As the first half drew to a close, like kids again Spurs knocked the ball around just for the sheer pleasure of playing the game. The pressures of the Premier League were forgotten such was our dominance, replaced by infectious exuberance and a freedom and delight in being able to do anything that can be done with a football.
Rangers were as disoriented as a drunk leaving the pub at closing time, focussing everything on keeping going yet unable to exert any control over their fate as they topple and teeter towards the gutter. They had been stretched this way and that as Spurs pulled out all the skills in their repertoire. First to every loose ball, strong in the tackle. Short passes threaded a path through the defence, finding space where there was none. Sucked in, defenders then saw the ball sprayed effortlessly from side to side. Wherever you looked, there was a Tottenham man on the end. Adebayor sneaking into channels, Benny pinging it far and wide, Bale thundering down the left then popping up in the box, Van der Vaart and and Luka exchanging one twos (and threes and fours) at the edge of the box. No respite – Rangers’ underpowered attack couldn’t hold the ball at all and back it came.
Hardly surprising they struggled: this was pure football and breath-taking to watch. The skills on the ball, the pace and the movement combined – we fans looked on in awe and shared the players’ joy.
The only disappointment was that we should have scored more. We could have been two up in the first few minutes and despite our good play missed a fair few opportunities, even allowing for Kenny’s excellence in goal. Adebayor especially was out of touch with several weak finishes having accomplished all the hard work of getting in the right place and controlling the ball to perfection. Still, it was brilliant, crazy stuff with shots flying in, last-ditch tackles, desperate saves and near misses.
Bale, powerful and unable to be contained even by his now regulation double marking, sent a series of crosses lasering across the box before thumping home the first goal. Lennon set him up, a quiet game in terms of attacking but two assists as he came off his wing. Football at its simple best – a decent move then up the pace as the ball nears the box, two simple quick touches, Bale’s explosive finish.
Rafa was glorious now, working tremendously hard to get on the ball in between QPR’s back four and their midfield. He was far too good for them, and linked deliciously with, well, everyone. His goal was well-taken but made by his ball control, for the second time in the game he pulled down a colleague’s shot, King this time, Luka earlier, as easily as if the mascot had rolled the ball towards him in the warm-up. A fabulous 45 minutes, he’s leaner and hungry. As Harry remarked this week, I too feel for Defoe who has upped his game this season but Rafa has risen to the challenge. Shows the value of competition to play in a good team. Good player but where does he fit? Argument over.
Adebayor’s movement makes this all possible. Not at the top of his form, he nevertheless makes the space either to receive a pass or for others to move around him. Luka appreciates it and makes the most of it. Although others eclipsed him yesterday, interesting to see Barton single him out for praise on twitter last night. Those closest to him know his value. Alongside Scott Parker they ran the midfield. Parker in the first half was prompting a and probing, or tidying up like a hyperactive womble. Shorter passes mostly, busy and businesslike. Next time when you check out our highlights and goal attempts, see how often he’s at the edge of the camera shot, hanging around having done his work and letting others have the limelight.
As the half ended, the boys were having fun. Flicky and kicky, all clever stuff but less effective than simple passing and hard work. Totally on top but they didn’t look hard enough at the scoreboard. Only two goals to show for it, concede and we’d be wobbling. Whilst I’d like to think that this blog is read avidly throughout the game, it’s frankly unlikely that opposition managers drop by to pick up a few tips about Spurs. If they did, I’d tell them that the best way to take us on is to attack. But hey, who’s interested in the ramblings of a fan, what do we know?
QPR discovered this too late. 4-3-3 with Barton where he belongs in centre mid and Bothroyd a focal point immediately put us on the back foot and by the time we recovered our composure, sure enough we had conceded and were wobbling like a Weeble on speed. Full credit to our opponents for picking themselves up, and it could have all fallen apart for us if their finishing had been anywhere near as sharp as their fans were vocal.
Another silly goal from a set-piece. Bothroyd on the keeper and left unmarked when he simply moved three yards. Last season we gave away fewer goals from set pieces than any other Premier League side but now it’s back to the bad old days.
The best goal of the game clinched it, a precise interchange at the edge of the box before Bale ripped a blast first time. Top class set-up with a thrilling finish, wonderful goal. But who’s this loitering as it went in. Scott Parker I do believe, enjoying the moment with quiet satisfaction. He’d done his work, which won’t turn up on any stat sheet but it was as much his goal as Bale’s. Where others had been frantically trying too hard and giving the ball away, he picked it up and kept hold until the right moment presented itself. Simple, effective and match-winning, it summed up his second half where he was the master of the Lane. Passing, tackling, once, twice, three times because he does not give up. As we were pressured, without needing telling he tucked into the back four to help out, then moved it on to start another attack. He left to a deserved standing ovation from all sides of the Lane.
Another terrific game, potential realised, superb entertainment. Churlish to mention that in the last two matches, against better teams with better finishers we would have been punished for missed chances and slack defending. League title? Do me a favour. Contenders for cups and top four? It’s all I ask, to be in with decent shout. But we are the form team and others are scared of us right now, so let’s enjoy the moment. 5th in the league, is that 19 points from a possible 21? Need to check but no need to research how good it makes me feel. In the first half we were blessed, simply blessed.
Still time to win a copy of Gazza’s new book ‘Glorious’ – just scroll down, marvel at the insight and profundity of my review, then answer the question at the end. Good luck!