We had it in our hands. We had a ten point gap over our rivals. Suddenly and dramatically that gap started to dwindle. But never mind, if we beat Bournemouth, who were near the bottom, we would guarantee ourselves a top-four finish (without worrying if Arsenal could score eight, or we lose by eight in our last game ☺). It should have been that easy, but if we have learnt anything from Spurs this season, nothing is easy.
We made it hard for ourselves in the Champions League group stage, only just managing to scrape through. The League cup and FA Cup we threw away. But at least Bournemouth would be a piece of cake.
Yes, Bournemouth were or would have been a piece of cake, but we decided to make it easy for them. Hard for ourselves, but easy for them by, first Son getting himself a red card for retaliation, and then – if that wasn’t bad enough – after the break Foyth, who came on as a sub for Toby, got himself a red card for a bad tackle.
But it is never over until the fat lady sings. And she has been singing in our favour, or Bill Nicholson is working his magic again. United drew with Huddersfield and Arsenal drew with Brighton. Which means United can’t catch us, and the only way Arsenal could is if they score eight goals in their last game against Burnley (away). Or we lose by four and Arsenal win by four. Unlikely, but anything is possible in this mad season.
It is no good saying that we performed well with 9 men, we lost, and that is all that counts. Parts of our team will have to be sold, and new blood must come in; otherwise, everything we built up since Pochettino’s arrival will be lost. Arsenal, Chelsea and United are not going to continue to have bad hair days just to please us.
Not only Pochettino, but we also wanted a straightforward win, and of course we needed the chance to rest players with the biggest game of our history looming on Wednesday.
We made things far from easy and were the creators of our own downfall. Dier was the first into Craig Pawson’s book as early as the 11th minute, with a bad tackle on Fraser and he could easily have received a second booking with a mistimed lunge on Joshua King as he stopped a Bournemouth counter-attack. God knows how he didn’t get sent off. Then Lloris could have conceded a penalty when he collided with King, as the Norwegian tried to poke the ball past him. Calamity after calamity; the Cherries had another penalty shout when Dier booted the back of Callum Wilson’s ankle as he went to shoot. No, not finished yet. Son’s uncharacteristic red card came in the 43rd minute as he let his frustration boil over after he was pulled up for a foul on Fraser and he shoved Lerma, who dramatically fell to the ground.
We had been on top in the first half, testing debutant Travers on several occasions and, while Son’s sending-off made things hard, Foyth’s irrational challenge made it almost impossible. He came on for Toby Alderweireld, but he had just three touches in two minutes and 13 seconds before he caught Simpson (stupid).
Not surprisingly we failed to register a shot on target in the second half, and as Bournemouth ratcheted up the pressure, Ake’s goal was a matter of when, not if. That was scored in the dying minutes of extra time.
Finally, the whistle went, and everybody drooped off the pitch dejected. The fans left depressed and angry. Were they witnessing the final nail in our coffin of European Champions Leagues? Actually, no!
Pochettino will have to somehow pick his tired players up for the Ajax game, against a team who have already eliminated Real Madrid and Juventus. Of course, we were written off when we were in the Champion’s league grouping. But we bounced back (just). Now we must pull another miracle out of the hat and overturn a 1-0 deficit.
We go into that Ajax game in some of our worst form of the season, having suffered three consecutive defeats and five in their past six games in all competitions.
It has been a shit season, even though we started off so positive. And it would have been even more shit if Chelsea, Arsenal and United hadn’t been falling all over themselves not to overtake us and do even more damage. Today (Sunday) United continued with their calamity, as did Arsenal, but Chelsea got their act together and leapfrogged us to third.
Losing to Bournemouth means that we have lost six consecutive away Premier League matches for the first time since May 2004, which was then under David Pleat.
Foyth got into the record book because he was sent off 133 seconds after coming on as a substitute for Spurs – the fastest red card for a sub in a Premier League game since Steven Gerrard was red-carded after 38 seconds in March 2015 for Liverpool against Manchester United. Son becomes the fifth Asian player to receive a Premier League red card, after Sun Jihai, Li Tie, Hidetoshi Nakata and Maya Yoshida.
We also became the first team to receive two red cards in a Premier League game since Chelsea against Burnley in August 2017, and the first to receive two straight red cards since Manchester City against Chelsea in December 2016.
Since the start of the 2015-16 season, teams facing Bournemouth have received 18 red cards – five more than any other club has seen an opponent red-carded in that time. Somebody up there likes a cherry.
None of it is good reading, but can we redeem ourselves on Wednesday? Can we pull another rabbit out of the hat and advance to the finals, where we could face in-form Barcelona? Could we really have one more miracle in our bag? At least the pressure is off our game against Everton (well, sort of). We’ve been very lucky this season, let us not play silly buggers next season… shall we not?
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