If only home life and work did not get in the way of blogging, the world would be a better place….
So having entertained a group of fellow professionals from the Czech Republic today, which in the process developed my skill of looking really quite absorbed as someone gabbles away at you for five minutes in a foreign language, (‘look, I’ll make a cup of coffee and pop back when it’s the interpreter’s turn. OK?’) it’s only now that there is time for a few thoughts on the match yesterday, less match report and more postscript.
It’s over now and I just want to say – what a fabulous game. On the way home, the 5Live reporter at the Sunderland – Fulham match was less than enthralled with the spectacle in front of him and commented disparagingly about the Premier League being the so-called best in the world. All I can say is that he would have taken a different view if he had been at the Lane. Spurs divine first half performance was in danger of being wasted as Everton came back into things, usually courtesy of a Spurs error, but at times it was frenetic end to end play with that classic British mixture of endeavour and skill. Heart in the mouth stuff at both ends, with great goals, unbelievably crass misses, fizzing shots, passes that were beautifully crafted and vulgar fouls. The end product for the fan was complete involvement, total and utter. After all these years. there is simply nothing like that feeling of playing every ball, shouting gibberish instructions to players 70 yards away who cannot possibly hear you and all parts of the ground leaping up to dispute refereeing decisions in their area of the pitch.
The greatest feeling of all is emerging into Worcester Avenue, with its penetrating drizzle and carpet of horse-dung, and going home a winner. And it’s only then when reflections on the game itself are possible because Spurs, being Spurs, had both won and then almost lost the same match. At times we were hanging on by our fingernails, or more accurately on at least one occasion, by Gomes’ fingernails. No enjoyment there, when the next mistake was possibly seconds away, when Palacios passes unaccountably straight to Pienaar or the admirable Dawson allows his anxiety at his lack of pace to cloud his judgement and trick him into a doomed attempt at an interception. The neutral may have thoroughly enjoyed the second half but we fans most certainly did not. Good football? Enjoy? No, no idea what you mean.
If we had lost or even drawn, it would have been a bitter blow not so much because of the points dropped in the struggle for fourth but because it would have tarnished the memory of that sumptuous first half display. Rich in inventiveness and sublime in execution, our movement and passing was breathtaking. Huddlestone’s 50 yard pass perfectly into Defoe’s stride, taken down with the precision of a diamond cutter and then the beautiful effortless ball rolled across the box. It was done with both swiftness and great care. Pav’s movement was a threat while he was on the pitch but Tom’s pass deserves repeated viewing.
And then we topped it. Modric, lovely Luca, on the ball and pass, move and pick it again, pass it on, there for more, into space and the ball at feet again, one side to the other, dictating the shape and pace of the game and everyone around him, defenders in thrall to the simplicity of it all, pass and move, pass and move. Then the thrust, the time right, clean, quick and deadly. A genuinely stunning moment.
A brilliant goal from an outstanding footballer. Not a perfect game yesterday but a dazzling performance, full of purposeful movement, astute passing and total involvement. His effort could not be faulted and he made his fair share of tackles. Harry allowed him to come inside in search of the ball. He can overload their midfield and with Bale rampaging down the wing there’s no need to worry about a lack of width. Soon after the start Everton shifted Osman over to mark him but that was frankly a waste of time. You can’t mark a man of his quality out of the match.
It was as good a first half as I can recall. No need to state the obvious once again, that the team look so much more comfortable with the passing game that Pav’s presence encourages. Crouch is ungainly at the best of times but when he came on, in contrast he looked as gawky as a newborn foal. And that’s not even mentioning the Russian’s goals. Defoe held the ball up well, which is unusual for him, and Hudd had a good game. In addition to That Pass, he trundled around to good effect in front of the back four, sweeping up as he went. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, and how we missed him as he went off injured, a huge man almost too big for the stretcher. Kaboul did surprisingly well in his defensive role – he’s certainly very mobile and his postioning was good, given the role is unfamiliar. However, he could not support the strikers, witness that ball that ran invitingly along the edge of the Everton box shortly after he came on, one for Hud’s shot but Kaboul looked on from 20 yards away. Nor could he find them with passes. A deputy for WP in the future, though.
Everton’s tactical change made by pushing Hietinga forward allowed them more attackers and gave Arteta room to start all their movements. They played to their strengths: Yakubu has lost his pace but not his strength. He’s a brute of a man to handle with his back to goal and ball played to feet. We could have screened the back four better by cutting off his supply from the ever able Arteta but Daws was strong and tall. For the most part we coped well with their efforts but the self-inflicted pain casued by the mistakes mentioned above could have hurt us even more by the end: Donovan’s obliging and glaring miss helped us out. Watching the highlights, no one seems to have mentioned that Gomes was fouled on the line by Anechebe (I think) as the ball came over for their goal. He moved Gomes out of the way without going for the ball at all. Dawson and Bassong won many headers and once again Daws’ enthusiastic blocks are almost as inspiring as a goal.
Bale was once more superb. Those runs are fast becoming impossible to stop and have done much on their own to lift us from the doldrums of the beginning of the year. He remains one of the best prospects in the league. I’m so impressed with the way he has learned as he has come back into the team. His concentration is much better now. Defensively he still has work to do, but he is just so exciting to watch right now.