Spurs painted pretty pictures with their passing all afternoon. Creative and beguiling, the movement and understanding had me purring with pleasure. No goals, though, and as the sun went behind the clouds an edge born of frustration crept into proceedings. Then a fine strike to settle matters, a deserved win for Tottenham. After exhibition pass and move from both sides, it came from a defender at a set piece. Of course it did.
Lovely stuff, it’s the way to play. Dembele was prominent in the centre, boosted by Sandro’s power behind him. Dempsey frequently came in from the left to find space across the line and worked hard to get back to do his share of defending. Walker joined the attack when he could. Swansea see possession and passing as a virtue too but we turned possession into opportunities on a regular basis. Defoe missed the best one, taking an extra touch when set up by Dembele. Walker’s thunderbolt from 30 yards mesmerised the keeper so completely, he was unable to move his arms but the ball struck him on the chest so hard, I could feel the impact on the Shelf. The buzz of amazement that went round the ground spared Gallas’s blushes as he lobbed a weak header goalwards immediately afterwards when well placed.
Otherwise, the final pass let us down as Swansea blocked shots and crosses from all angles. It was one of those games when we had many shots but the keeper made few saves because his defenders did all the work. Our chances were stillborn. For once I wanted Lennon to hold onto the ball for a shot as he weaved through the defenders – his passes were being blocked. In a passing game, his runs with the ball at his feet stood out and he made more almosts but not quites than any other man on the field.
That’s the trouble with Spurs, there’s almost so much of everything. The second half began with more of the same but the impetus gradually subsided. We’re good at passing, better at passing at a decent tempo but now Swansea sucked the life from our attacks. Adebayor had been told to buck his ideas up but Dempsey faded. In particular we slowed down in the final third, although credit to our opponents for having such an organised defence. We had to pump up the pace and effort at this point. Siggy had the right idea when he came on. Our Andre saw that an injection of pace and bounce was required. Neat through ball for JD too. Impact sub status beckons.
Being pushed so far back meant Swansea seldom threatened our goal. Michu was cut off from his midfield and could not outwit our high defensive line. Lloris was ever alert as sweeper but I can’t recall him making a save.
A pleasure to watch, it nevertheless had the air of high tea on the lawn, with the crusts cut off the cucumber sandwiches to boot. It’s a sign of how the message has reached the modern football fan when Swansea supporters fans applaud the way their team keep the ball in their own half. The players’ voices were as audible as those of a Sunday league game in the park. I can however report that Superjan’s excellent English extends to fluent swearing.
In a game of precision and caution, the manner of the goal was out of character. A set piece, a defensive error and the failed headed clearance fell to Vertonghen, but then pure class – a first-time half-volley into the bottom corner with his wrong foot.
These days I expect JD to put the chances away but he missed, to raise anxiety levels as the board announced 5 minutes of injury time. It was as if the ‘concede in the last ten minutes’ stat had flashed up on both jumbotrons and for good measure announced over the PA. In the one moment of genuine danger, Lloris punched clear bravely from the edge of the box. The resulting mayhem over whether we should have stopped playing as Michu lay prone on the turf obscured the fact that this was a match-winning intervention from a player who had virtually nothing else to do all game.
Those of you watching on TV had a better view of the incident itself than I did, with action going on at both ends of the pitch. I’m not one to condone violence, oh no. But the way manager and players rushed to defend Townsend, who rightly was playing to the whistle, is further evidence of team-spirit and togetherness.
To end, I’m indebted to the Guardian for Villas-Boas’s reflections on the late goals problem:
The players were losing concentration late in matches so he tried “stimulating concentration in the last part of training”. How did he do it? “By increasing the complexity of the tasks the players have been doing at the end of training,” he said. “The more complex the exercise, the more concentration they need at the end.” They went from Connect Four to Jenga to Sudoku. Only joking. But they closed out a 1-0 win over Swansea.
It’s the details that count.