What a pulsating 45 minutes. Exhilarating stuff. Had me on the edge of my seat, salivating. I was truly memorised. But enough about my journey home from the game sat opposite a gorgeous twenty-something brunette with eyes that would melt the heavens. A couple of hours earlier I found myself witnessing a frustrating afternoon’s football in our penultimate home game of the season.
It was an awkward, average, lacklustre performance. Little movement, plenty of backs to the ball moments. But still good enough to see off WBA who for all their attempted efforts to play tidy looking football lacked any punch and only had chances when we were more than inclined to allow them to bypass our defence. They did come close to scoring on more than one occassion. Thankfully Gomes (and the woodwork) was on top form to help us to a 6th successive home clean sheet (boring or what?).
This is the type of game (against a club fighting for its top flight life) that could have been tricky and although we were not exactly on-song, we were not exactly under any real prolonged threat. Team cohesion was a mess at the best of times. But to win, 1-0, and not play great is something I will quite happily take. Although during the course of the game I did find myself momentarily infected by the despondency and knee-jerking that was spreading around WHL faster than swine flu in a Mexican pig farm. Shame on me.
Pav started up front with Robbie Keane and it seems that with Darren Bent out and possibly on his way out, we have a new recruit to the School of the Much Maligned. In parts, he did ok. Not £14M’s worth of ok. But still ok. He holds up the ball, shields it and lays it off very well. Perfect foil for a player of Defoe’s ilk. It’s a shame JD was on the bench for most of it.
Pav does still struggle when he has time and has to aim and shoot at goal. As the chap next to me (he's a paragon of soundbites which I'm happy to plagiarise) pointed out - why does Jenas not have a crack anymore when it comes to free-kicks? We all know it’s one of the things he’s pretty useful at. Pav’s effort was poor considering the gap in the wall that was begging for a toe-poke thunderbolt. Our Russian star also had another effort ballooned over. But at least he gave it a go and I know we are all hoping that the excuses concerning the fact he is rusty/injured/tired prove to be the case when we see a fully refreshed Roman blitz the Prem next season.
Robbie Keane on the other hand needs to spend 90 minutes on the bench as he’s lost a little fire from the belly. Although kudos to his undeniable method-acting abilities, showed off when an awful first touch saw the ball leave the field of play by about 5 inches but still we all had to endure Robbie giving us all a confused look, surveying all before him pondering how and why the throw was given to the opposition. Marvellous disassociation.
Did you hear the booing when Roman was subbed late on for Defoe and the follow-up song in support of the Russian? Seems one or two would have preferred to see Robbie Keane taken off. Moody atmosphere all round today, with loads of complaints and shrugs of disappointment. We had below par performances from some of the players, but ffs, get a grip. It happens.
Talking of which, Keano was out done by a virtuoso humdinger by Corluka who at one point in the second half seemed to waddle* forward like an escapee from a fat farm. Damn it, I just can’t help being hypocritical. I’m conflicted. Still, he did charge forward in the first half, laying off a pass that Jenas lapped up for our goal. And that's all that matters, right?
Out of interest, feel free to contact me if you have a clue why Pascal Chimbonda was re-signed. Honestly, if you have photographic evidence that he’s actually still in the country I’m willing to pay a tidy sum for it. Someone emailed me a photo of a man in a bar in Goa who might or might not be Pascal. Need something more conclusive tbh.
Another player who had an off-day was BAE. Ok, that’s unfair. He recovered after a shabby first half, but not to the standard he’s spoilt us with in recent months. Not quite an off-day, more like a half-day. But it’s all forgivable because it was against a WBA who really had to win and give it their all. We let them push forward with intent too often. And it didn't help that our players got in each other’s way (almost colliding on occasions), but we created enough chances to win the game by a far greater margin. But like most home games in recent months, 1-0 will do.
I would have much preferred us to swagger and swoon around the pitch giving the fans and our special guests (Mackay, Jones, Smith and co) something to crow about at the final whistle. It’s forgivable because if it was a quality side we might have suffered. But then against quality sides we tend to up the tempo by default.
Even so the game did have its moments and there were some great touches and moments of vision, just not polished enough with the final ball. Modric was (rub your eyes and scratch your head!) a little off-key with some of his passing, but was still one of our better players. Lennon was menacing. Once (if) he gets his composure sorted in front of goal, he’s going to be some player. I hope the club can see the potential in Aaron and goal-scoring. He could easily get us 15 or more if he learns when to shoot and where to aim. He can score, we’ve seen him place some wonderful shots, but he seems to suffer a little when he has to much time to think about where exactly he needs to place the ball.
Well done to that man Gomes and his reflexes. Couple of belting saves. Worst keeper in the Prem ever, hey Hansen?
Palacios was the man though, blink and you see him on the right, blink again and he's over on the left. He was practically everywhere, biting and niggling away, winning tackles. He showed the type of tenacity the rest of the side should have had. Wilson also knows when to commit yellow-card fouls that benefit the team, although it’s a dangerous game to play. But I’m not complaining. No really, three points another clean sheet. I’ll take this for now as we continue to push forward after half a season spent walking backwards.
The goal that won it was the first effort that was placed with precision and pace towards goal. JJ the man of the moment. JD also scored in the second half, but it was deemed offside. Which it wasn’t. Which was a shame.
WBA now look doomed. And with City (superior goal difference) and West Ham winning, and Wigan and Fulham still in the mix – I don’t think 7th will happen based on the final three games of the season. Think West Ham will make it. We’ll have to all move to Mars if that happen.
/rolls eyes so hard they pop out of my head.
Additional: My Spurs/Barca double won through. What a game at the Bernabeu. Madrid spanked out of the title race by a stunning away day decimation from the Catalans. Liquid football.
*Stolen from the chap who stands next to me