Thursday, 10 March 2011
The best 0-0 draw in Spurs' history?
Weird night, strange game, phenomenal achievement.
Finsbury Park, Victoria Line, Seven Sisters, back on the overground, White Hart Lane (station), brisk stroll to the Bell & Hare. The usual routine. Everything familiar. But everything just a little bit different - a little more significant and a little more serious.
The line-up was pretty much what we expected. Bale not quite fit enough to start. Pienaar his replacement, technically.
The hope (my GP's hope, certainly) was that we'd come flying out of the traps and put the tie beyond doubt with a couple of goals before half time. In the event, our attacking intent withered after about five minutes. They were five pretty good minutes, but they gave way all too soon to a pattern of sitting in our half and defending our box.
The astonishing thing was, we did it quite well. It wasn't elegant or smooth. It was, in fact, at times, pretty ragged and a tad desperate. But you know what, it got the job done.
We made them work hard for their chances (apart from one or two that we fucking gift-wrapped for them) and ultimately they weren't good enough to find a way through.
So we watched a really quite astonishingly dull game on the edge of our seats; a weird dichotomy between the drabness of the match and the tension of the occasion.
Van der Vaart and Modric were ordinary at best, and with Bale on the bench and Lennon only ever flirting with top gear, it meant that as an attacking force we were pretty fucking limp.
It all made for a strange atmosphere. The crowd was properly pumped up at the start, but after a while, there was so little for them to get their teeth into that the noise levels dropped. The clock on the big screen became the star attraction. Milan didn't look like scoring, we looked even less like scoring.
In the last 10 minutes, with the clock now playing an absolute blinder, the intensity returned and was transferred onto the pitch. It was enough to get us to the final whistle. And to the quarter finals of the Champions League.
Much has been made in the media about our resilience, personified by Sandro. And yeah, there was a lot to admire. But come on, it wasn't sensational, was it? It's like complimenting a car on its cup holders.
I'm not anti Sandro, so there's no need to jump to his defence. He did an important job really well last night (and in the first leg), and if he keeps developing at the rate he is he could be a tremendously important player for us for a very long time. But when he's our best performer you know it hasn't been a storming performance or a firecracker of a match.
But, actually, a damp squib was exactly what we needed. Considering one goal would have changed everything from first minute to last, it was actually pretty comfortable.
And when the final whistle went there was relief, pride and delight. But there wasn't full-on, breathless euphoria, not like there was after the Inter Milan game, not from where I was, anyway. Which is weird, because against Inter we only proved something, whereas last night we achieved something.
It was a history night, but not a glory, glory night.
That's to come, maybe. Possibly in April. Possibly, even, in May.
God, sorry, forget I said that.