“they’ve done well, but the inevitable is there,” said ray wilkins during his commentary towards the end of last night’s game. and while the former chelsea first team coach’s words were a generous yet accurate assessment of spurs’ performance, the sting was still there. we all knew it would end this way.
thank god for ray, though: he was a like a machine gun that fired off training ground quips at random intervals. if it hadn’t been for his entertaining commentary, i doubt many tottenham fans would have in any way found the match enjoyable.
either way, let’s just say i’m glad i didn’t make any predictions in yesterday’s column.
in a rare display of common sense, even i knew that i would end up putting my foot in my mouth by making some absurd prediction of a tottenham victory in the bernabéu. the yids had already pulled off a miracle this season at the san siro (an argument could even be made that they pulled off two miracles there), but asking for another magical european night facing another storied opponent? nobody’s luck stays good so long.
even with the man advantage for three-fourths of the match, madrid clearly looked the better side. the interplay at the
top of the pitch between the two-goal adebayor, ronaldo, ozïl and di maria was, at times, a force of nature. the tandem of xabi alonso and khedira completely neutralized any central threat from modrić and jenas. (tangent warning: is it just me, or is jermaine jenas the worst player ever to play in a champions league quarter-final? he didn’t play one positively directed ball, and when he attempted to, he coughed it up every time. i hate him.)
without crouch up top to divert their attention, the madrid back line did little wrong in handling counter attacks sporadically coming out of the tottenham end. and with less defensive responsibility, it allowed marcelo the freedom to regularly join the madrid attack. judging by his performance both tonight and over recent months, i’m guessing the special one is feeling rather justified with hanging on to the emerging brazilian.
sure, the red card certainly threw tottenham’s match plans out the window. but i would venture to say that even if
crouch hadn’t been an idiot, spurs would still have been tactically out matched. massimo allegri and rafa benitez are great managers, but neither prepares their side as well as mourinho. and though harry’s not as big of a tactical moron as some like to claim, there’s no doubting that mourinho is a class above in that department.
but like mr. wilkins noted in the opening quote, tottenham’s performance wasn’t all bad. there were positives to glean from the horrid 0-4 scoreline:
- bale seems to be getting his mojo back. he was able to really open it up a few times last night, a first since he went out injured. moments that stick out were the near miss in the fist half after beautifully chesting down a long ball at the top of the madrid box, as well as a very accurate long throw to van der vaart. he was dangerous enough to draw a ban-inducing yellow on pepe, and should have earned another from sergio ramos on several occasions.
- michael dawson is definitely emerging as a premier level center back. despite the score, he handled himself very well when facing up against one of the most gifted attacking groups in the world.
- sandro’s rise to prominence continued last night, though his decision-making at times made me sweat (quit dribbling out of the back!). regardless, his distribution is light years better than palacios and he may soon find himself ahead of even huddlestone when he returns from injury.
- spurs defended very well with ten men for stretches, and it’s a bit shocking that they held off until the 57th and 72th minutes before conceding the second and third goals. if they had been at full strength, i think a 1-2 or 1-3 scoreline would have been more likely.
despite these bright spots, and even if there had a been a few more, i still knew this was coming. it was “the inevitable.”
yes, the second leg still remains. but it would be foolish to predict another miracle. beating madrid by five goals, even at home, is pure fantasy. getting knocked out the champions league wouldn’t be the worst of scenarios either, allowing spurs to fully focus their efforts on finishing fourth and qualifying for the champions league again.
but i am hoping tottenham will make it competitive this time around. it’s been a fun ride this year, and i’d love to get to see some of the attacking flair that was deprived us last night. and if we’re so lucky, we can all enjoy just one more european night at white hart lane.