Both Brilliant & Backfooted Against Bayern: Spurs Win Audi Cup On Penalties!

  • Match Report

Tottenham Hotspur (2) [6] vs. Bayern Munich (2) [5]

Audi Cup Final, Wednesday 31st July 2019 (KO 19.30 BST), Allianz Arena, Munich [Pre-Season, Game 4 of 5]

Sissoko, who was especially energised tonight, lifts the Audi Cup for Tottenham Hotspur

Dele made some thrilling runs, Lamela was a consistently menacing presence, and Kyle Walker-Peters hurtled up and down the right flank fueled by an increasing reserve of tenacity and talent.  N’koudou and Winks both made a noticeable impact in midfield, with the latter dropping deep regularly to pick up the ball from his own box and the former advancing the ball into the final third rather effortlessly at several key points in the game.  It was all pretty gorgeous to watch, and resulted in Lamela sliding in at high-pace to pocket a cross from N’koudou in the bottom-right corner of Bayern’s net. It’s a goal worth talking about – N’Koudou’s cross and Lamela’s run, which were both seemingly perfect to the millimetre, combined to form a sublime bit of outrageously unstoppable play.

But that was all in the first half – the second, which as expected in pre-season resulted in a raft of changes (9 to be precise, as with the last game), was mostly an utter shambles.  It’s hard to remember a Spurs side being forced to backtrack so much towards their own goal in recent memory. Predictably, Bayern pounced and, despite the presence of several seasoned veterans in their second-half XI, it was up-and-comers Jann Fiete-Arp (61’) and Alphonso Davies (81’) – both born this millennium – who took advantage of Spurs’ unsteadiness and scored.  Both of these Bayern players looked like ones to watch in the future (as did Singh, whose transfer fee was reportedly a record for a New Zealander).

The second half started fine for Spurs; Son pounded a real slammer towards the goal but was denied by Bayern keeper Ulreich (subbed on for a consistently solid Neuer at half-time).  Soon after, some old-school Spurs chemistry resulted in a perfectly-weighted Kane pass landing at Eriksen’s feet in one of the Dane’s favourite spots, just beyond the right-hand corner of the enemy box.  Eriksen didn’t have to think twice – with an almost nonchalant twist of his body, he struck the ball with characteristic force diagonally across the box, and found the net. Spurs were now 2-0 up against a bolstered Bayern second-half XI, who had found a new pace to replace their first-half sluggishness but nevertheless had nothing to show for it.  So far, so good for the lads from N17.

But less than 3 minutes later, it had all fallen apart for Spurs.  Just like in yesterday’s game, they folded dramatically in the second half with their less-experienced backline.  Suddenly, they looked like they barely knew what was happening or why. It was initially hard to put a finger on what had changed at half-time, but it quickly emerged that there were holes in Spurs’ defence.  Without Rose and Vertonghen (and to a lesser degree Sanchez), and with Foyth struggling to contain Davies and company on the right (on several occasions being outpaced), it was left largely to Alderweireld to steady the Bayern onslaught. Tanganga (CB, playing to the left) and White (LB) were both decent but nevertheless relied on interventions from Skipp and a rampaging Sissoko in midfield to clear the ball under pressure.  A more experienced and structured backline would not have conceded Bayern’s solid but rather opportunistic goals.

Arp with Kane’s shirt post-match. Always nice to see some respect flowing in a world full of negativity

Foyth’s frustration eventually led to a yellow for a less-than-ideal (but admittedly not disastrous) challenge just outside the right side of the box – with VAR, some of his tackles might have been under even more scrutiny.  It seemed unrelated, but minutes later Foyth fell to the ground after a corner with a substantial injury to his Achilles. It was an unpleasant experience to see him limp off to the side of the pitch in agony, and then be stretchered away.  We sincerely hope, for the sake of both Juan and the rest of the team, that the injury won’t be a serious one and wish Foyth all the best.

