Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Spurs Vs Real Madrid: Match Report
When Luka Modric beat 27 players (strictly speaking, 10, but he beat some several times simply because he was bored by the inevitability of his own brilliance) to score Spurs fifth goal in the third minute of injury time it capped not just the greatest night in the club's history, but the greatest night in football's history. Actually, fuck it, just the greatest night in history.
Perhaps the most memorable sight of an astonishing evening, however, wasn't the Spurs players mobbing the midfield genius in celebration, or of the crowd erupting with joy unconfined at the final whistle a few seconds later. Rather it was the bizarre and frankly disturbing spectacle of Jose Mourhino's mental and emotional disintegration that followed.
Inconsolable and hysterical, he raged and wept against the brutal dismantling of his myth. He shook his fists at the North London sky, beat the cursed turf and lashed out at anyone who tried to calm or comfort him. When he ran to centre circle and whipped off his wig he revealed not just a shiny pate, but a deeply troubled, broken man whose world had crumbled. Suddenly he looked special for all the wrong reasons.
One can only hope that the nurses in his secure wing will protect him from this morning's media. If he sees it he will read breathless, endless coverage of the match of the century and a performance for the ages - enough to topple him into the abyss, but nowhere near enough to convey the sheer magnificence of what took place at White Hart Lane last night.
The opening seconds of the game set the tone. Thanks to his stint with the club, Rafael van der Vaart knew that Real's strict catholic goalkeeper, Casillas, would be on his knees crossing himself at kick-off so, without looking up, he belted Pavlyuchenko's little back flick right over his head and into the back of the net. A brilliant goal and an even better argument for atheism.
There were less than three seconds on the clock, but already you could sense something special was in the offing; and that the balance of power had, unbelievably, shifted.
Pav got two himself before half-time, both from outside the box. Both thunderbolts. He usually scores one every six months. Here he got two in 20 minutes. Truly the stars were aligned. Except Real Madrid's stars. They were all over the fucking place.
In a stroke of management genius, Harry Redknapp elected to leave the entire team out on the pitch for the duration of half time, just casually kicking a ball around between them He revealed afterwards that he was scared of saying something that might put them off, or break the spell. Instead, he played a few rounds of Chase the Ace with Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond occasionally checking the results from the evening meeting at Kempton Park.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and, if possible, avoid talking to it.
Early in the second half Gareth Bale finally shrugged off the weight of his own burgeoning reputation and went on the sort of run that had earned him it in the first place. He finished it by sliding the ball under Casillas, whose game was, to be fair, being hampered by an existential crisis of faith by this point.
The tie was level and there was still over half an hour to go. A Spurs win had gone from looking from implausible to possible to probable to seemingly inevitable.
At which point, of course, the goals dried up. Having already scaled impossible heights, Spurs suddenly began to wobble. There were still chances, but everything was going agonisingly wide or high, or being stopped by Casillas, who had cheered himself up no end by fully embracing paganism and donning a pair of horns.
Harry brought on Jermain Defoe to finish the job off. Then someone noticed he was wearing a T-shirt with 5-0 written on it and he was hauled off immediately for gross stupidity.
And so it was left to little Luka to seal the deal, with a run and finish that, ironically, actually made Casillas believe in God again.
There was a dicey moment in the showers when Bobby Ewing nearly woke up, but it passed and the jubilant Spurs players all got on their unicorns, flew to the little seaside town in Suffolk where I used to go on holiday as a child, bumped into my old gym teacher and suddenly realised they were naked just before all their teeth started falling out.
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