Stoke 1 Spurs 2
Was it over the line? I guess it doesn't matter. Them the breaks Top 4 sides get, innit?
Nah, let's not sell-out just yet with that one.
I guess lady luck continues to hump our leg, be it frantically (is there a better way?) and I for one will just shrug and patronisingly point out how unfortunate Stoke were not to share the points today. But that's just me being diplomatic.
I'm all for clubs like Stoke, fighting tooth and nail, bullying and hassling opposition - especially opposition that in the past had a habit of crumbling and falling apart. Why should they pay respect to visitors? But we are made of sterner stuff these days, as witnessed by our sitting-back-and-taking-it-like-a-man performance in the second half. Much like last seasons visit, we did enough. And at this point in the season, before true form is found, I'll happily take three points at places like the Britannia. Shaky moments and everything.
I'm going to hazard a guess and say the 3-2 loss v Young Boy and the manner in which we went 3-0 down has hurt our mental strength some what. Panic, not quite of the catastrophic ilk, has crept back into our play. The sooner we get this play-off out of the way (and win it) the quicker Harry can settle with some consistency with his selection, and focus from the players on our immediate target: EPL points. So, I'm made up we left Stoke with all three points. King rested, Crouch the only available 'fit' forward, Kaboul in for Bassong, no Modric and the return of Jenas. 4-5-1. Crouch the lone man (Keane injured or dropped?). Depth. Even if we might be critical of the likes of JJ and Kaboul, I applaud their shift today. Can't really fault the team performance or Harry's selection.
The first half was decent enough. Azza slowly beginning to reclaim some of that lost end product. The opener, a clearance off the line, hitting Bale in the chest, and ending up in the net. 1-1, Gomes all dizzy in the box. But not too worry, 2-1, Bale again, and this time with a goal that you could watch endlessly. Giggesque, volley from the heavens. Lennon provider. Let's not be forgetting this won us the three points. Well, that and the officials reluctance to signal a Stoke equaliser in the second half.
First half though had us easily winning the possession percentages, passing the ball around with much confidence. And JJ could have made it three, unlucky not to.
So Bale sublime, all good, no complaints no massive concerns. Even though I couldn't help but think our defence was still susceptible to collapsing if pressure was applied. So I guess I did have concerns. I was wrong. But only just.
Second half, Stoke had a right go at us. I don't really want to bang on about the fact that we let them have a right go at us, because for me, defensive frailties and all, we still survived. We battled. Even Jenas got stuck in and worked hard off the ball. Tuncay asked a few questions. Gomes answered them by placing his hands over his ears and shouting 'lalalalalalalala'. Have to say though, that on closer inspection, our mad Brazilian was at times tripped and impeded (first goal anyone?). It wasn't an easy afternoon for him. But he seemed to experience a re-lapse with dealing with crosses. And if I take my blinkers off, I have to admit that Gomes was nowhere near being dominant in his area, and thus, sort of brought it on himself, falling over people and flapping.
Back to what I mentioned early, re: credit to clubs who might lack depth in quality by making it difficult for the likes of us to settle down and play. And although I have no intention of going all Wenger with the complaints, I did find Stoke tiresome, especially Shawcross, the dirty cheating bastard, kicking out petulantly at times. Gomes made a fine fine save from Tuncay, tipping over the bar. Stoke continued with their physicality, we continued to weather the storm. Harry makes a tactical switch (Walker on, Lennon off) and then its OMG time when a header is saved onto the underside of the crossbar, is then headed back in and appears to go over the line, hitting Crouch (chest? arm?) before being cleared off the line.
BLATTER?? WHERE IS THE GOAL LINE TECHNOLOGY?
It's not required. Well, not required until the same thing happens to us. Karma, that's what I'm going to go with here, what with Stoke's WWE tactics. We might have made hard work of it, but we stuck in there. We dug deep. I got it wrong pre-match, but I don't care. Swashbuckling can be left for Wednesday.
Loved Phil Thompson's remark about how the foul on Gomes in the build up to the 'goal' was not relevant because the referee did not give it, and yet talked up about how Stoke should have been awarded the goal and taken a point from the game. But the ref didn't give that either. So using Phil-logic™, is it not equally irrelevant also for the same reason?
It all sort of fixed itself up, one mistake following another, cancelling each other out. Discussions that will no doubt continue into the new week. Let's hope that's that, and we don't have any controversy in the play-off.
Being tested like this is fairly invaluable at this early stage. A reminder that new-look Spurs of 2010 is sticking around for 2011. I'm hoping now, with three points up on the board, the players can relax and look forward to the game that will truly define the next few weeks and months.
Tottenham, not quite brilliant, definitely resilient.