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12 conclusions on some football match or other 1. Lads. It’s Tottenham…except when it’s not. When Sterling stroked home his opener, I feared a cricket score at the hands of the most prolific team in England. At 4-2 down it seemed all was lost. However, If ever there was a game showcasing Spur’s progression from soft centred masters of capitulation to ne’er-say-die contenders (at least some of the time), this is it.
2. Both sides have been accidental players in some of the most ham-fisted and captivating games over the last 15 years. Crouch’s decider to take ‘Aarry’s Geezers on a Champions League adventure, City’s comeback from a 3-goal, half-time deficit in the League Cup, and now this. Should we just play every week? I’m sure neutral’s would be happy, even if cardiologists would not.
3. I’ve never said, “i’ve never seen anything like this”, more often. In nearly 40 years of watching this beautiful, mad, infuriating game, i can’t think of such a high stakes match producing so many moments of quality, comedy, drama and tension
4.This was a game punctuated by individual brilliance, intricate passing and energetic pressing. Commentators bemoaned “the defending”, as if poor play alone produces a game of such pulsating drama, but the defences were made to look poor by sheer attacking excellence, and Sterling and Son were the epitome of that. This was a match between two teams lacking a surprising amount of cynicism, underpinned by high quality, and played with a joyous abandon normally reserved for the playground
5. You can argue this was a great show case for English football and the Premier League, but really it was really a great advert for knock-out tournaments and the pressure and finality they bring – decidedly lacking in mini-league formats. Rather than expanding group stages, the ECA and UEFA should explore introducing more knock out matches between Europe’s top clubs for fans to savour
6. The ebb and flow was aided by a referee who was largely anonymous, save some relatively uncontroversial VaR decisions. He was firm but fair and ensured a tough contest never boiled over. It says much that the timing – rather than the accuracy – of the VaR decisions was the focal point, and while we can continue to debate VaR’s merits and the means of its communications, the match demonstrated how it can be applied successfully in critical moments (at least if your a Spurs fan)
7. When Son Heung-Min stroked home his second just six minutes later, he illustrated his growth into a world class player. Who needs Harry when you have Sonny? How lucky are we…?
8. For all the criticism leveled at Lloris, he showed again his value to Spurs, making a crucial save from KDB, and he was generally solid in goal. Aguero’s near post finish says more about the Argentinian’s lethality than it does Llloris’ susceptibility. If you honestly think he should be dropped for Gazzanigga, you’re beyond helping
9. Contrast Lloris to Ederson. When you look at the saves Ederson makes relative to “expected goals”, he’s bang average, and it proved decisive on the night. He doesn’t save significantly more than you would expect. He’s great if City’s high press, tactical shape and possession based game is working, but when it’s not, you need your keeper to do better than his tame effort for Son’s first goal
10. Is there anyone who can hit a ball as accurately and powerfully as Kevin De Bruyne? His daisy cutter for Sterling’s second was a thing of sex, and his ability to carry and create makes him a stand out. I understand Pep’s caution in the first leg, but I can’t imagine City would be out if he’d played more than a token six minutes
11. Don’t under-estimate the magnitude of Spurs win. Shorn of Dier, Winks and, after 35 minutes, the rejuvenated Sissoko, Spurs had one specialist defensive midfielder for the best part of an hour. Wanayama stuck his finger in the dam, but the reality is an expensively assembled, fully fit City squad squandered a golden opportunity to overcome an injury-ravaged opponent. Compare the two benches to contrast the gap – financially, at least – between the two teams
12. Finally, this is the first time we’ve been this far in Europe’s premier club competition for nearly 60 years. Who knew getting a semi-on would bring such joy? Dan James – I can only describe my emotional state in that game as “schizophrenic”
Controversy, what controversy? Look first, that was a magnificent game and as a Spurs fan I’m both delighted (obviously) and genuinely sympathetic for City fans who must hardly know what to say. But the two VAR decisions were both clearly correct.
