Opinion: The thrill ride begins

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My only real complaint was that this game wasn’t played on Halloween. We welcomed our maniacal new manager with about the most Spursy game one could ever have dreamed up. Three goals inside a half hour; then two conceded; then a red card; then two red cards for them, fans on the pitch, Sanchez in a head bandage and somehow, someway we survived to advance toward more action in this joke of a European competition.

But it sure was fun, right? The positives came early and late and Lloris throughout. In the late action, Gio might have missed that sitter but kudos to Tanguy for finding him and by then you felt that none of the subs plus the remaining starters were ever going to allow that equalizing goal. Even Winksy played a pretty clean cameo. In terms of the first half hour, well Son could—and should—have scored at least one if not two more. His goal was well-taken after some chaos in the Vitesse box. Lucas made a perfect give and go with Kane for the second and while he misfired on a pass or two, he was extremely active under this Conte umbrella, clearly fighting for his place. If he hadn’t so foolishly lost the ball to create their second goal, we could say on the whole it was a success. Kane was, curiously, probably the least impactful of the three up top but you could him salivating over the space that Conteball might create for him. 

Skipp and Hojbjerg were almost revelatory—I say almost because a) I think they may be competing with each other so there will probably be only one winner and b) it’s still Skipp and Hojbjerg we are discussing. The Dane was running forward more than I’ve seen before, and Skipp actually turned on a dime and sent a quick and accurate diagonal ball to Son rushing in on goal—the type of play I don’t think I’ve ever seen him make before. The wingbacks were as we hoped—both providing a stream of chances—and both making an occasional defensive mistake that reminded one of the squad’s principal deficiencies. It was Emerson that was slow getting back for the second goal; and Reguilon who made several dodgy plays with possession. 

As for the center three, Romero did just what we hoped (pushed the ball forward, from all sectors, made some nice passes) and what we feared—two yellows and a sending off with more than a half hour to play. The first card was perhaps undeserved—he was put in an untenable position and this had to foul—unlucky it was deemed a yellow. The second was iffy as well, but here he had no one but himself to blame for putting himself at risk. Dier was obviously told to stay back—he made the crucial error on the corner for the first goal. And Ben Davies—for all my continuing skepticism about his defending—was way forward on the third goal, running practically into the keeper and creating the chaos which Kane exploited though he would not be credited for the goal.

It will take time. And new players. But they won. It was fun, even at the worst moments. They survived for twenty minutes a man down—then saw the game out when the tables turned. Just the first step. Still a host of questions to be answered. But the fog is lifting; the clouds are breaking; the long, cold winter—figuratively-is over and the smiles are returning to the faces. He DOES know what he’s doing, this chap.

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