A satisfying win for Spurs against Manchester City, one of our main rivals, not without its problems but in the end a comprehensive victory.
After 33 minutes, something remarkable happened. We passed the ball around a bit. I glanced up at the clock to quietly mark the moment. Until then my head had been swivelling like a spectator at centre court as the ball whizzed from one end to the other as fast as a Federer forehand. Entertaining enough but we weren’t getting anywhere by missing out the midfield and hitting early balls to Crouch and Defoe. This must have been tactical orders. City pressed right up the field so I presume we wanted to clear our lines and work from knock downs. Maybe it was designed to get away to a start without mishap, then settle down. Defoe and Crouch had problems with understanding the offside rule, although to be fair JD has really worked on this problem that bedevilled his game over the last few seasons. Unfortunately, as fast as the ball pinged forward, back it came as Crouch’s lack of close control was highlighted.
We were getting nowhere and City looked sharp and purposeful, quick to the ball with Tevez in threatening space between the back four and midfield. Then a little move, Lennon down the right and a chance. Just wide, and nothing special, but the tide had turned. From then on, our grip on the game tightened as City simply faded away. Kranjcar got on the ball and found his touch whereas Huddlestone never got the range or weight of pass. We fed the ball wide right and Lenon took Sylvinho apart. Once again we saw how he now has a cross to match his pace and dribbling, a lovely ball stood up to the far post for the first goal. It was a thrilling period of the match, holding our breath as he twisted and turned, promise in every touch. Hughes made a huge mistake in leaving Sylvinho on his own with Robinho in front him. Come right this way, Mr Lennon, the goal is waiting for you. Next time, read my preview, Mark. Or not.
Immersed in the sea of misery, hope and desperation that is the way I watch Spurs, defending a lead causes more trauma than when we are chasing a goal deficit, as with Wolves on Saturday. I am a hopeless case: even when we were two up I see the gaps at the back, the might-have-beens, the danger of Tevez on the ball…This may have some basis in reality, given our apparently unending capacity over the years to cave in, but the fact is it says more about my psyche, permanently damaged after 40 years of supporting Spurs, than it does about what happens on the pitch. City were not going to score. It was they who folded in adversity, their expensive stars able to live easily with defeat. I genuinely forgot Robinho was playing until he strolled towards the Shelf at the start of the second half.
But last night there was another, more significant reason to ease my anxieties. Michael Dawson produced a magnificent performance, the heart of the defence and the soul of the team. He’s normally strong in the box, determined in the air and fearless in his blocking. In addition, his decision-taking was impeccable, effortlessly stepping forward to intercept and tackle around the edge of the box or to cut out a through ball. His distribution, short and long, retained possession and turned defence to attack. His expression is now steely focus, dealing with the moment and then straight away thinking ahead, either to direct others into place or to anticipate danger. If we need to maintain a high tempo, then Daws will keep it moving from the back. That purpose and urgency communicated itself through to the team, whose spirits must have been raised by such might behind them.
Daws is not the finished article. He must always work so hard on his positioning and anticipation to compensate for his lack of pace and he still lets players get in front of him and/or between him and his defensive partner. But our search for a leader? Right there. Give him a go, HR, regardless of the fitness of others. He’s earned it.
Never mind this football lark, long ball down the middle, a Gilzean-esque flick (and believe me, there is no higher praise in my book) and we are two up. Crouch is so frustrating, he won every ball in the air, trouble is, you don’t know where it is going to end up. Most players have good and bad games. He has good and bad spells in most matches, beginning last night with some poor control, then setting up both goals and a purple patch where he was unplayable that then inspired him to attempt to score from as far out as possible when on each occasion other players were much better placed.
Niko sneaked through for the third, not sure quite how but a thrilling climax to the match, allowing even me to actually enjoy the last five minutes of the game, complete with a bit of Adebayor-baiting.
Hud did not get going, JD’s upper body strength enables him to hold the ball much better than in previous seasons, and Assou Ekotto put all thoughts of handbags to one side with an accomplished 90 minutes. Wilson looks out of sorts still. When it doesn’t work for him, he dwells on it, admonishing himself with a pained expression and Honduran swearing. It’s a bad sign if players allow mistakes to play on their mind.