- Match Report
Tottenham Hotspur (1) – Real Madrid (0)
Tuesday, 30th July 2019 (KO 17:00)
Audi Cup [Semi-Final], Allianz Arena, Munich [Pre-Season, Game 3 of 5]
As so often in pre-season friendlies, today’s Audi Cup clash between Spurs and Read Madrid was a game of two halves. Tottenham, drastically more so than Madrid, entered the second half with an almost entirely refreshed line-up, and, having done so, managed to only just hold onto the precious 1-0 lead that Spurs established through a fine Harry Kane goal in the first.
Let’s look at Spurs’ lineup for each half – as, more so than in any of their pre-season games thus far, there was a fundamental difference in the playstyle (and success therin) of each half. The starting XI was exceptionally strong, and equated most closely to what fans might describe as their ‘classic’ lineup from last season, albeit with some dynamic, if expected, twists.
Gazzaniga (GK), Foyth (RB), Alderweireld (CB), Vertonghen (CB) and Rose (LB) made up Spurs’ mostly-impenetrable defence; Winks and Ndombele took control of midfield, and Son (LW), Lamela (RW), Kane (ST) and Eriksen, playing just behind Kane, completed Spurs’ traditional attacking diamond.
Lloris (GK), Kyle Walker-Peters (RB), Davinson Sanchez (CB), Japhet Tanganga (CB) and Anthony Giorgiou (LB) made up Spurs’ second-half backline; Oliver Skipp and Moussa Sissoko held down (to varying degrees of success) the centre of the pitch; Georges-Kevin N’koudou made a rare appearance on the left-wing across from man of the minute Lucas Moura on the right, and, completing the attacking diamond, Kane played with Dele behind him (although Kane, who along with Son was one of only two Spurs players to start both halves, later made way for Troy Parrot at 66’).
- First half
A forceful early counter-attack from Spurs less than a minute into the match set the tone for the half; Gazzaniga slid dramatically to intercept an attack from Madrid, pushing the ball upstream, where it eventually landed with Eriksen – who, making his welcome pre-season return for Spurs, could be forgiven for a less-than-ideal touch as the counter eventually fizzled out.
No matter though – this Spurs XI were calm, confident, collected and never looked like they were going to lose their composure. They were strong in possession, and seemed at times to be emulating a game of pinball, such was the way the ball effortlessly ricocheted with a certain grace around the four corners of Madrid’s half.
They passed their way out of tight spots easily, and only really ever looked vulnerable when Madrid countered. But Spurs countered themselves, and did so with an assured thrust that opened up Real’s defence on several pivotal occasions.
Son and Eriksen both looked broadly bright on the ball – as did Kane, whose speed, alertness and eye for positioning lead to a well deserved goal at the midpoint of the first half (22’). By the time Kane’s moment came, it felt like a Spurs goal had been inevitable for a long time.
Ndombele made some incisive attacking moves, manifesting ultimately in an absolute Olympian thunderbolt of a shot from outside the box – the forceful strike, which was on target, hit with such power that Navas, who made several excellent saves, was practically knocked off his feet.
Juan Foyth, newly returned from the Copa America and a brief break where he married his sweetheart (congratulations to the Foyths), cut short his honeymoon to mount some firm tackles, with Son tracking back to help him, but there was a problematic naivety to these challenges, which manifested itself in aggressiveness which the referee could scarcely ignore. Lest we remember, it was this same naivety that saw him shown a red card less than 90 seconds into his appearance against Bournemouth in the penultimate Premier League game of the season (like Foyth, Son will also miss the first two games of the upcoming season due to a red in the same game). There is still work to be done if Foyth is to permanently take Trippier’s vacant RB position, and for this writer’s money, Kyle Walker-Peters has the edge on him, though both are looking promising in terms of what they bring to Spurs’ attacking potential in the final third (if not their defending, which would, fittingly, put them both in line with some people’s criticisms of Tripper – plus ça change).
Lamela was a real standout and seemed reborn after last season’s injuries; at times it felt like he had the raw power and skill within him to take on the entirely of Real Madrid – starting XI and subs combined.
For Real, Benzema was a strong presence, and there were the slow makings of some chemistry with Hazard, who had several chances but was ultimately ineffectual – and even counter-effectual at times, given that it was a Hazard mistake which lead to Kane’s goal. Marcelo had a significant and surprising amount of chances on goal given his position, and Ramos also made an impact. But Madrid weren’t quite able to push through, despite some fine chances. Spurs just had the edge – unlike in the second half, where the Tottenham boys were less convincing, which we’ll get to now.
- Second half
The second half was slightly scrappy and unsightly for both teams – and that’s about as interesting a remark we can make about it.
Dele didn’t quite hit his stride, and Moura was unable to carve out any impact for himself, but both gave preferable performances to that of a generally unorganised backline that was lucky not to concede. Overall, Spurs’ second 45 was scrappy, unsatisfying and unconvincing stuff that was tough to watch at times and seemed unformed and puzzlingly shapeless at best. The first half backline and attack massively benefited from the return of Danny Rose to the squad – but there was no such luck to be found in the second. Academy man Georgiou tugged shirts too often and too overtly, and looked slightly behind the pace of Real’s attackers at times. Meanwhile, Tanganga was left to literally put his face boldly on the line to block a potential Madrid screamer – for which he surely deserves praise, and he had to be led off the pitch following concussion fears. And that’s about it – it was barely co-ordinated and chaotic, but Spurs managed to (just about) deny Madrid an equaliser and proceed to the Audi Cup final, where they stand a strong chance of winning their second piece of pre-season silverware in as many years. ⚽
All text © 2020 Tottenham, 2019
Next match: Audi Cup Final, tomorrow (31st July 2019, KO 19.30 BST) – Allianz Arena, Munich