Spurs 4 Twente 1: DVD? Nah, got us a vdV
Why bother supporting any other team when the one I've got rips the heart out of my chest and then mockingly juggles it around in my face? How could anyone possibly turn down the chance to feel completely alive by virtue of being dragged kicking and screaming to near death?
It's a never-ending this, a roller-coaster ride which dips into the pits of hell and loops its way upwards through purgatory and onwards at great speed into the fluffy lilywhite coloured clouds of a blinding heaven. Which by this point you are so mentally and physically ruined you can hardly muster up the energy to enjoy the moment because you're too busy trying to push your ravaged and just about beating heart back through your rib cage, breathing life back into your shattered body.
This is Tottenham '10/11. We don't just win. We entertain. In that 'oh crap we might yet still lose this' kinda way. And in the process they make sure you lose at least ten weeks off your life expectancy, for every ninety minutes of this torturous wonderment.
Whether you were at the game last night, getting drenched, lapping up the Champions League theme music and advertising boards and the slow renditions of 'Oh when the Spurs' or sat at home wondering at what point exactly a portal opened and sucked you into a parallel bizarro dimension where Spurs play their football on the tiny pitch at Highbury - it doesn’t matter. In the space of 94 minutes or so, the Champions League lost it's Spurs virginity at White Hart Lane. And she loved it. The slut.
Back to back defeats before the game. There was plenty of concern pre-match. The injuries to the back four make it swap shop every weekend. The tinkering of formations and player selections. The lack of any full forceful desire and guile, leaving us with no platform for the possibility of momentum.
We lined-up in a more traditional 442. King back in the team with Bassong alongside him. Hutton right, BAE left. Lennon benched, meaning a middle two of Hudd and Modric with Bale on the left and van der Vaart on the right but with the license to shift into more central positions. Crouch and Pav up top. First thought when seeing the team? Balanced and logical. We're at home. We need to be on the offensive. No need for the complexities we've witnessed recently of 451 where some of our players struggle with their assigned roles. That's if they have any to start of with.
Game kicks off, and it was all a bit frustrating during the opening exchanges. Twente didn't let us settle, there was no zing to the ball, no suggestion that we could perhaps turn the pace of the game to EPL standard. When they had the ball, they created pockets of half-chances and almosts. Our play was ever so slightly off-key, summed up with Bale's wasteful pass to no one when it was easier to find vdV.
There was a tinge of the ominous about the game. It was open, end to end. But still, you wondered if this was simply the way CL football is, or that once more we would flatter to deceive and fail to make an impact. But slowly and surely we found a way in.
You saw the game. So you can fully appreciate it's wonderful mixture of ups and downs and thank f**ks. So I won't run through an incident-by-incident analysis. Instead, I'll cover off the vitals:
Give him the captains armband. Yeah, okay, so it was obvious after 10 minutes he'd get red-carded at some point what with the way he was running around with his chest pumped out, exuberantly trying to be involved with everything, every touch of the ball, kung-fu or otherwise. It was like watching Gascoigne, just without the big fake tits and tears. We haven't had a player like this for a while. Someone who leads by example, be it last night was a mixture of the good, the bad and ugly. He's got a 'I'll grab you by your throat get up and go' styling about him that practically begs his team mates to match his intensity. The fact he is technically top drawer is additional man-crush material.
I absolutely love Rafa and his relentless desire to push forwards. Should have hit his penalty lower, towards the corner and not given that twat in goal for Twente the chance to cheat-save it. But what a start to the second half. Brilliantly taken goal (or quite an easy one if you let Alan Smith explain the dynamics to you). His second yellow, much deserved as his first. Unnecessary. Gutting. Luckily, Spurs are made of sterner stuff and survived. I heart you Rafa you decadent piece of Dutch delight.
Welcome back Gomes you nutter. Wayward kicking, couple of uneasy moments, but reminded us of his class with his 'one-to-one I'll sit down to save this with my hand' save. I'm far more confident with him in the side even if he is prone to loopy moments and girlie crying.
Hutton. Superb offensively be it to the detriment of the defence, so if you're a misery guts you'll argue he's a tad undisciplined what with his marauding down the flanks and thus a liability. But it does sort of work. If he can spot the dangers of when not to run forwards or as long as Harry instructs some quick-smart cover, then I actually quite like to see him retain his place for the moment. Mainly because we still have to wake up in the EPL. And at home, he can be an asset.
