Christian restores our faith
Christian Eriksen is that mate on a night out with the lads that casually flirts with the girls, a charmer with the chat up lines and just when you think it's time to leave for everyone to bundle into a cab after a kebab, the lights come up in the club and there he is in the middle of the dance floor having gone and pulled an absolute stunner.
If his free-kick was a smouldering look, his dramatic 'winning' goal was his tongue down the throat of the lucky girl. Eriksen is a gem and Spurs are...well, Spurs.
At 1-0 and with the Blades unable to force themselves into the game with a competitive enough edge to scare me into thinking we could balls this up, I didn't for a single moment think we would balls it up. Even though that goes against everything we know about the gospel of Tottenham. Such was the subtly of this illusion of certainty that I dismissed the possibility of any dramatic twist in the game simply because I couldn't for the life of me see how it could happen. Hallelujah, praise be Spurs.
We controlled the game, contained the hosts. The massive neon light that screamed out: WHAT ABOUT THE FACT WE HAVEN'T KILLED THEM OFF WITH A SECOND was unplugged whilst I joked whimsically about the fact we can't seem to score from open play. This was akin to a James Bond villain spending ten minutes with 007 and informing him about the mechanics of how he will die before leaving the room and allowing the super spy to escape.
In this instance, replace super spy with super sub. Che Evans. Two goals in as many minutes thanks to some direct desire and some soft defending. This was the twist I refused to believe.
In a blink of an eye we now looked more likely to go out than go through.
Before the 2-1 turn-around, I was fairly happy with our players. Content and comfortable. We played decent football without excelling in keys areas. We worked hard, pressed but didn't make enough of our possession in the final third count. Killer goals are not generally exclusive to making only last minute appearances. Unless you star in Lilywhite.
Mousa Dembele played in an advanced role and looked more assured than his prior misadventures in midfield. He has ability and strength yet only seems to use it in cameos and bursts of occasional energy. He provided composure in possession and got forward whenever possible - although not always with a bullish willingness to destroy space directly ahead of him with the purpose of goal-getting. We missed his presence when subbed. This is something you can (almost) always say about Mousa. Even when you can't quite work out what he does, when he doesn't play we miss him.
Okay, so slightly exaggerated observation that was probably true a season or two back when he marshalled the centre allowing others more time and space on the ball. Has he been reinvented? Best to wait and see if he gets more game time in a progressive role and if he manages to convincingly boss it with more vigour.
Erik Lamela was another that did enough but not half as much as you'd have wanted. He's returning after an absence (some say he's never been present) and if you ignore his dithering on the ball and the occasional heavy pass and not forgetting his attempts to play past opposing players as though he can magic his way through their flesh and bones - he did alright. I'm saying alright without the £30M price tag association that isn't in any way his fault. His 'alright' wasn't exactly on par with the kid Evans and his introduction although Lamela is likely to be the one that goes onto far brighter things (stop laughing at me).
Yes, he hasn't bulked up and it remains questionable if he can transition to life in the English league but he also gave us some fundamentals that aided the teams shape. For every moment that made me shake my had he had several where he displayed healthy traits of awareness and could easily have notched a couple of assists. It's easy to ignore the good stuff. Shout out also to Benji Stambouli, action-man. Whisper it, but he's beginning to settle in.
So both (Mousa and Erik) go off. We then go to pot. Maybe a coincidence, but at 2-1 down and Sheffield United pushing forward you start to consider the worst case scenario and go and forget what usually happens late in games (ignoring the anomaly of Leicester City).
Before the substitutions, the game plan (ignoring the lack of a second goal and a sense of oomph) was solid. Structured and disciplined. Mauricio will have to analyse the changes and decide if the detrimental impact was down to his choices or the fact we don't have that much choice (one for Daniel Levy to consider).
Ben Davies struggled at times. Kyle Walker was erratic. We lacked pace with most of the things we attempted. Good movement but just too slow in build up.
But whilst United endeavoured for a third goal (and almost got one), we finally found ourselves taking advantage of the counter attack that was meant to be the blueprint for our success in this game.
It started with a delightfully simplistic ball from the visionary mind and feet of Harry Kane - who also impressed (perhaps too greedy at times but relentless with his forwardness). It ended with Eriksen, like a Danish Greaves, passing the ball into the net with killer instinct (yep, in the 87th minute) and gave us dramatic glory and an actual goal from open play.
Eriksen's goal so intelligent. No need to thump it in. Did the math. Delirium. Kane and Ryan Mason celebrating in front of the away supporters was brilliant. Especially Harry giving it some with the passionate arm throwing. Actual Spurs players that connect with us on a level that so many others fail to ignite.
Spurs just don't do it the easy way. Jan Vertonghen got away with a throat grabbing moment towards the end of the match that could have left us stretched for selection at the back.
We'll be flying back from Italy on the Thursday before the cup final. Chelsea will have a week to prepare for it. Then again, we were not meant to win the one back in 2008. Who cares about the details? It's Wembley. It's a derby. It's what we want and it's what we've got.
Thanks for the scare Evans, Clough and the Blades. As for Spurs, wakey wakey...we can't always pull a stunner, so enjoy it all because one of these days we'll be left holding a chilli drowned doner kebab.
Concluding thought: Had we strolled to a 3-0 win on the night you'd never had enjoyed it as much.