I keep reading words like Sterling’s goal was ‘controversially ruled out’ after Aguero was ‘deemed’ offside. It was offside. It’s close, it’s heartbreaking if you support City, but there’s nothing controversial about it.
As for the handball, I find it genuinely amazing how many people, including those who played the game at the highest level and are paid to talk about it on TV, don’t appear to know the laws of the game. Handball has to be deliberate and has to involve moving hand to ball. It’s right there in law 12. Even UEFA’s guidance talks about making yourself bigger and unnatural positions.
None of these apply here. Next year it will be a foul as part of the ongoing plan to ruin football by solving a problem that didn’t exist, but this year it’s not.
Still, football eh? Bloody Hell Phil, London
Spurs in context To put Spurs’ result against City into context:
1. Spurs’ starting 11 tonight cost £157m. Man City’s starting 11 tonight cost £458m.
2. Spurs have yet to spend more than £40m on a single player. Man City have spent more then £40m on 10 players.
3. Spurs did not sign a single player in the last 2 transfer windows. Man City had the luxury of bringing Riyad Mahrez for £60m. He was an unused sub.
4. This was a Spurs team without their main striker and talisman. This was a fully fit, full strength City team.
5. This was a Spurs team who had the most number of players in the latter stages of the WC and therefore had very little pre-season/rest.
To say this result is incredible is an understatement. Mauricio Pochettino is mint and Spurs should fight to keep him. Penny for Ed Woodword’s thoughts right now. Joon, MUFC (The true treble will never be emulated or eclipsed)
Hand off On the issue of the Llorente handball last night, you said in 16 Conclusions: ‘It was a goal that will surely not count when proposed rule changes are brought into action’. I disagree. Let’s look at that proposed rule change from the International FA Board:
‘For example, a goal scored directly from the hand/arm (even if accidental) and a player scoring or creating a goal-scoring opportunity after having gained possession/control of the ball from their hand/arm (even if accidental) will no longer be allowed.’
Llorente neither: 1. Scored directly from the hand/arm. It hit his hip and then possibly a City defender’s hand before going in.
2. Created a goal scoring opportunity after having gained possession/control of the ball from his hand/arm. Surely this provision cannot apply to him. He certainly didn’t control the ball with his arm. Can he have ever been in possession of the ball? It glanced off him, so no.
Apart from all of that, his arm was glued to his side at all times. There was no, even accidental, advantage gained, as if his arm hadn’t been there, the ball would’ve just hit his side.
The proposed new rule, as I see it, is aimed at those who accidentally gain an advantage by handling the ball, which advantage leads directly to a goal.
The proposed new rule still allows for accidental handball to go unpunished in some limited circumstances, and I believe last night’s goal was one of those circumstances.
What think ye? Tim O’Keeffe, Roscommon, Ireland
Semi sums No doubt you’ll be flooded with crowing cockerels and moon faces bluer than, well, blue moons.
As another take I thought I’d do a road to the semi’s based on the Transfermarkt value of the teams beaten.
Ajax have had a pretty easy run having gotten over a paltry 1.99b in squads, including the ‘half a Firmino’s’ from AEK with a squad worth about half a Firminio (obviously). Next are the Reds having only had to overcome 2.37b including a walk over Red Star (Swappable for a single TAA at your local pawn brokers) and the seriously over-performing ‘Double Messi’s’ from Porto. Then it’s Barca (2.53b) and Spurs (3.23b) both of whom have emerged from the same group, meaning they have both faced the ‘Mbappe, A House And A Couple Of Car’s’ from Eindhoven.
Interesting, huh? Then let’s add another layer and index the value of who they’ve beaten to their own value. OK:
Ajax are now major over-performers having beaten 5.3 times their lowly 378m value. Next up are Spurs who have TKOed 4.3 times their 751m, while Liverpool (2.8 times their 855m) and Barca (2.5 times their 1.006b) have been cantering. Underdogs and big dogs, indeed.
