Admit it. You knew just like I did. Where the fate of this game was sealed. Spurs up a goal—the ball comes to Kane—looks offside but he clearly wasn’t—simple layoff to Eriksen who has half the goal gaping for him from 15 yards and he chunks it left and wide and poof! There it went. Surely we go two goals up and this game would not/could not have been lost. But it didn’t because the sun rises in the East, the Pope is certifiably Catholic, and Spurs don’t win these games but Jose and United do.
As for the rest, we didn’t deserve to lose but neither did we deserve to win. Dembele got bullied by Pogba (a pattern tonight) who than made a superb cross to a rushing Sanchez and Ben Davies (where were you tonight, mate?) wasn’t there and the brief advantage was gone. We had the better of the chances in the rest of the half—Kane missing a cross by inches and Dier’s deflected shot leaving DeGea flatfooted as it caromed off the post. In a alternate universe of course that ball goes in, but we’re not living there. Lukaku and others had their chances for them, too, but on the whole I thought we shaded the first half.
The second was more even, and Alexis to me (slightly over Pogba) earned his MOTM with overall effort (he made an incredible play wresting control from Trippier in the first half) and after he took it away from the unfortunate Spurs right back again his pass, with a dollop of luck from a Lukaku deflection got to Herrera with Vorm screened and that was that. Ben Davies was again beaten though in this case he had two United attackers to deal with. You can’t say Poch’s Vorm decision backfired for he wasn’t really to blame for either goal, but then again maybe Lloris makes one phenomenal stop on one of the goals and they’re still out there.
From then on it was Bus Parked v Spurs attackers and Bus won. If I had to quibble I would say that Eriksen, Son and Trippier all failed t actu quickly enough the rare times when it appeared we might have a breakthrough. Eriksen dilly dallied on a break before making a poor pass; Son simply wouldn’t fire a shot quick enough; Trippier too often tried to control the ball and beat his defender rather than fire a ball into the nox. But would Kane or anyone else have been able to slot it by DeGea/ Kane was pretty much a passenger in the second half, continuing a pattern that predates his injury where defences seem to have figured out how to neutralize him.
The goal was a thing of beauty and we’ll always have that. Ashley Young was caught up, Sanchez lofted a perfect ball down the wing and Eriksen’s cross was just as perfect to the rushing Dele. Would that we could have conjured up another moment of brilliance, but sadly not. Was Poch outmanaged? No. Were we dominated? No. It was an even game and their two best players did more to influence the outcome than ours did. Simple as that. Dembele had an unusually poor game though he did make a couple of strong thrusts and good balls later in the second half before coming off. The truest reality of this team—and is more painfully obvious as the season has dragged on—is that the pace and special play coming from the wings last year and even more the year before—Walker and Rose—simply can’t be replicated at either end by Tripper and Davies. They are good players. But that’s all. And today they each got beaten by great players when it mattered most.
Let’s hope Poch’s psychological preparation will prevent a collapse at Wembley to the likes of Watford, Newcastle and Leicester. But kid ourselves not—the clock is now ticking on a trophyless run.
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