Tottenham 2 Lyon 1
not as good as they once were but also not as ordinary as I believed they
would be (based on recent form and one or two journalists reporting a
lack of spark with their football). I under estimated them. Spurs side
selected was fairly strong too. Pre-match concerns about too much
potential rotation dismissed out of hand even though we
witnessed five changes (mostly a defensive reshuffle).
game lacked swashbuckle aside from the three brilliant goals
scored. Most of these European nights are beginning to shape up
to be the polar opposite of that Champions League season when opposing
sides (to their detriment) allowed us to attack attack attack. That
particular license to kill has been revoked. But there's no reason to
fret. We have Bale...Gareth Bale, the man with the golden gun. His left
peg to be precise. He still managed to misfire with a glorious sitter in the
first half, however he made ample amends with two magnificent dipping
free-kicks to win us the game. Again. The tiresome bore and his
insistent owl celebration.
both set-pieces I just knew he would score. My bones, they tingled.
Especially with that last one. Sat on the sofa with the missus as she
spoke about something relatively important, me with the iPad on my lap
(I'm hipster, don't playa hate) pointing at the screen telling her, "Be quiet for a second, Bale's going to bury this", which he then proceeds to do leading to some sofa-surfing in celebration and being told to 'grow up you child'. I respond with my own heart celebration (my way of embracing the spirit of Valentines Day) which results with a heartbreaking reply; "Is that meant to be a spider? It looks like a really crappy spider"
the posturing and Ronaldoesque/Jonny Wilkinson back-steps that we've seen time and
time again with the resulting strike flying over the bar and it's come
to this. Goals. Practice makes perfect. I'm going to expect a goal every
time now. No pressure then Gareth.
scored all of our last six goals (in four games). Seventeen in all competitions. Four
of his last six from distance. In form much? He's the difference and
we'll have to willingly agree he's the cutting edge with other
weaponries of choice remaining blunt. The alternatives best sharpen up for a
variety of reasons (we'll win more handsomely if everyone is chipping
in, good for Bale if some of the expectancy was shared amongst a few
rather than one etc).
half, deserved lead. We looked far more comfortable on the ball, more
commanding with a strong right-flank and the midfield bossing the tempo
(be it a slowish tempo, a trademark of the Europa League). Not enough
action in the final third (story of our season). Bale (irony klaxon) not
as involved, but that sitter forgotten about after his first free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
Taken from around seven miles outside of the penalty area. Catch me if
you can. The technique delicious. The spinning dip making it 1-0.
half saw Lyon stepping up from just being an organised unit of players
happy to get forward every so often by displaying more positivity with
their approach work and taking advantage of us not taking advantage.
tricky. On the face of it, this wasn't a great game of football. It was
subdued at times (most of the time), and very tight and frustrating. Can I call it a
game of uninspiring chess between two opponents with sporadic slapping of
the pieces on the board? No idea why anyone would slap a chess piece
during a game. But you wouldn't be frowned upon if you slapped your
bishop at the Lyon equaliser. The type of strike that has you nodding a
'fair enough mate, I'll let you have that one' seal of approval, even
though harsh reality screams back 'AWAY GOAL'. Samuel Umtiti , left-back
and show-off, with a sensational effort.
The game continued
to plod along. With pockets of breaks from both sides but
nothing overly convincing. Again, was this two
decent teams not over-exerting themselves or simply two teams nullifying
space and time to hold back team dramatics and only allow for isolated
moments of individual genius?
Thankfully, we sneaked in the winner in the 90th minute which won't make much of a difference in the return leg unless we go there and score*. Which I think we're more than capable of doing (unless Bale doesn't play, then we're doomed, one man team innit).
*Because Lyon will score. Just a hunch. We have to go there to score (obviously), two to be certain. Won't make a difference in terms of attitude. 1-1, all to do, 2-1, still all to do.
Bale post-game citied tiredness as an explanation for that missing extra zip in energy. Hard knock life these footballers lead. Brad between the sticks did well (one superb save from Alexandre Lacazette who danced his way through Lilywhite shirts for a shot on goal and thankfully at the keeper). Adebayor was played in by Dembele with defence splitting precision but failed to get his shot on target. Not enough service and not enough composure with his first touch and control.
Holtby should start the next game.
Bale more involved towards the end
of the game with a cross that beat everyone and a shot that produced a
save but it was a relatively quiet one for him. Well, aside from another brace
Andre Villas-Boas honest as ever in his post-match. Good in the first half but not as good in the second. Game got a bit sloppy.
I did love his Mr Bean / Chipmunk stare for the first Bale goal. Great
evolution from squatting at Chelsea to a variety of passionate air
punching and ye olde north London street theatre character acting on the
touchline. Freund, less expressive than usual, apparently strapped down
in his seat due to new UEFA regulations on free-style dancing in
public. He escaped at the end, self-combusting in celebration in front of the Lyon bench and angering up their blood.
Special mention to Jake Livermore. He wore the captains armband, right? Or was that CGI?
in all, a good result, even though it wasn't a great performance. But then some of it probably wasn't half as ordinary as it looked. I might endure another viewing just to make sure.
Europe does however feel like downtime from the league games. Just another 90
minutes (hopefully) to get through next week.