A typically perfect San Diego evening and a typically half-full and restrained San Diego crowd (but I’m sure my mates from the Harp on Ocean Beach—the local Spurs pub – were there in force) saw Spurs open their 2018-19 campaign in fine if not particularly meaningful fashion, pounding Roma 4-1. It was a predictably strange starting XI—what with most of our top players still on World Cup hiatus and the likes of Wanyama and Winks unavailable and Son and Sanchez on the bench. And while this was just a friendly, the fact is that last year’s Champions League semi-finalists started a team closer to their best than did Spurs, and got worked for four goals in a stunningly wide open first half.
It became clear within the first 10 minutes that while there might be an Under on the pitch, this game would produce no successfully cashed tickets for anyone who chose Under as the final scoreline. Serge Aurier undermined his pregame claim that he could challenge Kieran Trippier at right back with a poor giveaway, and then as he, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Ben Davies all seemed at sea, saw Patrik Schick’s shot deflect off him for the opener, just three minutes in. No mind, for the “Three L’s” (not Lions—but are all three coming home, Daniel?) began to bend this game quickly to Spurs favour. Lucas and Erik Lamela combined just six minutes later on a thrust that resulted in a Luke Amos (oops—a fourth “L”!!) shot deflected high in the air and onto the leaping head of Fernando Llorente.
Before another ten minutes had gone, Llorente had scored again, this time after a brilliant right-footed cross by Lamela found a wide open Lucas whose shot was parried by the keeper directly to the Spaniard, poaching better tonight than at any point since the Rochdale replay in the snow at Wembley in the FA Cup, clearly onside and now it was 2-1. Lucas joined the party after a Serge Aurier cross was placed just so for his 5’ 8” frame to outleap the Roma defender for another header. And after a great run by Mousa Sissoko and a Llorente surge forcing confusion among the Italians, Lucas pounded his second home just before halftime.
The second half consisted of everyone from both teams running around and there were no Germans to win in the end. Paulo Gazzaniga came on and made a superb diving save on Edin Dzeko. A few pertinent observations. An obviously patchwork defence grew into the game—Aurier in particular did well after his opening mistake on both ends of the pitch. Carter-Vickers was imposing enough. Kyle Walker-Peters was sent free down the left plenty, but on his wrong foot lacked the ability to make anything more of it. He also had a few shaky moments defensively in the first half.
Luke Amos was competent in the Dier-Dembele-Winks role—somebody ought to snatch him up now on loan. Eriksen was half-speed but wonderfully in control. And a particular shout-out to Lamela, playing against his old team and showing the spark that so defined his first two years under Poch. For all our worries about adding to the attacking depth, given Kane and Dele’s late start and Son’s coming Asian Games absence, the fact is that our 3 “L’s” may have just done enough tonight to make Levy and Pochettino play even harder ball for the likes of Grealish and/or Martial.
Last year we lost to this same team on the same exact night. And we were humbled in Nashville by a resplendent City, who lost late tonight to Liverpool in a New York field embarrassingly browned by three Taylor Swift concerts. Those are the two teams where we might just have a blank space, baby—and we’ll write their names.
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