So we’re fresh off an amazing win, it’s thanksgiving for the Americans (aka Brad Friedel & Tha Crew), and we play Chelsea at the weekend. Weakened team, you’d imagine? NOPE! Not in Poch’s house! We play a pretty much full-strength team with the only real changes being Trippier and Davies in for Walker and Rose. Qarabag (The Ajerbaijani Baggies) scored first last time at White Hart Lane, which caused us to have to play actual football. Which, I mean, is a weird thing to happen to us lately. Did you see the West Ham game? That was a mercy killing more than a football game.
Ryan Mason makes his way into the XI in place of Dembele, which is arguably a step up, but most likely a pretty even exchange. We really moon-walked through the first half, trying to play balls in quickly without actually running much. We kept solid possessionbut were more cautious and reserved than usual. Less threatening balls as much as ensuring we held on to it for as long as possible. At one point, a ball from Alderweireld, of all people, found Alli who half volleys it wide. Qarabag, on the other hand, were doing that really annoying tactic where they throw long balls across the pitch and then just lob it into the box with their eyes closed. Annoying because its effective as hell against us, as we really tend to get lost in our possession sometimes. Some lackadaisical mistakes, particularly a pass right in the middle from Ryan Mason to a Qarabagian let the “Baggies” into the game a bit, but we held solid possession and made sure to snub out any threatening surges by the Azerbaijani’s.
We tried to utilize our flanks well, however Trippier and Davies were often outmanned and ended up running into a dead end. Toby Alderweireld vest hesitant to play the ball into Trippier, who looks very nervy out there. Jan Vertonghen WRECKS some kid on the dribble and it didn’t lead to anything but it was very noteworthy and I am thankful for it. Shortly after Qarabag is able to get forward in numbers and place a hard, low shot toward the net that Hugo gathers confidently for his first save of the match. One for one! I swear we had like 99% possession through the first half. At exactly 34:28 Brad Friedel said the word “robust”, and I am thankful for that. The entire first half was essentially just saying “okay can we score already?” because wow it was slow!!! Suddenly out of seemingly nowhere Qarabag break 3 on 1 and luckily their player shoots right at Lloris instead of playing it across to the open players. Qarabag players and fans getting very angry for us not playing the ball out for an injured player…when were in their box on an attack? We could have easily scored there and yet are throwing a temper tantrum that we did not give up a good chance out of courtesy. CAAAAAAAHHHMONN!!!!!! And that’s halftime, nothing happened and we angered a bunch of Azerbaijanis! Qarabag just throw men on top of the ball to cut out any chances, and collapsed back whenever we got the ball. Very underwhelming.
Second half starts the same way and is very boring too. Alli goes down injured in the Qarabag half!!!! And they run all the way up field for 5 minutes slowly passing up instead of throwing it out as some sort of revenge in their minds even though its not the same thing at all. Alli is fine, by the way. They shoot from 4,000 leagues out and it goes past the post and Hugo is unbothered by it. They make a substitution of their striker and we get back to possession dominance. A gorgeous exchange of passes, and perhaps one pass too many, see us get into the box and have an Alli shot blocked, diffusing the attack. Various back and forth now, while the match has opened up and each side is getting a little more behind the ball each time. 65th minute and Son Heung-Min smashes it off the bar from just outside the box!! So close!! Qarabag brings CHUMBINHO on and I am thankful for that. Some close chances to both sides as the game opens up, but still the majority of shots are coming from distance.
Quick transition play from both teams causing a very tense period mid-way through the second half. Both teams sending numbers forward in an attempt to break the deadlock, while opening up space for counters on either side. More a tennis match than a football match with all this back & forth! ha-cha-cha! Mason off for Carroll and the first thing he does is half-tackle some Qarabag player to the ground. The commentator actually reminded me that we still have Bentaleb, Chadli and Pritchard so I am thankful for that as well. Trippier’s crossing getting worse as the match goes on and we refuse to play through the middle for some reason. Once again a ball in from Toby Alderweireld comes into the patch of Alli again and he hits the POST!! Seconds later again, Kane with a shot that is well saved by the Qarabag keeper (say that phrase 10 times in a row) and we are robbed twice in 20 seconds from being up 1-0. The ensuing corner sees Eriksen play in a nice ball that is flicked on by Son Heung-Min and on to HARRY KANE !!!!!!! Who heads it home for the 1-0 lead!! HAPPY THANKSGIVING, HAROLD KANE!!! Finally, after eons of waiting, Harry Kane scores his 10th of the season (6 games in a row now) to put us in the lead!!! Clinton N’Jie comes on for Sonny in a very open game, in order to expose the large spaces with his rapid pace. Interestingly, Kane only had 11 at this point last year so he is 1 off that pace. One season wonder, my tuchas !! Qarabag scores but its offside and everyone keeps yelling but we survive that period. N’Jie wins a free kick in Eriksen Territory (which is the entire attacking half, really) and he hits the wall in a disappointing fashion. Eriksen makes way for Onomah, which means Kane is staying on the entire match. Three minutes of added time where nothing happens rounds out a very boring and uneventful match with a Spurs win.
If you have managed to read up to this point, I applaud you. A very boring match with very few tactics, and the few highlights were mostly superfluous. Harry Kane’s goal was lovely and hopefully this low energy match will have us fit enough to face Chelsea on Sunday. Happy Thanksgiving, go enjoy some turkey or I guess if you’re in England you should just go to bed? What time is it there? Anyway, on to another London Derby! COYS!
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