And? Nothing, really. No trophies here, yet. But you’d think neither Barca or Liverpool emerging victorious from the Plastic-Fan semi would fancy facing whichever club triumphs in The Hipsters Wet Dream semi. As an aside, had the football Gods had delivered us Dortmund v Ajax semi it would have been forever known as the Hispters Triple Wet Dream Bypass Surgery Required No Half Half Scarves Left In The Giftshop Does My Beard Look Fat In This? semi. But you already knew that.
All the very best to one and all this Easter. Keep your banter like your chocolate eggs: wrapped nicely in tinfoil. Dr Oyvind, Earth.
The (printable) instant reactions If Spurs were to go on and win the Champions League before Arsenal that would certainly be some ‘legacy’ for Wenger. Merci Arsène Matthew, Belfast
…I don’t care too much for money – money can’t buy me VAR Johnno (very conflicted arsenal fan)
…There will be a billion thoughts and recollections about one of the best ever champions league ties, but can we finally agree that finally, after years of investment and work, spurs are no longer “spursy”? Steve (THFC)
…I for one welcome our new VAR overlords Dickie
…Glad I switched over at half time…wow. My head said I wanted City to win (distraction from the league and hopefully take the foot a tiny bit off the gas) but the heart said Spurs (they’re the underdog with key player injured mid-game and maybe we get past Barca and have a slightly easier final).
In the end the heart won out and I let out involuntary squeals with both VAR decisions. Classic game Aidan, Lfc (unfortunately I suspect City may be rather motivated on Saturday)
A mail that is not about City v Spurs Having digested the Barcelona game and watched two far superior Premier League teams play the ultimate cup tie last night, I have a couple of comments on Man Utd’s problems.
Homegrown players – During Fergie’s era this was seen alongside the PL requirements as a way of building a spine of the team. Along with the once in a generation CO92, the top British talent were added – Ferdinand, Keane etc etc. It gave the team an identity along while adding young or established foreigners gave it the perfect blend. As much as Fergie no doubt drove the ethos, this was backed up by big characters and leaders on the pitch that drove the younger players and the team in general requiring high standards.
There has been talk of a lack of leaders in general in football and how money and fame almost outweigh the winning mentality. And back to Man Utd I believe this is summed up in two players.
Jesse Lingard – A homegrown youngster (a myth at 26 years old) who ‘took’ his chance in 2014 when injuries left LVG with little option. His highlights reel will show some great goals. I can honestly say I have not seen him do anything in the last 2 months than run a lot and debatably that sums up his career. The Barcelona game was peak Lingard for me, a free role in a number 9/10 position but no ability to beat a man or pass the ball more than 5 yards sideways or backwards. If you watched his highlights, no risk was taken, the easy option every time. For someone in his position and a free role he offered no threat. Going back to my first point, this overgrown child cheerleader, a now clothing brand owner with very little football ability now is and thinks and is treated like a top player at Man Utd. Is this how far we have fallen. If he wasn’t a ‘Utd lad’ and homegrown I cant believe he would be anywhere near this squad. But kind of sums up where we are.
Ashley Young – Singed as a squad player winger has somehow ended up as first choice full back. And Club Captain! It annoys me every time he is skinned and caught out of position creating an overload and inevitably a chance/goal, the camera pans to him bo**ocking someone! And he must be into triple figures of poor crosses/corners/free-kicks this season. And his commitment of thumping his chest, flying into reckless tackles to show ‘passion’ ……. Again this is where we are when a player is picked for this over footballing ability.
As a Utd fan I am hoping the remainder of the season will be used to give the youngsters a few more games, Dalot especially to help him grow in to our first choice right back. But the race for 4th (which I don’t think we will achieve) will probably means that OGS will play safe and go with experience over younger players who play in those specialist positions.
And that where Man Utd is at the moment, no leaders leading by example, experience and ‘passion’ over footballing ability. We used to have this but it is lost. And its going to take some time to get it back. And I think I speak for a lot of fans who would rather see youngsters trying and gaining experience over a team full of Instagram and youtube stars. Dave John
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