The game with a bit of everything and something extra
Spurs 5 Asteras Tripolis 1
Well that was a bit ridiculous. Pretty much as Tottenham as you could get. Just over 20k turning up for a game most of us expected to win but not in the manner in which we did. It was as entertaining a game you'll likely to ever see on a Thursday evening.
Let's get the boring stuff out of the way first. Pochettino looked unimpressed throughout the entirety of the game. I love the fact he was so annoyed. He was equally nonplussed in his post-match interview, far more concerned about our defending rather than getting all giddy with the finishing. Which is fair enough especially after his words in the build up to this game where he citied the mentality of the players and the club and the challenge he faces with adapting it to a squad with genuine depth of strength.
Asteras too often played the same ball over our back-line without any combative edge from our defence to deal with their perseverance. The Greeks were organised but should have posed little threat had we retained some focus when they pushed forward. It's reason enough for Pochettino to be unhappy. He's hardly going to wax lyrical about the positives especially as his expectations probably matched most supporters before a ball was kicked. We needed to win, we won. It's the fact that we did so convincingly without being convincing that grates away at those that wish to look beyond the clinical and comical dramas down the other end.
Convincingly without being convincing. Only Tottenham are capable of this.
I'm glad Poch is a perfectionist or at least aims to be one. He can discuss his grievances on the training pitch and hopefully drill home the reality that better teams will have more joy if we're willing to gift them clear passages of attack.
Still, that's for him to worry about. Bill Nicholson will have probably reacted in the same way - but both men would have been content with most of the entertainment produced in the final third. Entertainment that was both breathtaking and surreal.
Harry Kane. Takes the ball home. The very same one he slotted into the net three times and allowed it to slip through him when he conceded with clumsy hands from a free-kick. That was after Hugo Lloris was red-carded for coming out of his box to challenge (thanks to Pochettino's pet hate from the game that saw the defence split from another one of those balls from above and over).
Lloris (who produced a magnificent stop earlier and tbh at times played like he's the only defender we have) could have held back and conceded, but then instinctively he did what he would have done at 1-0 or 2-0. He attacked the ball (and player). Lucky we had 5 goals at the time. Once more, think of Poch and his miserable face and the reason why Lloris had to run out in the first place.
He gave his shirt (and captains armband) to Kane who probably thought at this point in the match he'd sprout additional arms and hands. We all laughed when the shot found its way in. Possibly the only time where it's genuinely acceptable to LOL at your own team conceding a goal. A remarkable paradox. Good on Harry for going in goal, it might have been a little too much to ask for safe hands as this was the 89th minute and the thought of conceding four goals in injury time was probably one collectively shared between thousands of Spurs fans.
It didn't matter because Kane started the goal-fest with a beautifully hit shot from distance that struck the post and went in. He got his second with a simple tap in and a third from a deliciously good cross from Fazio, powering a simplistic header past the keeper. So what if he morphed into an emergency keeper and fluffed it. Three goals, one conceded. Still on a +2.
What Spurs did this evening was take their chances. No messing, no hardships. Sure it wasn't perfect and regardless of the disputes you might have rationalising the result based on the opposition - the important thing is that we played relatively well and won the game. We did that, with plenty of the usual head scratches, but the three points were all important.
Having five players start the game that were present at City away might be a telling nod towards one of my personal bugbears this season whereby we lose momentum thanks to these mid-week games where players are rotated. Perhaps that will change gradually whilst the team begin to find that fluidity and understanding.
Kane playing behind Adebayor (quiet but involved, but very quiet) with Townsend and Lamela providing some directness with no Eriksen as the man centre-point of creativity in the space between the midfield and forward. This allowed for more freedom for the likes of Lamela, even though with ball at feet he still has this annoyance of not releasing the ball early enough. His pass completion was high but at pivotal moments when his grey matter sparked up he made the wrong choice or lost the ball as he attempted to recover the transition and tempo .
I just wanted to point that out.
We are more than aware that he's trying to find that groove, that rhythm that allows him to express but not to the detriment of his team-mates and our movement. So not just as an individual but as part of a three man attacking trio. Confidence is always the fuel that can drive a player forward. Always. In this game he provided us with evidence of what he is capable of when he doesn't need to think. When it's instinctive. He showed us that if you strip away the lack of bulk and sometimes fragile possession there is a player that is capable of the utterly sublime. If that isn't Tottenham I don't know what is. Frustrating and brilliant.
Enter the Rabona. To be able to pull this off, you don't only need the belief to do so but it's a naturally embedded skill in your footballing DNA.
One leg wrapping itself around the other so he can strike the ball with his preferred boot. Oh what a strike, what a finish. In the next to no time he had to consider this course of action, you might wish to suggest his grey matter fused and his muscles twitched into motion as though this was a reflex movement. The Argentine scooping the world with a goal that deserved a capacity crowd as a witness. Instead there were scatterings of blue seats and a vocal 1882 supported by the drum along with others that braved the mundane travelling of a mid-week match to see this majestic moment.
It's these types of goals, these types of moments, where a players stature can begin to grow. We'll want to see this in the league and we'll want to see it consistently before we can announce his arrival. But don't think for a second I won't be lapping up this cameo like Oreo ice-cream flowing down the back of Jennifer Lawrence. This was the type of goal you want to watch on repeat, over and over and over again. Over and over and over.
Audacious. Ludicrous. Gorgeous. Absurd. Outrageous. Fantastic.
He had little time to react yet did so effortlessly. It was only Asteras but that type of instinctiveness is unplayable. If Pochettino can work to develop Lamela's mental composure, refine his alertness and ability to react to a pass the same way he can quite obviously react to shaping up like he did for that first finish - then slowly but surely we'll begin to work towards that £30M valuation.
If his brain can be that sharp and his body that confident, then there's promise and potential to produce the goods when facing better opposition where the goal will perhaps not be demoted in memory because of the lack of prestige of the game. Although it's doubtful we'll ever forget it.
His second goal (ignoring the keepers position) was also decent. Another reflex, this time a volley.
A thoroughly enjoyable game if accepted as a single event in isolation. In terms of our progression, for all the summer work on the defence we still look clumsy.
The question now, looking ahead to Newcastle, is whether Harry Kane's consistent end product with assists and goals warrants a starting position. I'll let Poch take that one too.
I'm going to go away and fantasise about that Lamela goal. Sorry Jennifer, no invite to my dreams this evening.
written post-match, Thursday evening