Sheer Second Half Brilliance

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

“He drinks when he wants! He drinks when he wants! Hugo Lloris…” The final chant echoed off the pub in Highland Park, five miles from downtown Los Angeles, as nearly a hundred Spurs fans savored the unlikeliest of outcomes—a pasting of Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The focus in the immediate aftermath—and in fact certainly in the days ahead—was the future of the Not-So-Special One and his failed crony, Ed Woodward. Thus must the media beast be fed. But we know just what the third ever defeat by Spurs of the Red Devil at O.T. in the Premier League era, and the first under Poch (plus the first Spurs goals under Poch at this previously dreaded venue) truly means. Means we’re in a title fight. Means the griping of fan and foe alike about the lack of summer signings will recede—at least for a while. Means that Poch’s grudges—if they ever existed—fell by the wayside in favor of appearances in the starting XI for both Danny Rose and Toby Aldeweireld. Means we can wait a bit more for the new ground, and just enjoy an already beautiful season.

The first half was disjointed and, to be fair, controlled for a fair while by a spirited United side who gave Spurs a dose of their own pressing medicine. But the biggest chances came from defensive howlers—first Danny Rose with a woeful back pass saved only by Lloris forcing Lukaku to sweep wide and then just miss the far corner with his off foot, then United with a giveaway that sent Dele and Kane in 2 v 1 and, perhaps dreaming about the new goal celebration, saw the former fail to make the layoff for a simple goal from our talisman. Both Lukaku and Dele would have other chances before halftime, but good defending and goalkeeping would deny them and Spurs could breathe easy that they went into halftime level, albeit a bit hard done by as Craig Pawson ignored a fairly obvious penalty shout on Phil Jones’ shoving down Lucas Moura.

The second half was a revelation. First Kane would convert an exquisite Trippier corner with a header to the top corner reminiscent from his stunner at the Lane against Arsenal in his first season. Then further Spurs pressure would bear fruit with a terrific pass back form Eriksen to a rushing Lucas Moura whose strike just preceded a tackle and just eluded David DeGea. The extraordinary (as opposed to ordinary Grealish/Martial/Mata) Brazilian would add one for good measure on an effort set up by Kane hustle in which he simply outworked Lindelof and Co and then beat DeGea low to the keeper’s right for a well deserved second. All that was left was the shouting, the United fans’ tears, and perhaps Jose’s farewell to his brief home at the end.

Special kudos for Mousa Dembele, who grew into the game and took extra pleasure in bossing Paul Pogba several times, making up for the latter’s FA Cup heroics in reverse last May; to Toby Aldeweireld who reminded us just what we’ve been missing these past six months or more as Poch’s decision to go four in the back paid off massively; to Christian Eriksen who set up the second goal and was part of a pressing effort that increasingly separated United midfielders from the ball; to Hugo Lloris for shaking off his embarrassment and playing a perfect game, making at least two special saves that prevented the home side from ever getting into the game.

A title race looms. A deep run in Europe awaits. A new ground—at a date yet to be determined—will sparkle. Set off all the alarms, whether they work or not. Those Tottenham boys are making plenty of noise.

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