By the end, admit it. You just soon we lost if we couldn’t win, and skip the Thursday nights altogether. What a curious night in Holland. Spurs played what was arguably their best game of the season—even better than Old Trafford, I think—and a combination of horrid refereeing, untimely defensive mistakes, and just plain bad luck cost us the three points. But let’s face it—this is not the season for a deep Champions League run, and even with the victory, our odds of advancing were still long. Maybe this was for the better.
I’ll begin with the starkest thing I can say. Toby Aldeweireld and Davinson Sanchez cost Spurs this game. The former was totally to blame for the first goal, and it was Spurs’ bad fortune that his nearly redeeming tackle caused the ball to catapult up and over Lloris and into the net. They each were to blame for the latter’s red—allowing themselves to be split by Lozano in a manner reminiscent of Juventus last year. Lloris may or may not have made the right decision—and the red was not an absolute given that both defenders still had an angle on the PSV star—but if Hugo’s hadn’t come out, I’m not sure there wouldn’t have been a penalty on one of them anyway. The equalizer was the product of three crap touches but Sanchez seemed to be a bystander to them all—I’m not sure why he or somebody couldn’t have marked one of the two players who managed to get their feet on the ball.
As to the refereeing, aside from curious inclination to keep awarding the home side free kicks and disregarding similar claims of our own, Sanchez’ goal should have stood. Kane was in an offside position, but impeded no one standing behind the keeper and was 10 feet away from the path of the ball. Just a horrible, horrible decision. Even so, the third goal could/should have come but Lamela hit the bar, Eriksen (who grew into this game and made a beautiful cross to Kane for our second) failed to lay the ball off correctly to Lucas who was set up for an easy finish, Kane had a couple of shouts but the keeper intervened—in short, it wasn’t our night. Our most impressive play was the desperate last four or five minutes a man down and pressing for the winner—but it wasn’t ever going to happen.
As to the individuals, Trippier had his usual superb game; Davies, on the other hand, was tentative. He and Son together were death on the left side for more than an hour until the latter finally woke up and made a few impressive runs in the second half. I thought Dembele’s beginning was the evidence of an older player knowjng his time was about to run out and playing in a frantic manner, but then he settled into a solid performance. Dier was up and down per normal but fought hard. Neither Lamela nor Winks added much, although the former did hit the bar and was involved in a couple of plays that could have yielded the winner. Kane was a warrior tonight—deserved better, hitting the bar in the first half, and buzzing around and being stopped by the goal keeper twice. Eriksen seemed very rusty in the first half, but by the second was his old self, playmaking and creating. Son finally showed life near the end of his minutes.
We should have won this. But we didn’t. The return fixture will pretty much guarantee Europa League—as I type this Barcelona has just kicked off against Inter in a Messi-less game where a draw suits both sides. We face our most difficult home fixture of the year on Monday—the only strategy that might gain a result is one that Poch will never employ—a Mourinho-esque defensive struggle. So let’s hope they play well and at least make City sweat for the points. These are trying times. I felt this one would slip away long before it did—it was simply the how that surprised me. That is now leads v Juventus, Inter and Eindhoven in three of our last four UCL fixtures that produced two losses and a draw. This was the least deserving of those results, but perhaps the most significant. Will they all stay together through this increasingly turbulent season? Doubt is hardly a unnatural emotion—the project is being sorely tested.
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