Spurs 1 PAOK 2
If this was a must win game, Harry should have played our strongest side. The fact he didn't more or less tells you the importance of it. That's been the problem from the very start. It's not a priority. It's an after thought. It's something that's there that can't be ignored so it's patronised. Placing aside the emotive aspect of Europe and a cup run, the actual competition is hardly geared towards aiding you domestically due to the sheer volume of games to be played. I guess if our aspirations were different, say we sat in 8th - 6th place and that was the best we could hope for we might have sacrificed more for the it rather than simply play youth and fringe players.
Last night, what with it being a 'must win', Harry added Modric, Lennon and Defoe to the starting line-up. Bale and Walker also made appearances. Was of no consequence when the defence appeared to freeze frame on a couple of occasions in truly calamitous fashion early on in the game rendering it game over before we had a chance to make any worthy impact. I guess proving that if you call upon players that sit on the bench most days, their lack of focus/first team action can prove to be devastatingly ironic. We lost the game in the opening twenty minutes. Got to be honest. I could have walked through the Spurs defence with a kebab in one hand and an Essex bird on the other. No shocker to see an average side do the same (minus the dodgy meat and bint).
The penalty, fortunate as it was, also went a long way to suggest it was going to be an ominous night in front of goal. I could not shake off the feeling that we would dominate possession and still not hit the target convincingly - and that's basically the story of the second half. Even with 10 men, the Greeks contained us. With ample help from the officials that disallowed an equaliser for no apparent reason other than complete incompetence. Player goes down injured. Nobody (officiating) are concerned for said player, play continues, Defoe scores, the assistant referee starts to run back towards the half-way line and the other bloke (that stands by the side of the goal) hardly made an effort to gesture anything. So the ref, in his infinite wisdom, gave a free-kick to PAOK. If it was for the foul, why the delayed reaction? If it was for offside, it quite obviously wasn't offside. All very bizarre and idiotic.
It's a shame, but the reality is - Harry never believed the squad had the necessary depth to take this competition seriously. Hindrance is the vibe I get. Perhaps he thought we could get away with playing the likes of Corluka, Gallas, Bassong, Pienaar etc as they are/were first team players. But once more, if you lack recent competitive game time, it doesn't matter what the name is on the back of your shirt. It was all disjointed and mish-mashed with very little sustained quality (Modric was decent enough).
All down to mathematics now. I think Harry and co will not care too much about the formulas as they are far too tricky to contemplate. The league is the only challenge of importance to this side and retaining our current position, to be awarded with a far more attractive European prospect. Perhaps the FA Cup can give us a much missed run towards silverware.
We tried to get away with it in the Europa League. We didn't. Looking back at the group, we really should have walked it. But if you don't really want something you're not going to be scared or fearful about losing it. That was apparent through-out the group stages.
Onwards to Bolton at home. Quite obviously a game of far bigger importance to most.