a top 3 spot and a Champions League final. Nothing is impossible until it is impossible.
Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, and poet, once said “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”Dare we shall.
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