Tottenham 3 Fiorentina 0 (4-1 on agg.)
Think back to last season and now take comfort from the present day. Feels good right? Spurs, on home turf, contained and dismantled a fairly strong Italian side to finally bury the calamity of our exit last time round. We didn't even miss Harry Kane or Mousa Dembele*. Second strikers are over-rated when you have a team that grafts hard and has ample quality to carve out that telling opportunity to punish.
*Please be fit for NLD
Christian Eriksen was on point, constantly poking at the ball, hassling and harassing. He was also equally impressive in an attacking capacity. Erik Lamela a partner in crime. His (Eriksen) touch and pass in the build up to Lamela's goal is something we've done constantly through-out the season. Players swarming the opposition when they have possession, always looking to get a touch, break up play and win back the ball. Even if it looks untidy, the white shirts are alert to the next transition in play before it happens. If you intend to win it back then you need to be ready to counter. There's always the possibility of a break. In this case, we win it in the middle, shift forward, have a crack at goal. Lamela then reacting to Nacer Chadli's saved shot to place it away for the all important 2-0. High intensity stuff.
The away side had a patch in the second half, tidy football, displayed some promise but lacked decisiveness. Once we scored that second it was game over. Kieran Trippier taking the assist for the own goal for 3-0 with a beauty of a cross that was spiked in by Gonzalo Rodríguez. Tottenham doing all the talking on the pitch and all the singing off it. Although it's probably easy to forget how tight the game was at 0-0 before Ryan Mason burst through and with his body movement called his shot like Babe Ruth in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. You probably thought he'd bunt it. Major League finish.
Eric Dier was a brute. Toby Alderweireld with more rock than Dwayne Johnson. Spurs once more adapting well to selection rotation and retaining resilient shape and more importantly the impetus to keep moving forward. Tempo and application perfectly matched and simply too much for Fiorentina to cope with as they divorced from the Europa.
Loved the move with Chadli working it out wide of the box and finding Mason who smacked it on the volley, straight, fortunately for the keeper. The referee was shabby. The inconsistency with decisions at times shocking, but never favouring either team. Dele Alli yellow carded and out of the next game but I guess we can't complain too much considering his lucky escape in the first leg. Although if you ignore the fact he didn't get a red in the first leg (so it's technically inconsequential) it's a poor decision to book him for simulation. It's not like the defender didn't connect with him. There was contact and he reacted to said contact. Case and effect. Harsh.
Once more, we bounce back emphatically from a defeat. No physical or mental fatigue. Good across all areas of the pitch, drilled and organised. A great win, confidence and all, but also good to finally cleanse the memory of the Roberto Soldado miss.
It wasn't easy but felt like it was by the end.