Wembley Grit, We Don’t Quit

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

It was always a wing and a prayer for advancement—what tonight more likely did was guarantee Thursday nights and possible showdowns with either or both of our London rivals. But in a game where for 94 minutes Spurs were dominant, eventually the good guys prevailed, overcoming poor finishing, poor luck, and an inspired performance by a visiting goalkeeper. The biggest story tonight was the effort, they never stopped pushing, never stopped running, as if they wanted to show the world the reverse of what Gary Neville and Robbie Earle proclaimed when Juan Foyth committed those two penalties.

My only criticism, other than Dele for abandoning De Jong on the PSV goal is Son. He was a black hole for much of the game, balls came to him on the left wing to die in a variety of ways with poor touches, poor passes, wayward shots. Yet even he kept at it, and was a more effective force in the second half when the chances began to multiply rapidly. Gold stars to nearly the entire squad. Gazzaniga saved our bacon twice, the second a wonderful save just when the game was in the balance. He has clearly replaced Vorm as our backup keeper going forward and, given his age, may spur Lloris to better play for fear of losing his position. Sanchez and Aldweireld didn’t have much to do, but what they did was calm assured and intent on reversing the ball and swinging it upfield.

On the wings we saw the best and worst of both Davies and Aurier, the latter was particularly active and had much quality to commend him but fell short two or three times when a better ball might have yielded our first goal. Davies simply does not round his defender and deliver a strong ball into the box yet he was solid on possession. A lineup without Dier, Dembele or Wanyama was a lineup designed to produce goals and where Harry Winks and Christian Eriksen would become our crucial playmakers. I thought both were excellent tonight there were occasional misfires, particularly a late giveaway by the Dane with the score level that cost us at least a minute of possession. But overall both were really good—getting the ball, keeping it, and trying to throw it to open wings or into the middle.

Lucas ran well in the second half and produced one of our better chances—but ran out of gas in the second and was justifiably replaced by Lamela. Dele was active all night—one of his best games of the year. He and Eriksen squandered our best first half opportunity, though the be fair the former, from a gorgeous pass by Dele—was on his off foot, and the latter had to make an instant rebound kick and just didn’t get it high or wide enough to beat the PSV keeper. Kane was Kane, kept trying, kept pushing and eventually the goals came, the first on a beautiful layoff by Fernando Llorente and the second a fortunate product of a header off two Dutch defenders. Llorente’s insertion was the most inspired move by Poch, the type of layoff produced the first goal was simply absent for the first 75 minutes as our forwards tried to negotiate the crowded space in the middle.

And Kieran Trippier almost but didn’t cost us the game with yet another strange decision among a spate of them, handing a free kick barely 25 yards from goal in the final minute.

We’re not going to qualify for Group Stage barring a miracle. We have to beat Inter by two goals or more to get ahead on goal difference and then hope that either or both Barca lay down with the group already won in the finale at the Nou Camp or PSV somehow get a result at the San Siro. But we fought… and won. And that might be the most important outcome of this night.

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