Bassong. Went on one mazy run. Was like watching a slow-mo version of Zokora with better control of the ball and moving in more than one direction. Nothing like Zokora actually. But much like Zoko, amounted to nothing. Defensively ok. Same with BAE. They both just got on with it. I don’t remember BAE getting forwards much, but not complaining too much there. They can both play with more assurity, that's for certain. Talking of which...
Not brilliant, but doesn't have to be. He's still better than most even when running at 80% with his knee super-glued on. Ledley; a prestige player. Indispensable. Levy, if you're reading this, screw the new stadium, spend the money on a cloning machine. In fact, if anyone knows the whereabouts of Nikola Tesla's teleportation machine, get in touch. Oh wait, hold up, it burnt down. Oh well, we're screwed.
Didn't notice him? That's because there was no fireworks, just the strong whiff of Croatian sweat. Bottle it up, sell it as a cologne. 'Luka', the scent of smart. He never wasted possession, constantly and tirelessly working for the side. Not the clever crafting Luka we know and love, but the game required a more disciplined effective player who made sure the midfield tick tocked without a pause. Multi-layered is Moddle.
He's a bit all over the shop at the moment. Easily could have seen a red card for his backwards flying arm. Keep those eyes from turning green, Bruce. Good shift with regards to defensive duties, what with the blocking and tackling. Perhaps no time for studs on ball, look up, Hollywood passing but you need to adapt quickly to the pace of the game and he did so. Just about. I think he's struggling with the adjusting he's having to make.
Even when he's not quite firing on all cylinders, he's still a joy to watch. Powerful, beastly Gareth, with a barnet to die for. His goal (our 4th) summed it up for me, taking advantage of slack defending, pulsating forwards, slotting it home. Like I said, not quite firing on all cylinders (crossing was meh at times). But essential to the team because he always looks like creating something. Has to remain at LW. Forever and ever and ever.
Crouch and Pav
Peter got himself into positions but seemed to hedgehog himself when the ball flew towards him. Didn't have a comfortable time out there. Did win us a pen and did assist for vdV. So if I could reach, high-five Peter. Pav, non-existent first half and yet somehow better in the second when we had ten men. His penalty taking was superb. Clinical Roman, he can take his chances when gift-wrapped, but still has the Darren Bents about him in terms of effectiveness off the ball. Does hold the ball up well on occasions. But it's obvious, we lack the upper tier quality required to really lead from the front. Holding the ball up and whatever, come one now, it's bread and butter. We need more than this.
Redknapp and the formation/tactics
Ding-dong game wasn't it? Some generous refereeing decisions with the pens. But the team worked as a unit and certain individuals took responsibility and are deserving of good post-match hug. Back to the basics of 442. It worked. Okay, so it was not quite solid in places in terms of some of our defending and we did not look overly convincing at times (we'll have to play eight at the back against Inter). And the front two didn't have a sharp cutting edge type of night (do we ever?), but there was more than enough about us to see it through. A better team probably would have taken advantage and punished us where Twente perhaps wasted opportunities. But you could argue, with Defoe up front, we could done the same to them.
Ridiculous. Heart out of chest, in mouth, gagging football. Thanks to the officials, someone ought to point out to them that Christmas is still a few months away. First penalty, for me was a pen. Second was very soft but we've seen them given. Third wasn't a penalty, but hey, anything that sticks it to Mihaylov is fine by me. Game was won with the possession of the ball in the second half after Twente got back into the game and Rafa got sent off. Our reaction to it was for me, excellent. Harry bringing on Jenas (at 3-1) was a very clever move which resulted in a spell of possession football which killed 10-15 minutes and practically ended Twente's belief they could claw their way back.
Defence worked hard. Midfield tried to make things happen. Front two, not so effective, but in the end it was more than enough.
Hopefully the team will have a touch more confidence and focus for the EPL now. Even though, the reality is, we were not by any great means wholly convincing. But the tenacity was there. It's time for us prioritise the league starting with Villa at home.
To dare is to do a bit of everything. van der Vaart, my man of the match.