Foyth clasps his Achilles

In the aftermath of this chaos, and in a climate underscored by the general disorganised-ness of the second half generally, Spurs made a number of inbound Academy substitutions (Marsh, Roles, Georgiou) some of whom had to play out of position such was the seismic depth-deprivation that suddenly unfolded following Foyth’s departure and the substitution of Sissoko.  Suddenly, the pitch seemed like a battlefield, and Spurs had drastically depleted reserves. But Tottenham clung on regardless, and the line held firm – although the exhaustion and the injuries soured the occasion somewhat considering Spurs are only 10 days away from their League opener against Villa. 

Eventually, and with a faint whisper of semi-indifferent inevitability (such was the pendulum swing of the two sides’ fortunes across the course of the 90), it all led to penalties.  The main takeaway from these, from a Spurs perspective, was that Eriksen somehow managed to strike a ball straight into Ulreich’s hands in the centre of the goal.  It was really quite surprising. See, it all balances out – earlier he scored a characteristic Eriksen banger, half an hour later, he was there hoofing a rather uncharacteristic Eriksen howler right into a keeper’s outstretched arms.  Tottenham’s keeper, Gazzaniga, who has had a mixed pre-season, was absolutely excellent, blocking two Bayern shots (those from Alaba and Boateng, respectively). 

A clearer shot of the winning squad. Spot Winks staring awkwardly, with an unnerving degree of directness, straight into the lens

You probably wouldn’t mind knowing, for future reference and comparison, how the other Tottenham boys did with their penalties, so here’s a potted history: Alderweireld, up first, hit it solidly into the top left.  Kane, taking third (after Eriksen’s soft effort) banged it into the top left like he almost always does – it was realistically always going to hit the net. Son toyed with Ulreich, feinting within his run-up on the left before hitting it into that same side’s bottom corner with real swagger.  Roles was quiet, unassuming, quick – and struck a thoroughly confident banger of a shot into the top right, like Kane (although it wasn’t quite as hard or fast). Ulreich got a hand to Tanganga’s shot, but luckily for the defender he hit the ball just hard enough that it found the back of the net anyway. Skipp, who was excellent all match and looks increasingly like a perpetually capable squad player, with occasional flashes of burgeoning brilliance, was a penalty-taking revelation and perhaps the most assured of all the takers, aside possibly from Kane. He hit it into the top right, approaching the ball with effortless grace, as if he had no doubts whatsoever and had total mind control over the ball. So, there you have it. Knoweth the penalty-style, knoweth the man.  

The net result (yes, that’s a pun) was that Spurs won 6-5 on penalties. Accordingly, Spurs leave Munich with the Audi Cup – after winning the International Champions Cup last year, it’s their second piece of pre-season silverware in two years.  Which is really nothing to knock, considering the teams they beat in both tournaments (Juventus, Real, Inter), all whilst playing a huge amount of Academy players. After the penalties, the outer panels of the Allianz Arena were lit-up lilywhite, and it was a sight to behold – let’s hope Spurs can illuminate a whole host of stadiums, both inside and out, with their colours in the coming season. ⚽🏆

All text © 2020 Tottenham, 2019

Next match: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Inter Milan, International Champions Cup, 4th August 2019, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (KO 15.06 BST – yes, you read that right. 15.06! Don’t ask us…)


Lamela Reborn, Eriksen & Rose Return: Kane Clinches Casual Winner Against Real

  • 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]

Kane strikes the winner, besting an otherwise stellar Navas in the process

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.  

Have Spurs been playing Capcom’s classic pinball machine Flipper Football for inspiration? Probably not, to be fair

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).

Congratulations to Juan Foyth and Ariana Alonso for their recent nuptials – all the best, guys (pic courtesy of Juan Foyth’s IG)

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. ⚽

Match result at a glance

All text © 2020 Tottenham, 2019

Next match: Audi Cup Final, tomorrow (31st July 2019, KO 19.30 BST) – Allianz Arena, Munich