Tottenham 3 Dortmund 1
Damn. Where do I even begin? Might as well dive straight in...
Tottenham, having to accept their first half fate of being pushed back whilst Dortmund pressed with astonishing energy and commitment, duly obliged with counter attacking shock and awe. Two teams with similar stylings showcasing contrasting strategies on the night. One reactive to the other. They danced, we slapped.
What an absolute belter of a game.
Son Heung-min lashing it in for the 1-0 from an outrageous angle (6 in 6 against them, terrorising them from afar). Andriy Yarmolenko equalising with a magnificent peach of a top corner hit. Then Harry Kane making it 2-1 from a carbon copy counter attack and a savage smack through the stationary and stunned Roman Bürki in goal. All of this in the opening quarter. The rented accommodation suddenly alive with proper punchy football. Blood pumping. Gave the atmosphere a taste.
The visitors were tremendous in possession. We hardly got a sniff in between all the goal scoring, chasing them around, unable to put our own studs on the ball in an attempt to build momentum. Technically, they were fantastic. The game had this undeniable flow of electricity, a high level intensity to everything they did. Suffocating space, first to every ball, winning it back in the 50/50, skipping forward with intent.
Did we have a choice in surrendering so much possession?
Maybe it was something discussed in our preparation for match-day, but if you re-watch those opening half hour exchanges, they were very much one sided. 67% one sided. I doubt that was in the game plan but I'm certain the coach and players were astute enough to expect it, hence the shape and movement in containing and countering. Perhaps you can cite luck or living dangerously, but Spurs were never on the ropes, rather patiently waiting for that opportunity to deliver the uppercut.
Even if the likes of Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele struggled to stamp their authority and Christian Eriksen had nothing more than the occasional second on the ball - as a unit, we matched their tenacity through-out, landing two punches that floored them. The flaw in their plan was leaving two at the back as they pushed all their men into our half. Naivety? Over confidence? Regardless, we took full advantage.
Both Kane and Son could have scored early on in the second half, both failing to hit the target when it was easier to do just that. A sign that this half wouldn't follow the frantic pace of the first.
Then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had an onside goal ruled offside (although swings and roundabouts, for their goal in the build up, a player was blatantly off) and then wallop.
A third punch, this time knocking them out with the TKO.
Kane with a brace. Spurs transitioning with central marauding through the heart of the German side. Dembele to Davies to Eriksen to Harry, through the defenders legs, and into the net.
Group of deaf 'cause the haters wouldn't listen to the crow of the cockerel.
Hugo Lloris made a rare save at Wembley, denying the Tim Sherwood reject Aubameyang and Jan Vertonghen got a second yellow for waving his arm/hand in Mario Götze's face (who made sure of the punishment thanks to additional dramatics). Jan guilty of clumsy play for his first card, so thankfully he only misses the trip to Cyprus. Perhaps had he not run off when he left Götze for dead he might have just about got away with it. It was hardly dangerous or malicious.
If the first half was us sat back, soaking the pressure, in the second the tempo switched and the experience was shared between the two. Make no mistake, Dortmund were excellent in the final third and oozed class, touch and movement. Our defensive unit able to transform from a tank into a supersonic jet. Our management of the task at hand was superbly done. So many outstanding performances across the team.
Toby Alderweireld was stupendous, so divisive with one to one last gasp defending, like it's the easiest thing in the world. Jan was equally exceptional, bossing it at the back. Sometimes it's worth pinching yourself just how fortunate we are. They are at their peak.
Serge Aurier also impressed, with his dummy header and canny escape with the ball, a joyful moment of confidence and awareness. Both Dier and Dembele found their feet in the second forty-five, although Mousa wasn't at his imperious best. The manic start possibly key to that thanks to the congestion in the middle. He struggled to retain the ball at times and his passing was sloppy which is very uncharacteristic. It made his forward pass in the build up to the third goal a treat. Davinson Sánchez also comfortable once more, not fazed by the occasion and was in sync with his partners. The back three. Ballers. Ball winning, ball playing, outright ballers. So much intelligence*. So much culture.
