No column planned for today, not time…but have to write. Something has to be said about our team, our infuriating magnificent frustrating spellbinding team. Something must be said.
Battle of the English managers. Honours even, one half each. My goodness, they know this game. The difference in the first half – movement. Fulham pass and move, short passes mostly, nothing ambitious, get it, keep it, allow men to move forward in support. With five in midfield and mobile, there’s an advantage in beginning the movements from a deeper position because you can see the space in front of you, and the Fulham players moved unerringly into the gaps.We are still, expectant, strikers looking on from the area’s edge.
Kranjcar coming inside, good idea, overload them in and around the box. But he’s not effective and leaves a gap out wide behind him. Konchesky and Davies into that gap, help each other out. No worries, Sgt Wilson is patrolling, he cuts them off. But if he moves right, then there’s no one in the middle, so that’s where Fulham moves end up. So clever.
Benny has one of his vague games where the effort is there but the concentration absent. Not so much away with the fairies but under the headphones. Bale’s not sure where to be, Luka should come back more quickly, and it’s the old failing of Spurs leaving too much room in front of the back four. Bassong is drawn out because there’s no one to protect him, not really his fault but he’s late, betwixt and between, Fulham not closed down and there’s a gap….Zamora sees it, a fraction later, a perfect interval, a plain simple perfect pass is inserted into that gap and beautifully taken. All that work for a single moment. Worth it.
Yes, Crouch is playing well with the long ball, staying near his team mates and finding them well. That’s what he needs, don’t drift too far away, keep it simple. Not his fault, but the long ball is not our game. Pass it and move. Only one side doing that, so frustrating, maddening. We can do better, we know better, nothing learned over the season, nothing, all thrown out of the window…
Two eager young men dance enthusiastically on the touchline. Optimism and anticipation mask the knowledge that neither is famed for their ability to seize the day. Modric told in yesterday’s Times of Harry’s fearsome half-time team talks. The paint must be blistering on the walls. The act of a brave man, substitutes this early, carrying injuries and callow youth on the bench. Or desperate.
First touch, first touch you cocky little sod, you cocky little loveable sod, believe your own hype for a while, I’ll let you. Charlie offside, Fulham fans, the ones watching on TV at any rate, must be bitter. Bentley right, Modric left, Hud passes, Wilson covers. Suddenly there’s balance and shape, comfort in this warm familiarity. Gudjohnson is right at home, welcome and step right in, it’s nice here, you’re one of us. Shrewd, canny, pass and move, look for those little chinks in the massed ranks, get behind them, they can’t see you until it’s too late. Crouchie’s working, one of us, part of the team. That’s the way.
Bale, rampaging from deep, he slots into the role like a veteran but with the enthusiasm of a puppy. Coming from there, he can’t be picked up so easily, two men on him now, one, Duff, can’t get forward any more, out of the equation so their attack is blunted and the ball doesn’t get in our half for 30 minutes. Another young full back, Kelly, shows that he did not fulfil his early promise also as an attacking defender, nervous, broken, booked then substituted.
An injury threatens to disrupt the momentum, and the shape. Pav on, where is everyone supposed to be, no defenders…sod it, attack, it’s what we do. Daws looked nervous but if the ball stays in their half, he’s OK. Pav, not fit, runs around like a pit pony released from the depths. You weren’t really that hurt on the weekend, were you? Far post volley, ridiculous from there, from nowhere. Brilliant, just brilliant.
Beautiful slaughter. Fulham picked apart. Eidur completes a breathtaking team move. The TV shows only the coup de grace, obscuring the best and most fulfilling elements, of how this goal was created from way back.
There could have been more but lest we forget, Fulham are back in it, makeshift defence, tired legs, not fully fit many of them, we’ve played our hand. One goal, perhaps that Duff shot a yard to the left, Fulham may not realise but we’ve crumbled before. But Gomes sound, finely timed interventions from Daws and Seb, and so to Wembley.
Got to give it to you, Harry, and Hud in the middle, unspectacular but you did all that was asked of you, pass it and move, the others worked around you. Running out of defenders but leave that one for another day. For now, enjoy. City lost, Wembley, and a game of two halves. Enjoy the morning after a special night. If you ever wonder why we do it, pay the money and take the grief, that’s why.