Didn’t see that coming but boy, it felt good to see it.
From kick-off, this young Spurs team looked our illustrious opponents in the eye and did not flinch until the final whistle. We took them on, time and again. Every forward movement, some stunning goals, crunching tackles and last-ditch interceptions, we took them on and beat them. This was joy so real, it thumps you on the back and knocks the breath from your lungs.
Pochettino’s bravery in taking the game to our opponents rather than choosing the easy option of sitting back was justified in full by the magnificent, wholehearted response from all his players. It could so easily have backfired, especially when Tottenham went a goal down and then the ball hit Vertonghen’s hand as he fell his own box. Yet for the first time this season, you felt that the team were not going to allow the strategy to fail. They kept going. At the end, they extracted every last ounce of warm appreciation from an ecstatic crowd, and how they earned it.
When a team is on song, the football flows as if it is the most natural thing in the world but we Spurs know this is something so rare and precious, it’s carried by kings who follow a star. These are games you sense and feel, that rush by in blurred delirium. Close my eyes and I can still see visions in white and navy blue, fluid grace gliding through blue.
I looked on in joyous slack-jawed stupefaction. As the goals piled in, rather than explode in celebration, instinct compelled me to look around for a fraction of a second, seeking confirmation that this was really happening. It was you know.
Not just a superlative performance, Harry Kane produced unforgettable moments of wonder and delight. His first goal: I was willing him, out loud, just to hang on to the ball as he traversed the field. I never imagined a shot, let alone a goal but he saw the gap and drilled it low into the bottom corner from 25 yards. A great equalizer just when Spurs needed a lift, transformed into magic by the thrill of the unexpected, when you can see the whole pitch, the position of every player yet the man under the most pressure sees something you can’t. It’s the mark of greatness.
This inaugurated a period of play that was simply fabulous. Pochettino’s plan was take them on and by half-time Chelsea were on the run, stragglers fleeing to the rearguard to regroup, swamped by the onrushing rampant Spurs cavalry.
Before and after half-time, Eriksen was stunning in his movement and ingenuity. The redoubtable Chelsea defence crumbled. Matic, by far the best defensive midfielder in the league, was befuddled. Eriksen found a willing helper in Chadli. He made the runs in between the back four, Eriksen found him. Through on goal, the Belgian hit the post and Rose dashed 60 yards to be on the end of the rebound, which he calmly placed into the corner despite being cleaned out by Cahill.
This unpunished tackle injured Rose, who later had to go off, but he took the crowd’s plaudits first before getting treatment, and why not. Much maligned, partly at fault for Chelsea’s opener when he hesitated, appealing for a throw in and allowing Hazard space to dash through to set up a tap-in for Costa. Rose was excellent for an hour and limped back onto the pitch at the final whistle to join the celebrations. Pleased for him, he deserved it.
Then all in a rush, Kane tripped by an increasingly desperate Cahill and Townsend placed the perfect penalty into the bottom right hand corner. Not the natural first choice as penalty-taker, judging by the groans and fearful looks around me as he stepped up, but he successfully backed his own ability.
Half-time, this can’t continue, but it did. Eriksen outstanding again, Chadli on the move, and Kane, always Kane. A lovely move at top speed from our half, Kane slipped past his man with the deftest of touches and passed it into the far corner. Some great strikers are defined not by grand gestures but by delicate brushstrokes. The shimmy half-turn to beat his marker was sublime.
So a glorious evening if not quite a glory glory night, and this was the best period. It’s always good to be a Spurs fan but this felt an especially good time to be alive. Tottenham were 4-1 up and Chelsea had no response. We were in control.
Up front, a young man who cost the club nothing fearlessly drove on against four international defenders in one of the costliest teams in the world. Kane dashed into a cluster of blue shirts and produced a cross that could, should have been blown in. They could not cope. Cahill was shattered by the end, furiously kicking Our Harry in the back as he lay on the ground. Take it as a compliment, Harry. It was all Cahill had left. Just before, Chelsea were reduced to not throwing the ball back to Spurs when we kicked it off to allow treatment to one of their men. How low can you get? We made them wallow in the depths.
Giddy on a mixture of elation and stomach-churning fear that it would all go to ruin, the crowd played every ball and lifted the player’s efforts. Then suddenly Fazio gave away the ball and Hazard rushed on to pull one back, significant less in terms of the score, more in needlessly conceding the initiative Spurs had toiled so hard to create. There was now a spring in the Chelsea step and sub Rameriez gave them a momentum that they had not looked capable of creating themselves. Lloris’s full-length save low to his left at 4-2 meant almost as much as any of our goals.
Spurs then broke. Chadli cut in from the left and his right-foot shot was deflected in. Cue bedlam in the stands, ‘we want six!’ Again sloppiness allowed a reply, Terry tapping in at the far post and I wore out the clock just by looking at it but Fazio and Vertonghen saw to it that Hugo was protected to the point where he could easily save anything that came his way.
A thumping win against the odds, London derby, played in a riotous atmosphere: January 1st and it can’t get much better than that. Or can it…?
As you will have gathered if you have bothered to read this far, not a match where I’m able to provide any reasoned analysis. Those of you who watched on TV will have a better idea of that. In no particular order, Chadli (not my favourite) had by far his best game for Spurs. If I had the chance, I’d take him to one side and say, ‘That’s how good you can be if you put the work in.” He got on the ball because he made the right runs consistently and he worked back enough to play his part.
Vertonghen was excellent at the back and Bentaleb had a fine game sweeping up in front of the back four and getting the ball forward when he could. He’s not a natural defender but filled in the gaps and celebrated the goals like no other. He wants to play for us so badly. Dembele scandalously took 5 minutes to get to ready to come on as an early sub for Mason. You’re a sub, you’ve only got one thing to do and that’s have your boots on! But his strength and ability to hold the ball came in handy. We gave the ball away too frequently – must sort that out – but on the other hand we also got to more second/loose balls than usual.
I’m not going to dignify Mourinho’s post-matching whining with a response, although there is real pleasure in seeing him and his coaching team dancing in futile, furious mania as the backdrop as Spurs swept past them in attack. The last two games proved we were fitter than both United and Chelsea, a level of fitness that has been attained without many injuries, unlike United, so credit Poch again here.
I’m in it for life so win or lose I’ll be back for more, but we need nights like these to remind us why we do it. Every penny, all the disappointment, worth it when the fourth went in, worth feeling this way today. That and gibbering foaming at the mouth disjointed over-excitement from a supporter old enough to know better. But then, nights like these have a timeless, enduring fascination. Total commitment in the stands and on the pitch. Glorious.