*Jan obv losing some points there
Ben Davies was again top drawer. He's been deputising for so long that he's no longer the deputy. A model professional, gets on with it with no complaints. Might have plenty of imperfections but he's the type of player our gaffer adores. By no coincidence, so was Danny Rose. However, the latter has more to offer. What a grand place to be competition wise.
Eriksen also had more time on the ball after the break as he tinkered to aid our endeavours. It wasn't the type of game where he could out-right dictate. This is the Champs League against top opposition in a game that turned into an away performance at home. He stood tall.
As for Son, his directness and pace suited us perfectly. In fact, for this game and the way it panned out with the counter attack being our most prominent weapon, there's an argument to be made that it suited Son more than it might have Dele Alli (easy to say with hindsight, right?)
Having said that, in the second half when the pace dropped, Dele could have stretched their already stretched back-line further. Once more, Spurs proving they do actually have depth and extra dimensions.
Hugo Lloris making that huge save before the 3-1, was a game changing moment. 2-2 and you don't know how the game might go. Always talk about his goalkeeping rather than focusing on his distribution. Although it would be nice if he spent more time on his footwork.
Kane was monstrous.
World class. Some of us said the same about Gareth Bale whilst others laughed.
He's been that for an age but if you listened to the pundits paid to make silly click baiting soundbites, you'd believe he has to join a big club before anyone agreed. You know, one of the big ones. Basically anyone that isn't Tottenham. Gotta love their conditioned mentality.
Six goals in September and something like 29 goals in 27 games this calendar year. Ridiculously good. The boy can do anything. Head, left foot, right foot, holds the ball up, scores from anywhere. What he did against Dortmund, the manner in which he displayed ferocity and urgency was testament to the entire teams mindset. Our spearhead. The dynamite in the punch.
Kudos here also to Mauricio Pochettino, clearly learning from the harsh lessons from last season with refined traits of tactical nous and faith. Spurs never panicked, never collapsed or gave even a suggestion that we'd slump. It was mature and at times deliberate (in accepting the balance of possession versus the risk factor of breaking away into their half).
We usually swarm and dismantle opposing sides, owning passes completed and other relevant stats. What has proved insightful is that Spurs *can* play with sacrifice. We can sit back a little in a home encounter and not look to always be the ones pressing and posing the questions. It's something we haven't done recently against top sides. Although what Dortmund did to us, we have experienced once or twice away from home before and failed to anchor ourselves in the game. So this is perhaps evidence of evolution.
Our in-game management was spot on. We have the players who can adapt to the opposition and the quality in depth to see it through. The back three into five is something we're familiar with but it feels like it's something that can be flexible depending on the challenge. Granted, we got swarmed on Wednesday night and there was no traditional wing-back play - but with Rose to return and Davies continuing to improve - we've made the best defence in the country better by adding Davinson and Serge. Diamond system, flying wing-backs, roaming centre-backs...we have it all available.
I'd like to interrupt this blog with a little throwback to the time when we hadn't signed anyone in the transfer window and 'everyone' was crying about the lack of ambition. Good times.
I find it baffling that some (on social media) seem to suggest we got lucky because Dortmund were very poor (??) and perhaps could have hurt us and therefore we've got away with it. A very strange way to process events. This was high-octane high level football. Dortmund will be stronger for their home tie (we'll have players back too).
Allowing a team like Real Madrid the luxury of so much time on the ball could be suicidal. But one game at a time, right? If you can't enjoy this win there is something inherently wrong with you.
Dortmund got themselves into great positions but didn't punish us in comparison to our ruthlessness down the other end. You could say in terms of possession and chances created they barely had any across the duration of the 90 minutes. Just one that counted to our three.
It was proof that when you have a side of quality you need the opposing team to test you to bring the best out of everyone. Champions League inspires because of the stage it presents to the world. None of that Europa League lag here and a far more professional product to last years damp sluggish affairs.
A cracking start to our campaign. Wembley also finally a stadium of smiles with a performance to match it. Another win on Saturday and the hoodoo is gone, it's dust and the Spurs go marching on.
Dortmund were excellent. We beat them. 3-1. At Wembley.