You know that feeling. That old tradition of knowing what to expect. That ominous cloud that sits above you waiting to thunderclap rain and dampen your mood. It's that go to script that the footballing Gods always direct from when they want to tease and then deny us like a dominatrix that loves a good humiliation. With the score at 0-0 having had shot upon shot at the Cardiff goal for 90 minutes, the post-mortem was already prepared for the inevitable conclusion.
David Marshall played a blinder, shot-stopping
to the delight of the home ground and the frustration to those in the
away end and the supporters back at home streaming the game via a dodgy internet site. Another goal-keeper with yet another world class performance against Tottenham. A favourite story arc in any given Spurs season.
You might have also been inclined to cite Andre Villas-Boas 'work in progress' in terms of selection. The lack of balance on the flanks, especially on the left with Naughton struggling at the back (with accompanying suicide back-passes) and offering little support going forward and with the right equally erratic with Andros Townsend preferring to shoot on sight leaving Soldado a touch isolated again up front, in desperate need of an acute pass or a crossed delivery.
Perhaps more key than any of the above is the moment sweeper-keeper Hugo Lloris run out to take the ball away from Campbell (who picked up Naughton's awful back-pass), sliding down to save and pushing the ball away.
Handball inside or outside or on the line of the penalty area? Almost controversial but as it was hardly blatant and nigh impossible to be 100% certain (as an official seeing it play out in real time) then it's always going to go in the favour of the keeper. It looked like Hugo pushed the ball away from inside the box then on the line (as momentum continued), so perhaps fingertips at most outside the box? The fact is, we'd have been 1-0 down with anyone else in goal, so I'd rather Hugo takes the risk and attack the player/ball rather than hold back and wait for the approach from the striker.
Okay, so he's done this a couple of times recently (where we've found ourselves with heart in mouth), but his personality, his character is made of far sterner material than one or two of our previous keepers. There was no calamity or craziness. He was incisive be it high risk. He made the decision in a split second and WALLOP he was there. I'd say, moments like this are just as vital as any given goal scored.
It was a defining moment, match winning (with the power of hindsight along with ignoring how all games pan out differently with each passing second and decision - but my point is, he kept our momentum in tact with his 'save').
Lucky not to get a red? Professionalism from the officials as it simply wasn't clear enough. If, I've got this wrong, and the mistake was with the ref not seeing it and making the right decision (to send Lloris off) then I'd have to look at the back-pass as the guilty prop in what would have been an ill-fated scene. Hugo had to react. He reacted to the defensive mistake. Lucky Naughton more so.
But then all of the above potential post-mortem discussion points transcend from nail-biting head scratching frustration to utter joy when Lamela crosses for Paulinho to back-heel with cheek for a 1-0 win.
That script that has plagued us for years, plucked away from the Gods thanks to patience and persistence and Paulinho, plucked and shredded and used as confetti as the players celebrated with deserved jubilation.
Times are not changing. They've changed and will continue to do so. We're in the eye of the storm that will soon wreck havoc on all our enemies.
(dramatic enough for you?)
Harsh on Cardiff? Well yes, in some ways, they kept
themselves in it (the infuriating Marshall just wouldn't allow anything to creep past him) and they might have stolen a goal
against the run of play on more than one occasion (although the disallowed goal was justified). We were wasteful though and had more than our fair share of 'on another day that's in' moments.
In the end, even though Spurs dominated and bossed possession (63%) and shots on goal (29) even though that ominous feeling of 'typical Tottenham' was being whispered as the final whistle approached - the real story of this game was our relentless attacking aided by determined belief and character that finally produced all three points. Not so typical Spurs after-all.
Yes, the full-back positions (even though we've only conceded one goal all season) are not quite solid and the manner in which they function (the over-lap and support for the 'wingers') isn't smooth (looks like an emergency add-on rather than a perfect fit). And yes the wingers themselves (the two wide midfielders that play either side of Eriksen) are positions that are ripe for competition between a fair few of our players. Our inverted play and the manner in which we push wide to pull defences open needs to be worked on further. The standard is, say imagining we had Bale and Lennon in those two positions. We have so many more options now that its important to have the right players functioning as one single attacking unit.
Get this right, then Soldado has more clear cut opportunities to score.
The final delivery into the box is one gripe but again, we're a handful of games or so into the season. The movement, the pace and tempo - it's starting to settle to something that has a far more vibrant identity compared to some of our previous performances (last season). Although it's also best to remember how impressive our away record was last season.
Turning up to Cardiff and dealing with their threat (where others have and will fail) is a solid three points that is a testament to the graft we're putting in. Even though we left it until the very end to snatch the win. Perhaps that was always destined to happen.
If this game was
played in two months time, we'd have won it comfortably long before
injury time. At least that is my theoretical hope. As discussed before, we'll have a far more settled side and the Eriksen dynamic will have bedded in along with (in my opinion) Lamela as a starter to provide that something extraordinary. Add to it the full fitness of Sandro and Kaboul, Dembele finding form (was impressive today), the return of Capoue, a settled back four and the oiling of the attacking mechanics etc etc. All ifs and buts, but it's the reality of our position. We look good now and we're not anywhere near full pelt. Key again is that as we work towards it, we drop as few points as possible. So far so good.
sign of good individual and collective spirit when you win games with the belief that you simply wont lose them. First minute, last minute, a winning goal is just that. The winning mentality is imperative. No panic, no desperation football. Just keep on going until it's impossible to go any further.
Teams right up at the top, teams that want to compete and the teams that always challenge, they have that knack of winning games that perhaps others would lose or drop points in.
with the odd under par performance and the aforementioned required fixes. Even with the not so perfect
fluidity (although I don't want to underplay how good we looked at times with our passing) with the midfield and the link to Soldado, we are eight games in (all
comps) having scored seventeen goals and conceded one. Lost one game (against a side that parked the bus).
We're creating at will. There is still that refinement that's needed up front, that subtlety of the type of chance where the playmaker carves open an opportunity that is practically a goal before it's even been scored (rather than a shot from distance). Eriksen has shown us this already in the few games he's played. Improve on set-pieces (especially corners). Get Soldado to attack crosses by delivering quality balls into the box. It will come. Those fabled floodgates.
Last minute winners to Bale us out are going to be so last season.
Someone commented on social media that they didn't expect us to 'struggle' to score from open play considering the players we've signed. I'd only be concerned if our creativity was lacking. This new script, the one that replaces the cursed writings of the Gods is where we now take our direction from.
Lights. Camera. Action.
We're going to be box office.