Sheriff Tiraspol at the Lane. We win, we qualify but we haven't quite cemented top spot.
Was it a great game? No.
Was it a particularly satisfying performance? No.
Well yes. Sort of.
Depends what you expected before the game kicked off. Every home game I expect this is the one where Spurs explode with swaggering bullish uber-aggressive football and smash the opposing side to bits. Except we don't play like that. Actually, we 50% do, just that far up the top end of the field we're not creating chances as proficiently as the depth of our quality should allow.
We retain a ridiculously high
rate of possession, playing the ball amongst ourselves all over the
pitch aside from the opposition penalty area. It's Spurs but it isn't.
But then that's been the story of our season and I'm now bored of having
to repeat the same political party line about 'gelling' and 'settling'.
Not because I've lost faith or don't believe it, but because the
reality is we are waiting on players to awaken.
That awakening, could result (hypothetically) into a side that dominates ball retention, then pick and chooses when to carve out the defence in front of them. It's not quite as elegant as a samurai with sword. Most of the time it's akin to a samurai with a banana. A samurai could still probably find a way to kill if all he had was a banana to attack with whilst we remain too busy slipping on its skin.
Slowly but surely, I'll accept the not so sexy football for now as long as we continue to win and never look like struggling. Which has been us all season long (give or take a game or two).
What this particular game will be remembered for (more so than Jermain Defoe beating Martin Chivers European goal-scoring record) is Erik Lamela smiling.
Smiling because he scored, but more importantly smiling
because he performed admirably in a game that was crying out for a
little bit of something extra. Who would have thought he's grow in stature and put himself about a bit...eventually. I guess anyone that follows football and retains a sense of patience and compassion.
Spurs lined up strong, as per usual, even with all the changes and rested players. The most pivotal cosmetic on the starting eleven was the offensive midfield trio of Lamela, Eriksen and Sigurdsson. Footballers. Intelligent with deft control and the ability to craft and create but also able to combine - with each other.
Pass, move, inter-change.
That sort of thing. We've lacked imagination up
front far too often. Sometimes over complicating proceedings instead of playing with a far more simplistic, traditional approach. No rhythm with players unsure of where to pass and move to.
Sadly the first half was relatively unimaginative.
Wasn't until the second half when the threesome began to switch positionally, which allowed for more space for that lack of spark we desperately needed to transcend from fantasy to reality. Still, with the improved football there was still no genuine connection with Defoe.
Like I said, you can have all the
possession in the world but it means very little if you're stuck outside
the pen box scratching your head. Yes, it feels so far removed from the more natural free-flowing
instinctive play at times that I don't even have to dramatise my
describition. We make it look so difficult. Yet it still all feels like we have to go through these motions as part of a team building exercise. I'd go as far as saying - at times this season, with no disrespect to opposing sides - we look like we're in pre-season.
There's more to it than that, no doubt. Dembele still looks like he's performing within himself. A wonderfully gifted player that seems to move around like he's in shackles at times. When he glides forward he's like an angel playing a harp, cloud surfing the heavens. Do it more please.
Capoue return is heart warming. Looked beastly before injury. Not just a hard man, but someone that isn't wasteful with the ball.
When it flowed, it was far better than the slow plodding pace of the first half.
Andre Villas-Boas making the change that finally got us going - although you wonder why it didn't quite start off like that.
Our Argentine record signing full of determination and embracing some luck with a failed 1-2, finished coolly for the 1-0.
Lamela, now believing he was Ricky Villa, then waltzed through the Sheriff defence with silk touches until he was fouled and awarded a penalty. Even looked graceful when falling, having time to look and request a spot-kick from the referee.
JD thumping the ball into the roof of
the net for 2-0 and that record.
In the end, Spurs
far better overall for that second half 'excitement'. Quick precise passing movement. Does wonders in the
final third. Sheriff did score. Brad might have done better. Spurs defence
static. The finish from Isa acrobatic. Didn't matter. Could have mattered (had they scored in the first half when the woodwork got in the way). Sheriff not too shabby on the counter but lacked the strength to punish us.
1882 (in block 35) in fine voice as ever. Man, woman and child bringing much needed vocals and orchestrating noise so that others around the stadium didn't feel stupid if they dared to sing along too.
A massive night for Erik. That'll do for me. All smiles. Confidence, such a powerful instrumental tool. Don't bench that new founded belief. Release it.
Newcastle next. Play Erik Lamela.