Thursday, December 9, 2010

Topping the Group While Kissing Your Sister

photo by Carissa GoodNCrazyvia PhotoRee
farlieonfootie's correspondent James checks in with his weekly take on yet another enjoyable Spurs game, this time from the Champions League match played in Enschede, also known as the Amsterdam of the eastern Netherlands. Although I don't often feel compelled to review James' rather lavish expense reports on a line item basis, he has spent some considerable time this week attempting to convince me that the credit card charge labeled "Red Light District" is actually related to a traffic violation:

It would be quite typical of this almost maddeningly but quite entertainingly inconsistent Spurs team to lose this match somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-3.  After all, they’ve already qualified to move forward in Champions League, they're on the road and, well, it would just be typical Spurs, especially after the weekend's frustrating second half collapse at St. Andrews. 

Much has been written recently about how appealing Spurs' wide open brand of football is for “neutrals,” and how, therefore, their realistic chances of winning a title here or, especially, in the Premiership, are pretty much nil. The primary reasoning behind this line of thinking is that the synonyms for words like “entertaining” and “wide open” are “injury ravaged" and "fright-inducing central defense.” 

Now, in Spurs’ defense’s defense, they have in fact been ravaged by injury (e.g., Woodgate, Dawson, King, Corluka, etc.).  Nevertheless, Gallas has been a rock until late in games, when he just flat runs out of gas and looks every one of his 33 years, Kaboul had become a pleasant revelation up until his injury two games ago, and the two primary two fullbacks – Hutton and Assou-Ekotto – are more attuned to the offensive end of the pitch in both skill and temperament, thereby further bolstering an attacking strategy, but putting further pressure on the middle. 

Because of all this, it has been suggested that for Spurs to have any chance at hardware this year they must get themselves a legitimate defensive mid-fielder in the January window, a la  Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira or Claude Makelele.  Spurs have the money – but whether such a player is out there, and would be willing to cast his lot with Spurs, remains to be seen.  However, there is a bit of history on Spurs’ side.  The only first-time side in Champions League to score more goals than Spurs in the group stage was Juventus in ‘95 – ‘96, and they went on to lift the trophy. 

In spite of the fact that Uncle Harry vowed to emphasize the importance of this match, the lineup has undergone quite a change from the weekend.  Not Fergie-like change mind you, as no one has that much depth, but for Spurs pretty major changes, nonetheless.  Crouch – exhausted from launching numerous weak headers wide of the net over the last three weeks – gets a rest.  Defoe and Pavlyuchenko are the strikers in an attacking 4-4-2, with Kranjcar making a rare appearance for the resting Lennon on the wing and the apparently healthy Croluka in for Hutton at fullback.  Other interesting notes:  Jenas returns in mid-field and Dawson is a welcome sight, if only on the bench.

The match begins somewhat languidly for Spurs, with Gomez forced to stop a screamer from Wout Brama just four minutes in.  Then, 12 minutes in, the Twente keeper – the 40 year old Sander Boschker in his Champions League debut – horribly botches a back pass, the ball dribbling into the net behind him.  It is both impossible not to feel sorry for Boschker nor escape the thought that Wenger should sign him immediately. 

Ten minutes later and the match is tied via penalty kick from Landzaat, after a handball in the box from Assou-Ekotto. Then Mr. Bale decides to turn on the jets, producing two wonderful crosses for Defoe and, just after the break, placing a cross in the box that Lennon – on for Jenas, after he took an absurd yellow card for failing to leave the field after injury – reverse passes to Defoe for the score.  It should be noted, by the way, that Lennon, too, has returned to form over the last few week,s and has been almost as difficult to contain on the wing as Bale. 

Then, in the 56th, Twente ties it again with a header from Janssen, and it's yet another lead blown by Spurs; once again, it appears that a roller coaster game is afoot.  This is confirmed a short time later when Defoe scores his second after a great run down the left wing by Palacios, of all people, whose shot is rebounded into the path of Defoe. 

Then, in classic and infuriating Spurs’ style, a Twente set piece is mishandled in the 64th minute and Chandli scores for the home side to equalize at 3.  Spurs giveth leads, and Spurs taketh leads away.  After exchanging a series of free kicks the match ends level.  Another frustrating but supremely entertaining Spurs match, balanced by the news that Inter has inexplicably lost to Werder Bremen (a result not nearly as foreseeable as a priest on a bowl of sugar), sending Spurs into the knock out stages at the top of a table that probably seemed more imposing in the summer than it turned out actually to be. 

Game Day Beer ReviewBell's Best Brown Ale (5.80% ABV).  Poured from a bottle into a pilsner glass.

Appearance:  Redish / brown, minimal head and lacing which dissipates quickly.

Smell:  Malty, sweet with light hops.

Taste:  Malty grainy taste, initially balanced with very mild hops; hint of sweetness and fruit with light alcohol.

Overall:  This is a straight ahead, no frills brown ale which beats the pants off Newcastle.  Highly recommended.

This is farlieonfootie for December 10.

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