We could all be forgiven for thinking that the sides were each wearing the others’ kits. Surely that marauding XI in the second half must have been City, right? That’s been the plot for two years now, and why should it have been any different today?
Only a churl would point out that at 50 minutes when the floodgates opened the league leaders were missing Hart, Kompany, Silva and soon to be Toure. The Spurs counter comes as quick as it did on the pitch today—Kane, Lamela, Alli, Son and Dier were all present, and therein was the difference.
The first goal—as was City’s, just less blatantly—was the product of linesman error, failing to notice Kyle Walker offside by two or three yards. But the game was still level then—with City easily capable of shrugging it off at the break and going on to secure the points. Not this day. Spurs began the second half impressively with pace and purpose, and after earning a corner, Alderweireld won the battle and Cabellero had strangely abandoned the corral and Spurs had a lead.
Then the game entered what I’ll call the “Foul Period”—which as much as anything in this extraordinary day signified the difference between this Spurs side and the ones that City abused the past two seasons. Walker, Dier, Lamela and Eriksen (the latter atoning for his failure to bring down Toure on the lead-in to City’s opener in the first half) were all either booked or guilty of an infraction—and I celebrated each time. This Spurs outfit was simply not going to allow City to dictate this game—at whatever price—and before too long Lamela had earned a free kick, which Eriksen (welcome back, mate!) bounced off the post and directly to a slightly offside Kane who rediscovered the magic with a precise conversion.
The confirmation that this day would be different came ten minutes later when Son’s exuberance denied Chadli another header goal from yet another set piece, and the commentators quickly wondered if that would be a Spurs “let-off”, producing a quick City response to cut the deficit in half and causing the Lane to totter from all the worry. I responded in my own mind to this understandable blasphemy with an immediate denial: “Not today. Not this team. Not this year” – and sure enough within another few minutes, there was Clinton N’Jie flying down the right wing and centering a ball to Erik Lamela—who played his best game as a Lilywhite today—who coolly maneuvered around the hapless Caballero and waited for Russell Crowe, I mean Martin Demichelis, to sprawl on the ground before slamming the final goal home.
Lloris was stupendous, the back four was not perfect but bears no resemblance to some of the disastrous groupings of the previous two years, Dier and Alli continue to make Mason and Dembele’s task of returning to the starting lineup from injury more difficult, and the front line with Eriksen, Son and Lamela supporting Kane was—wait for it—deserving of a Top Four Premiership side.
And now we will discover just what the destiny of this team might be. A season that began with such indifferent expectations has exploded into one of great possibility. The selection criticism of the manager for what is already a forgotten Cup defeat has receded into the North London mist; what lies ahead could be fantastic. When do we play again? (Monaco, I know. Don’t get too affixed to the felt, lads)
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