Kane scores, Lloris saves, dodgy last 15 minutes – match report for every Tottenham game. Cut and paste from now until the end of the season. While you’re at it, pop into the doctor’s and check your blood pressure. Welcome aboard the Spurs switchback, open from now until the end of the season, high-speed thrills and spills guaranteed.
Yesterday’s away win at QPR was the machine-tooled template. After a bright start, Spurs faded but were a goal to the good at half-time courtesy of Harry Kane’s header from Townsend’s free-kick. Revitalised after the break, Spurs were inspired for the best part of half an hour, some gorgeous free-flowing football creating a stream of chances, all bar one of which were missed. Cue frantic last quarter of an hour when Rangers pulled one back and had the opportunity to pinch a point.
As a Tottenham blogger I am duty bound at this point to use the adjective ‘Spursy’. These performances feel like part of a long tragi-comic tradition where so much classic attacking football is wasted because we’re bound to cock it up at the back. In fact, it’s merely the consequence of where we are in terms of team development: better going forward than defending, still learning and lacking the nouse to shut the game down when we are ahead. There’s plenty of promise there, it’s just a shame that it is hard to fully enjoy the time when we are playing well and on top because you always feel something is going to go horribly wrong.
Whatever the faults, the last two wins, versus Swansea (a game I missed hence no blog) and yesterday, are testament to the commitment of this young side, the youngest fielded in the PL as I understand it. It would have been easy, forgivable even, to fold after defeats in Florence and in the League Cup Final but this lot are having none of it. In fact, the disappointment seems to have turned into a force for good that’s driving them on harder and faster. It’s no mean feat and one that should warm the hearts of every supporter however the season ends up. This is such a likeable side.
Yesterday turned on the respective formations. Against our customary 4-2-3-1, Rangers went 4-4-2. We therefore had a bit more in midfield, they had Austin and Zamora up against Dier and Vertonghen. QPR were therefore always dangerous – we could not keep their strikers quiet and they looked dangerous throughout. However, Lloris was outstanding once again. If you built a brick wall at the near post, it would not have been more solid than our Hugo. As the shots came in at full blast, Lloris beat them all away. It helped that Austin missed a couple of good chances, hitting the bar on one occasion when he seemed certain to score.
Mostly however, our midfield held sway, especially in the second half when Eriksen was given (good tactics from Poch?) or took it upon himself to have a freer role. We began well with Townsend and Walker combining well down the right. Kane hurtled in at the near post but his bullet header was pushed over by Green. Eriksen popped up a couple of minutes later and we were keen to keep the ball moving, usually forward and seldom across, at a high tempo.
However, a daft error by Walker who was frustratingly inconsistent all afternoon, tilted the momentum of the half Rangers’ way even though he was baled out by his goalkeeper. Again. Once more a side were allowed back into a match.
Nevertheless Spurs went ahead. As Townsend’s inswinging free-kick hung in the air, the defenders seemed to melt away and Green’s late, futile decision to come for it made Kane’s task even easier. He headed into an empty net. I could have sworn the commentators on my Spanish stream were making Hurri-kane puns. His fame is spreading far and wide.
Second half, we played some of our sweetest football of the season. With Eriksen prominent and Kane’s delightful movement we were unstoppable on the counter attack. Eriksen had one cleared off the line, Walker shot selfishly when he should have passed it and we should have been home and hosed after this period. Still, we had another goal to enjoy. Mason had time to nonchalantly shield his eyes before clipping a perfect pass over the static, square back four. Kane ran on to it, skipped round the keeper and rolled it home, a fine goal.
Rangers pulled one back with a quarter of an hour left, a lay-off from a ball into our soft-centred defence and the ball was slotted in. But we survived a few a scares and spent most of the five minutes of added time in possession close to one of their corner flags.
Mason had an active, spiky afternoon striving to boss the midfield and to a large extent succeeding. He broke up our opponents’ play, started a few of our moves and still had the energy to get forward. Playing opposite Henry, an old school enforcer, Mason would not be bullied. Pochettino had to step in after one tackle where the two ended up nose to nose. Later, Bentaleb took out Henry – he and Mason have each other’s back. Kane was just terrific throughout, his movement perfectly in sync with the rest of his team-mates and sharp as a tack in the box. All without a hair out of place.
Spurs fans are used to the ups and downs by now. However, the context is unexpected, at least for me. Not so long ago in the excellent comments section there was talk about getting to 40 points and safety. Now Tottenham lie 6th, a full 8 points clear of the team in 8th and 3 points from a Champions League spot, currently held by Manchester United who we play next Sunday. I confess this is the first time in a long time that I have closely scrutinised the table. I thought we’d toddle along, win some lose some and that europe was beyond this team but here we are. The pressure’s on but that’s because we’re in with a shout and credit where it’s due to a decent manager and committed players. With no midweek game at last there’s a chance to draw breath. Pop down the surgery while you can.