The Power of Three

Post 43

Spurs 3 Real Madrid 1

(Alli 2, Eriksen) (Ronaldo)

Attendance: 83,782


In a few years’ time, 150,000 Spurs fans will undoubtedly all claim to have been amongst those at Wembley “the night we beat Real Madrid”! Of course, only about half that number were actually there to see it.

Sadly, I wasn’t one of them. By the time I knew the match would fit in with my business commitments, the only seats available were corporate hospitality at ridiculous prices. So my wife and I had to make do with BT Sport on the widescreen TV, and homemade burgers instead.

But last night’s spine-tingling atmosphere at Wembley transmitted itself to every viewer at home. Kudos to our fans who helped the team produce a performance worthy of the occasion.

The Power of Three

And WTF do I know? Here’s what I wrote two days ago:

Bad things happen in threes. My gut tells me we’ll lose to Madrid on Wednesday. I’d love to be wrong but after a Carabao exit and a PL setback, it feels to me as if we’re due a CL disappointment too.

(Post 42, 30th October)

I guess it was our 3 goals I foresaw instead.

By the time we lined up for the CL anthems last night, my gut already had a much more positive intuition. Kane was back. So was Sanchez (see my Post 44 in a couple of days’ time). Everything looked set for a close game.

We quickly proved the 1-1 draw in Madrid two weeks ago was no fluke result. Sure, we lost “the stats” for last night’s match. They had 63% possession (to our 37%) but it was mostly harmless move-it-around stuff. They had 20 shots (9 on target) but rarely troubled Lloris. They even had 11 corners (to our 1).

But it was us who always looked more likely to score. We only had 11 shots, but 6 of those were on target and 3 resulted in goals. We could easily have scored 5 in all (Alli’s missed header from close range and Kane’s shot blocked by Ramos were two other good chances). Our XG score was 2.2 so we overperformed our expected goals but, hey, that’s what clinical forwards do. Meanwhile Real Madrid’s XG was 2.0 but we restricted them to one goal. Again, that’s what solid defences do.

I don’t normally indulge in Player Ratings but I did after the Away Leg (Post 35). So, to repeat the exercise, here’s the same thing for last night (out of 10):

Lloris: 8 (we didn’t require his first leg heroics to be repeated but he saved the shots that came his way, distributed well and exuded calm. Could do little about Ronaldo’s deflected shot).

Trippier: 8 (1 assist, Trips is a fantastic crosser, solid defensively and a buzzy character. And he seems to be getting better)

Sanchez: 8 (superb. I will be posting more about him soon)

Alderweireld: n/a (customary Toby performance until his hamstring injury. He hurt himself trying to inject energy via a break forward).

Dier: 9 (I’m giving Eric my Man-of-the-Match award. Not necessarily for anything in particular he did last night but because he deserves recognition for his constant preparedness and ability to step into our back line, and to look like he plays there all the time. To repeat my comment from Post 35. ‘He’s the ultimate utility man and team player, who puts in a heck of a shift’)

Vertonghen: 8 (Restored to his favoured LCB position – he’d covered LB in the away leg – Jan was his usual 2017 self; he tamed Madrid’s vaunted front-line, tackling, covering, and leading our troops).

Davies: 8 (cool, calm, collected, and creative without taking risks)

Sissoko: 7 (came on for Alderweireld, with Dier dropping into defense. Played okay. Almost had an assist with a mishit shot that went straight to Kane. He’s getting Poch’s vote which is good enough for me).

Winks: 8 (took over where he left off in the away leg. Quietly recycled possession and bustled around the pitch. Totally unflappable. Wonderful cross field ball to Trippier leading up to Dele’s first goal).

Eriksen: 9 (1 goal, 1 assist via a stepover for Dele’s 2nd) this was Christian at his sublime best. It was lovely to see Modric desperately trying – and failing – to prevent Eriksen’s goal because Modric had the better of their duel in the first leg).

Dele: 9 (2 goals and should have had a hat-trick. This was Dele at his best too, finding space, popping up in the box, snarling just enough to be effective without getting a yellow. He might have been late to this year’s CL party but what an entrance it was!).

Kane: 8 (made all the difference. 1 sublime assist for Eriksen’s goal but it was his overall contribution that put Benzema to shame. The way he chased down the ball to earn the throw that led to our first just sums Harry up. Total commitment. He may be an ultimate goal scorer but he’s an ultimate team player too).

Pochettino: 10 (I’m old school. I don’t give ‘tens’. But hey, what other rating can you give Poch for last night? His tactics, selection, substitutions, calm demeanour pitch side, and his post-match comments. All perfect. As I said last time, our manager is, indeed, the real deal – as are his staff).

This result leaves us already qualified for the knockout stages after only 4 games from the supposed “Group of Death”. We are 3-1-0 with 10 points. Real Madrid are second on 2-1-1 with 7 points, while Dortmund (on 2 pnts) require a full-blown miracle to qualify (basically victories over Spurs and Madrid, with Madrid also losing Game 5 to Apoel).

The above is not a paragraph I expected to be able to write this year !

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