Our first Champions League game back home has been and gone, but more importantly we beat Manchester City! Arguably the best team in the league this season, challenging for all 3 remaining trophies given they’ve already won the other! It was always going to be a tough game but we played brilliantly.
Our starting line-up was near perfection. Hugo in net, a back four of Tripps, Rose, Toby and Jan. With Winks back next to Sissoko in his first start following injury. Dele, Eriksen, Son and Kane leading the line. I was very nervous, but excited at such a challenge awaiting us in our new home!
We started well, a little shaky, but definitely growing into the game. Both teams figuring each other out for the opening 10 or so minutes until…. Man City are given a penalty, after referee Björn Kuipers consulted VAR. Now my only comment on this decision is that it’s harsh on Rose. I understand that under the laws of the game and of VAR, that is a handball. However, similarly, it is not clear and obvious. BT Sport ran a poll on twitter as to whether or not the decision was correct, and after over 22,000 votes, 55% said no. So it cannot be clear and obvious. He is very close to where Sterling shoots from, and any defender will tell you that going to ground to block a shot, it is damn near impossible to keep your arms in. Additionally, no City players even appealed it, so it brought to a halt what was a good start, with both teams easing into things. Extending on the VAR topic, later on Fernandihno was seen elbowing Kane in the back of the head after landing on top of him, and this incident was not reviewed by VAR. Similarly, BT Sport put up another poll as to whether the player should’ve seen red, to which 68% of over 23,000 people said yes. So why was this not at least reviewed? It baffles me and again worries me for the future of VAR. I believe it is a good idea, but a system that is not ready to be implemented fully into games, and I worry what it will do to the league next season. But we will see.
Anyway, moving off the topic, the penalty was taken, AND SAVED BY LLORIS. Our keeper whilst he is still prone to a mistake is still a favourite amongst fans, especially when it comes to penalties nowadays. Our skipper has saved his last three penalties he has faced in a row, coming from Vardy, Aubameyang and now Aguero. So clearly he has been practicing that in training! The half continued, and we went into the half 0-0 with our opponents. Both teams looked dangerous on counters, but the ball was being moved around nicely by both, needing that bit of magic from one or two players to break the deadlock.
Second half began and the same continued. We were definitely the better side and if we were ever going to get anything out of Man City today was the game. We needed to win, and if possible, keep a clean sheet at the same time. However, our worst news was yet to come, and just before the 60 minute mark, Harry Kane was substituted following a clash with Delph. In which his ankle again seems to have been seriously injured – our star man hopping down the tunnel instantly, and leaving the ground in a boot on crutches later on that evening. I’ll give my thoughts on that situation later. Moving on in the game, we didn’t let this loss affect us and carried on strong. And our number 7, history maker Heung Min Son, marked his name once again by scoring the first champions league goal in our new stadium. After a couple of late scares, we finished strong and won 1-0. A great result against a fantastic team, and a night to cherish.
Recapping it all I have a few talking points to mention and give my thoughts on… I already expressed my thoughts on VAR so here are a few more things I wanted to chat about.
The performance. We played fantastically all evening, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier were sublime. Absolutely brilliant performances from the full back roles. Jan and Toby played great. Sissoko had yet another good game, matched by possibly someone who had an even better evening in Harry Winks, whose return will definitely be crucial at the home stretch of this season. Son, Eriksen, Dele and Kane before his injury all put in great shifts as well.
The stadium. So it’s two wins and two clean sheets. Home sweet home! We have played well in both games and I feel this stadium could be such an important factor in such an important time in our season. We have already relegated Huddersfield in there at the weekend. So it is a game that we should win, and one that will extend our confidence even further in our new home. The atmosphere so far has been electric, and as I said, it could prove to be a huge factor in finishing top 4, and possibly getting even further in the champions league.
Injuries. Kane is injured, and most likely season over. However we have already proved that coping without him is not beyond our capabilities. Son scoring again is huge, Lucas played excellently against Liverpool a couple of games back, Llorente did his job just fine last time our number 10 was out, and for now Eriksen and Dele are still fit so I think we will be okay. Our remaining fixtures are not too bad either, so I believe we can and will cope. Dele also came off with what is rumoured to be a broken hand, but this shouldn’t affect him playing out the season. Maybe miss the Huddersfield game but hopefully that won’t matter too much, no disrespect to Huddersfield.
And finally, the Champions League. Do I think we can win it? No. But do I think we can get past Man City, yes. Don’t get me wrong, as Poch said after the game, they are still favourites. And have only lost at home twice this season, by Lyon in the earlier stages of the Champions League and to Crystal Palace in the league. So it is not an easy game at all, however with them not scoring any away goals, all we need is to score one to make life more difficult for them. If we manage to make it through, we will more than likely play Juventus in the semis. Which is incredibly tough, and a game that I don’t see us winning over two legs. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the return leg in Manchester next Wednesday, and where we go in this competition.
But for now, and after a long run of poor form, I am finally enjoying Tottenham Hotspur again. And I hope we can finish this season strong.
As always thanks for reading.