We have a knack of ending the hoodoo this season. Maybe a FA Cup trophy over Chelsea in the rubber match will be the crowning blow.
Where do I start? Dele deserves the headlines but they were so many other players that produced this wondrous result. Let’s start with Christian Eriksen, for after Hugo’s walkabout and the subsequent ten minutes of Chelsea aggression, his wonder goal totally flipped the script. Goal of the season? Well it’s either him or Wanyama, but at halftime they had to believe this day was going to be different. Son was out of sorts for most of the day, bottled up from tight defending, but when he got space it led to the clincher. Lamela did what Lamela does—presses, fights, takes n quarter—the perfect player for a game like this. And Dele? Well for all the criticism—pre-break and during Southgate’s banishment—I’ve felt he has been quality for a couple of months now. He deserved no less than those two goals, for after all it was his effort to keep the ball in that led to the giveaway that gave Eriksen the chance to equalize. The run and control were as good as the finish for the first- and he was there in fine poacher role for the clincher.
Dier was solid though there are moments each game when I long for pre-injury Winks and his more decisive turn of the ball and passes forward. But the long ball to Dele for the second goal was sublime. Mousa Dembele had his national coach in attendance—I just hope amidst all his typical brilliance Roberto Martinez noticed the sequence early in the second half with the game still level when Dembele intercepted the ball in the box with an astounding piece of skill, controlled, turned and fought off two attackers to clear the ball. He is simply an extraordinary player.
As for the wingbacks, both played well going forward and when they were able to get back. It seemed in the first half, though, that the player on the opposite side of the ball was getting caught up and allowing acres of space for the likes of Alonso and Moses to exploit on the counter. Poch may have done something subtle at the break to minimize the risk—or perhaps Chelsea are simply adept at playing that sort of counter football. Vertonghen had his typically assured game punctuated by an amusing run near the death where he could have picked out Sissoko for what would have been the unlikeliest 2 v 1 combination of the season. Hugo misplayed their goal—it must be said—but he was superb otherwise. And if he clipped his countryman with a challenge that should have been booked—well, that’s football.
Which brings me to Davinson Sanchez. I hope a gaggle of critics—within the fan base and elsewhere—now understands the true situation with Toby Alderweireld. The better player—now, not last year, perhaps not next year, but now—is in the lineup. Toby conceded the tying goal at Rochdale with an awful error—from all accounts, he was substandard for Belgium in their one friendly. The simple fact is that the man who is demanding the highest wage on the squad has contributed almost nowt toward his club in the past six months. Meanwhile this young Colombian is a force in the middle—his aerial skills are impeccable, his calm presence is growing, his positioning ever improving. If Toby leaves because the price is too good, we will survive.
And Jesse Lingard, Gareth Southgate, the football media and a whole host of England supporters? Well, you just saw the man who might just lead you to a deep run in Russia this summer.
Have something to tell us about this article?