Lovely start to the first half, 1-0 and bossing it. Then of all things to p*ss on the fledgling parade, we get a Harry Kane headed own goal that drained our momentum. To add to the torment Dele Alli lost his head and got a deserved red card. Cue a spirited second half, with the ten men. Decent possession but constant wastefulness in front of goal. Victor sticks us 2-1 up and suddenly it's looking like the escape is on. The ref (having awarded a corner for the first goal) then ignores a foul on Harry Winks. Eric Dier defended horribly and bang...it's 2-2 and it's over. Chuck in a couple of very late goal attempts that might have given us more false hope and that's another Europa League campaign Gone. Same time next year?
Dele is raw, we know this. We also understand that his aggressiveness, that spiteful type edge is part of his character. It's nothing to celebrate, obviously, when he goes too fair. When he makes a mistake. It's harmed the team in the past and it's done just that again. He needs a slap. But he's one of us. So a gentle slap. Quick and precise. You're gutted right? Imagine how he feels.
He needs to control his temper but still retain the emotion that drives his hunger and determination. That fighting dimension he has, wanting to protect his teammates and honour the badge, it's a winners mentality. But it's flawed. He needs to discover zen and hold back from doing the one thing that you can't pull back from. Studs up. Without these naughty traits, he's Jermaine Jenas. I love JJ but he never had that nasty 'f*ck you' streak in him that fuels some footballers. Either this or we accept he's volatile and deal with the consequences every so often. Dele is hardly Charlie Adam, right? He's an incredible prospect that occasionally let's himself down.
Mauricio Pochettino recently cited his maturity. The kiss of death right there. He'll have to cool down if he wants to avoid it (the reds) becoming a regular habit. Once a season isn't too shabby I guess. Would prefer it came against a struggling side when we're 3-0 up. Of course, intensity is unlikely to be running through his body in anything other than a pressured match.
Did he learn his lesson from last season? Of course. If you think making more mistakes isn't part of the same lesson then you'll never be content with the players product - good and bad. It looked like a frustrated attempt to get the ball rather than a 'imma gonna hurt the opposing player' lunge. Scapegoat if you want. Never expect me to buy you a pint for it. I forgive you Dele for your point blank idiocy. Just don't close in for a hug. Not yet. I'm not ready.
Elsewhere on the night...
Kane wasn't Kane so you've got to adore the cruelty of his OG. Victor's goal was a beauty in terms of timing. We were getting closer and closer and wallop. Just before Gent made it 2-2 you could almost sense a drop in our pace. The counter attack was harsh based on the balance of the game but it was another moment of weak and clumsy concentration. It's just not for us this Europa lark. Yet another knock out in the knock out stages where we just can't find a way to win. Made worse by the fact we actually looked like a team that would win. That wanted to win. Poch went for a strong line-up. We imploded, once more, assisting the visitors. Of course, if you want to truly be critical you can just point at the first leg and state we lost the tie there.
Once again (a common reference point) it's down to a finely tuned first eleven and not enough depth to retain momentum in all competitions. Especially when the club want Champions League for commercial and financial reasons (even though EL awards it, I guess it's considered a bigger gamble than focusing soley on the league). Hence why we never really look like a side that set out to want to win the EL. Not like the European clubs that make it their mission. It's a chore, it's a struggle and when we're in a position to kick on, it's all a bit too late in the day. Every single season, it's the same conclusion and the same words on this blog.
Probably also not for us on current form. Opta Joe on Twitter sharing the savage stat that we've conceded six goals there in four European games this season. Only five conceded at the Lane in twelve league games. We haven't synced to the bigger pitch. We've come nowhere near the comfort zone we need it to be. This transition (the stadium move) was always going to be difficult. The major concern? If you look towards next years league campaign, we need to hit the ground running from the first game. It cost us this season, it cost us last (although that's unfair as nobody was to know we'd be involved in what turned out to be an identity rebirth). We need to grow up faster. We can all see our weakness. We haven't got the flexibility. We must have more of it otherwise we're forever stretched.
If we do beat Millwall we've got to play there in the semi-final and so on. We can't get away from it. Tottenham, truly emotional terrorists, punishing our very essence by creating problems that need not exist.
Any chance we can play all our home games on the High Road outside the Lane next season?
That's it. I'm drained.
Congrats to Gent.
Tomorrow is a new day. I'll have some of that and leave this one behind.