"It's happening again" the jubilant West Ham supporters sang. They were right. I'm not referring to our diabolical form against them. More so our rare victories post-Europa League. Liverpool, WBA, Newcastle and Stoke all visitors to N17 following a Thursday game - all defeats (QPR the anomaly + Swansea away). For eighty minutes it looked like ground-hog day as we failed to capitalise on our possession with Sam Allardyce's team countering with effect.
We rotated midweek, rested players to retain freshness, yet plunged into the depths of mediocrity following Cheikhou Kouyate's opener. Collectively Spurs struggled to impose themselves, sloppy with passing with no rhythm in the final third. The Hammers, organised and regimented, suffocated the midfield and left us exhausted of ideas. Mauricio Pochettino got it wrong tactically with our wingers incapable of playing through the congestion.
Mental block or the European curse?
You can point the finger at the congested fixture list but the blame might sit with the disjointed lack of depth. Christian Eriksen didn't start and Mousa Dembele seemed to be at odds with the universe around him, the gravity of the occasion pulling him down, his passes and touch resembling an out of control satellite in an asteroid belt. He wasn't alone.
Defensive positioning was awkwardly lackadaisical with Danny Rose and Kyle Walker occasionally nomadic. We missed Eriksen's vision but when he was subbed on he seemed to be as underwhelming as the rest of the team.
I'm not going to hate on this too much. We are still transitioning. Fiorentina and the Cup final next week might be festering in thoughts. I'm still not convinced it all pertains to physicality. Our conditioning with 40+ games played has been extraordinary. So maybe it is a mind-set issue combined with the fact that some of our players are prone to the off switch.
Nothing much changed after the break, compounded by Diafra Sakho making it 2-0. We got treated to further moments of fear, with Hugo Lloris saving our skin. Mark Noble escaped a second yellow card because he had already received a yellow so was let off in one of those brain numbing officiating decisions where the ref thinks he's bringing balance to the game rather than executing the letter of the law. Winston Reid kept Kane quiet. Harry had a goal disallowed yet we kept persevering.
Cue 81st minute and a somewhat fortuitous goal from Danny Rose. Then we finally get a positive out of the game. Two in fact. The first was 'character'. That persistence to keep on pushing forward resulted with a dramatic 95+ minute penalty. Kane stepped up, saw his shot saved, then finished the follow-up. Harry Kane, post-final whistle, muttered 'Never *f-word expletive* give up'. It's the type of attitude that will breed a winning mentality long term.
'Most points recovered from losing positions'. We could also do with taking and consolidating a lead once in a while.
The second positive was justifying the poor performance just for that penalty to happen to steal the win from the distraught West Ham fans. Spurs went from almost ruining my weekend, to ruining someone else's.