Gravity defying

 

For the first half of Tottenham's Europa League game against FC Dnipro I thought I had mistakenly stumbled onto the set for a remake of the Oscar nominated and BAFTA winning film, Gravity. The side from the Ukraine spending most of the early part of the match rolling around in slow motion to a back drop of green. Presumably so the director could add in the CGI effects later on. Thankfully, some improvisation helped to deviate the action away from what was initially a boring script.

The first act was a thoroughly downbeat experience which witnessed another slow start from Tim Sherwood's Spurs with the visitors organised and infuriating with their time wasting tactics. Although I don't quite blame them for sitting deep and inviting us to break them down. A goal up, the onus was on us. We didn't offer enough although Christian Eriksen endeavoured to, always looking to craft something out from the left as he dinked central to aid our forward line. It just didn't work in the final third making it relatively comfortable for Juande Ramos and his return to the Lane. The onus was looking ominous.

Standing in block 35, the 1882 crowd did their best to keep the faith and keep the songs going whilst we looked on with frustration.

At half time Jermain Defoe came out to wave his goodbyes and troll West Ham before his departure to the Toronto social scene where no doubt he'll never be offside with the local porn stars. We all know he's prolific in that type of box (that's the last time I can make that joke, so suck it up). It helped to deflect from thinking too much about the game.

The second act however was dramatic and dare I say box office worthy with emotive driven drama leading the way.

Spurs came out, with the hope they were focused in mind after a half-time spent (I should think) encouraging each other and embracing the belief that we can make an early impact only to go a goal down on the night and two down across both legs. Non-existent defending allowing for a neat header from a free-kick giving Hugo Lloris no chance.

"We need to score twice to take it to extra time" I said, before I was informed we needed three goals otherwise we're out. Dreams of a celebratory post-match kebab practically ruined as I chose to eat through my fingers instead.

At this point I have to admit, I didn't think there was any way back into the match. There was no evidence to suggest otherwise. Not for a lack of attempted inventiveness mostly from Eriksen. As a team there remained that infamous lack of cohesiveness.

Dnipro, having spent most of the game resolute and floating around like Clooney and Bullock, were surely about to park up the space shuttle and watch Tottenham's stars diminish in the night sky.

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Roberto Soldado slotted home, was ruled offside, the goal disallowed. One star already fading.

Then a free-kick just outside the edge of the box. Eriksen wanting it, watching the keeper line up the wall, Christian completely committed to the moment, sizing the opportunity with the intention to seize it.

"We've got to make this count" I told a mate standing next to me. We did. The ball beautifully placed, the keeper too weak with his hands to stop it.

Then cue the improvisation. This intervention allowed us to win the game rather than any tactical shift in game-plan that did not appear to be forthcoming.

Roman Zozulya unaccepting of any apology when Jan Vertonghen walked into him in a crowded penalty area as Spurs lined up another free-kick. The player responding with a head-butt. Jan accepting gravity's pull with a neat role-reversal and the referee showing n instant red card. A melee followed with Michael Dawson and Sandro hunting down the attacker before the attacker attempted to hunt down a left for dead Vertonghen before Emmanuel Adebayor glided in to hold him back. Much ado about a stupendously silly self-destruction that led to the visitors surrendering the game.

Did Jan bump into Zozulya on purpose, to antagonise? Who cares. Even if he did and even if he went down with ample method acting, the bit in the middle of all that (the head-charge) was undeniable a straight red.

Not long after, it was 2-1 Spurs. Eriksen once again involved, finding Adebayor who slide in for the goal. Spurs still in need of that defining potentially game winning third.

That came 13 minutes after our first goal, to complete a most unlikely comeback. A brilliant take down from Adebayor (via a diagonal pass), with a deft touch past the keeper. An absolute gem of a goal. I can watch this over and over and over again. The jump, the chest, the gentle touch to send it past the keeper.

The delirium that followed the 'winner' was nigh epic. A far cry from the realms of impossibility we faced when we conceded.

Soldado came close again. Should have connected cleanly. Story of his season. Nabil Bentaleb came on. Lost possession a few times. Aaron Lennon with beard also made a cameo, although not comparable (his beard) to the one on the face of the returning Sandro who looks like he could do with another start on Sunday in prep for the March madness.

The Cardiff game on Sunday has to be a far more convincing team display from start to finish than this European encounter. All eyes on the midfield selected for that particular league game with Eriksen quite blatantly key to any door we wish to unlock and find treasures of creativity awaiting.

There were nervous moments in the final ten minutes. This being Tottenham, what did you expect? There were several moments during the second half when I had to remind myself Dnipro had ten men. We didn't quite make the most of it but thankfully there was a clinical trait on show when opportunities presented themselves.

Best (or worst) of the nervous moments? Mousa Dembele turning on the ball and losing it in our own half with Dawson having to challenge and give away a free-kick. This was in injury time. Messy play, pretty much summarising our dysfunctional defensive mind-set. This allowed for one final heart-in-mouth moment with Lloris saving the free-kick low. Hugo persisting with his shot stopping, ice-cool reflexes and dynamic sweeping. For every goal Soldado doesn't stick away, the Frenchman saves one down the other end.

Spurs won the right to play Benfica in the next round with sub Harry Kane playing out the dying seconds in the far corner of the pitch.

I'm still left wondering; what if that red card incident had not played out. A strong line up with limp effort for the most part until the Zozulya incident. Sherwood perhaps not proving any more or any less on the night in terms of direction but the players out on the field did react and gave us that much desired character we've lacked in recent outings. Proving that sometimes, the actors can give a story line that lacks substance an edge that makes it just about viewable.

Bask in the excitement. Worry about the two extra fixtures to be added into a congested run of tricky games and whether the dream of a final is still tangible if Champions League aspirations remain prominent in the minds of most.

 

metro