Tottenham 3 Real Madrid 1
Lap it up. We live for days like this. History. A Glory Glory night under the lights of a stadium that isn't home but felt like one for ninety minutes. It's the first time we've beaten them. The first time we've (technically speaking) scored against them. They haven't lost in the group stages for five years. Marca in tears. Lap. It. The. F*ck. Up.
To see us dismantle the champions of Europe like it was hardly a challenge was in itself a beautiful realisation of the capabilities of Mauricio Pochettino's side. Once again, classic containment supported with potent shock and awe tactics. We humbled them. It was magnificent in every conceivable way. The noise in the stadium, the performances on the pitch, the undeniable yet acceptable ease of arrogance. Not a petulant arrogance, more like a polite acknowledgement, whispering gently to the team sat in your back pocket that it will be over soon.
Perhaps the only disappointing aspect was that we didn't score one or two more. Look at me, DISAPPOINTED that Dele didn't head it in for a deserved hattrick. Levels. What truly is grand, what makes me smile even harder is hearing my brother admit he was more nervous at 3-0 than at 1-0. That, my friends, is Tottenham Hotspur. Even though we have undoubtedly changed our culture from top to bottom the fans will never really change theirs. I hope we continue to retain that honest awareness and self-deprecating trait.
You know what, I get Madrid are a mess when compared to their ridiculously high standards. Their defending was poor but their diagonals and triangular play on the flank was still savagely dangerous. Yet there was little impact to their punch. All flair no power. When Ronaldo is attempting no-look flick passes early in the game you could have guessed their focus was nowhere near the fused synergy Spurs upheld throughout.
Tottenham are this persistent unified force of togetherness. One team is always greater than eleven individuals. The visitors were simply not up for it, not enough to take the game by the scruff. Nowhere near good enough to take punishing control when pushing into the final third. Sure, we were fortunate a couple of times in key moments. The first goal being the prime example. All worth it for Ronaldo's post-match moaning. Delicious. It's almost like Madrid have never benefited from offside goals. A scramble in the box in the second half another. Guess what. That's football. Take a look back at Old Trafford. Dele gets his toes on it and we win.
My feet are still on the ground. I've done my floating, I'm sure we all have. Remember when the CL draw was made and the negative reaction from some quarters? Spurs fans bemoaning an early exit and rival fans laughing at us? Look at us now. Qualified with swashbuckle. We might even finish top.
Yet whilst we - the supporters - do our thing with the gloating and the bragging and the drinking, the players walked off the turf like it was no big surprise. No small time celebrations, no selfies. No over-reaction like we just killed the giant. The mentality gave me a stiffy and I'm still sat here with a lingering chubby. Spurs keep doing this. They keep on giving us moments that prove we can compete, that we do have the mental fortitude for it. Sustaining it remains the ultimate goal. How more building blocks do we need adding before it's complete?
I think psychologically, winning this game meant more. Perhaps in preparation, we aim to win all of the games (obviously we do, I'm stating the bleeding obvious) but this game in particular meant more than any other. It's a statement for sure. It goes back to doing it consistently when it matters. That's the difference maker, the mindset, we seek to conquer before using it to pillage our way through enemy territories.
Anyways, screw all the philosophical stuff today and screw the (still) gutting result at Old Trafford. Bask in the aftermath of this 3-1.
Loved Harry Kane taking a bite out of Nacho, slowing down before chasing the ball and forcing a throw-in. Loved what happened moments later. The brilliant personification of a Spurs fan in a Spurs shirt playing for Spurs, Harry Winks, dinked in a gem of a ball. I keep watching this on loop. Kieran Trippier was offside, didn't have to be, the weight of the pass was perfection. Much like Trips cross in for Dele 'space invader' Alli to get a touch to stick us 1-0 up.
The second goal was all Alli again, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. His shot took a deflection off Ramos and found the net. Who cares. He made it happen, running at their defence and skipping around their players. His first game back in Europe since the ban. Two goals. 'ave that Franco. Delirium.
3-0 was sublime, magical. Dele deep, releasing Kane to Eriksen, the Dane finishing with cool comfort. Counterslapping at its finest. Emotive fire everywhere. The way Winks celebrates this goal is tremendous.
Ronaldo poked a goal back after Dele should have scored his third. Madrid, for all their lapses at the back and their fragmented spirit, still did enough to force us into some last gasp defending. Still, we never looked rattled. We never lost our composure. Eric Dier was outstanding, so commanding and chilled on and off the ball. Jan equally good. Sanchez too. Davies and Trip, both alleged seasoned understudies taking centre stage. Just imagine a paragraph of superlatives for all of them. Make up some words if you want. Losing Toby was gutting ('out for a few weeks') but that depth kicked in and we kicked on. It had no impact on our shape.
Going back to Dele, along with Kane and Winks - holy sh*t they were so good to watch. So much work off the ball and so fluid when surging forward. Trip had possibly his best game in the shirt. Mousa's cameo, dishing out wallops on Ramos and co was maddening yet perversely acceptable. Hugo with safe hands on the couple of occasions he was tested (he's also injured, hopefully back for the NLD, praise the international break).
As for Winks, nothing appears to faze him. It's the second time he's surrounded by Galacticos and he has zero f*cks to give. Luka Modric was possibly one of the best (midfield) players I've ever seen at Spurs and in five years from now I get the distinct feeling I'll be saying that about Winksy. We have a new conductor, his symphony will be glorious. He dictated the pace on Wednesday night. This academy kid owned Real. Owned them.
The Madrid chairman probably fainted from dizziness trying to work out how many £200M bids he's going to need to lodge. I can go back to Kane and Dele but you know how I feel about the both of them. So just make up your own words again.
Dele stats for people that still want to moan. 109 games, involved in 61 goals (scored 39, assisted 22). Still only 21 years old. Cut those numbers up into lines of powder and give 'em a hefty snort.
Was this result a coming of age? I'd answer yes had we beaten Utd. I know we expect so much from Poch and his players and there's good reason for it. They've given us hope and enough football to know the potential can turn to silverware. That last step is proving to be as tricky to navigate as the journey that has got us to where we stand now. Got to keep believing. Got to keep winning the high level games.
I'm being overly harsh.
In terms of the CL, it was a coming of age. Unlike the adventure back when we sparked out Inter 3-1, this Spurs team is far more robust and resilient. It has to be in order to compete. Redknapp's team was a refreshing surprise, Poch has to compete against a more stubborn set of opposing templates because the teams we face respect us.
As for the Wembley curse? There is no curse. The 4-1 against Liverpool was the game that gave the place a sense of being. The 3-1 is consolidation of it. Conte at the start of the season said teams will be inspired to come to the stadium. Go on then. Come at us now. Feel inspired. I dare you.
It all comes down to graft. It will be no different on Sunday against Crystal Palace. We are three seasons in. Three seasons. Another two and we run this sh*t. All of it.
Special mention to the rival fans wanting us to acknowledge their existence on social media. More salt than the dead sea.