Tottenham Hotspur (2)  vs. Bayern Munich (2) 
Audi Cup Final, Wednesday 31st July 2019 (KO 19.30 BST), Allianz Arena, Munich [Pre-Season, Game 4 of 5]
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.
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.
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).
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. ⚽🏆
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’).
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.
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. ⚽
Thursday 25th July 2019, KO 12.30 BST, Hongkou Football Stadium, Shanghai [Pre-Season Tour 2019/20, Game #2]
It wasn’t quite a bloodbath, but it was something of a mudbath; inescapable, torrential summer rain had thundered down upon Shanghai in the build-up to today’s game. In the nick of time, however, the storm ceased and in its place sweltering, stultifying temperatures took hold of Hongkou Football Stadium – albeit not quite soon enough to firm up the surface of the pitch, resulting at times in slip-and-slide galore during a surprisingly frenzied match between two top-tier Premier League teams who both had something to prove.
Ultimately, the difference in the play of each side came down to a difference in what exactly it was that each one had to prove. United have come into pre-season trying to find their identity; the message coming from Old Trafford has been clear – the Red Devils aim to recapture the spirit and winning proclivities (clearly, one is inextricably linked to the other) of their ’90s dominance, that assured swagger of an era when ‘Sharp’ was the sponsor of their shirts, and ‘sharp’ was the name of the game when it came to the accompanying performances of a teamsheet bathed in the glow of natural, world-beating talent.
A big part of achieving United’s perhaps-not-so Mission Impossible (another franchise that scored big in the late ’90s) is the practical, problem-solving aspect of it – what kind of a scoreboard can Ole construct an image of with the pieces of the puzzle he has available to him? At the end of the season, he hadn’t got that quite right – after all, he’d only just been gifted the puzzle, and after closer inspection of the contents of the box, he found that it had been half-assembled for him already. But his 4 wins in 4 pre-season games (albeit against sides of varying quality) suggests that he might just be getting there. Nobody ever said that rendering the abstract vision in practical form would be easy; Solskjær has been tapping into his inner Ferguson in order to do so, having made clear his admiration for the man, but such is the task ahead that he may yet have to tap into his inner-Da Vinci if he is to restore United to the glory of their heyday. It’s not easy to pull off a Renaissance, even when your bank account resembles that of the Medici family (see: United’s apparent £70million bid for Mr Harry Maguire).
Spurs, on the other hand, have mostly already crossed that bridge, having long-expelled their demons (even if they have not quite yet replaced them with a trophy, but that is surely imminent).
After 5 years of Pochettino, Spurs know exactly who they are. There is no United-style identity crisis underway at New White Hart Lane (which is my vote for the new stadium’s name, by the way). They are Tottenham Hotspur – they play fast, fluid attacking football that is awe-inspiring to watch. When they hit the right gear, it is a thing of magnificent, magical beauty. Aim high, and fail high if it doesn’t pan out – in the words of Club legend Danny Blanchflower, the game is about glory. And not any kind of glory, either – Spurs are searching for the type of innate, perfect glory that can barely be articulated in words (but you know it when you see it, à la Lucas in the 96th minute of that Ajax game) and can’t be achieved through cynically hoofing a ball at Sissoko’s outstretched arm 2 minutes into a Champions League final (we jest – Liverpool, we love you). The caveat to all of this is the obvious – sometimes Spurs don’t hit that gear.
As a result, the transfer window and this pre-season campaign have all been about addressing head-on this tendency towards inconsistency that saw Pochettino’s men lose to lower-table sides (Burnley, Southampton, West Ham, Crystal Palace) on a worrying number of occasions towards the end of last season.
Spurs didn’t find that perfect gear today against United (just as they didn’t find it when they last played United back in January), but maybe that wasn’t the point. Just as it was in last week’s Juve game, Spurs were playing with a specific task at hand; whilst United worked at reclaiming their first identity, Tottenham were looking for a second – or at least a different flavour of their first identity. A back-up identity, for rotation purposes – a depth hitherto unexplored, something special to ensure that consistency won’t be a problem in the upcoming season.
A major part of this alternate identity is its creation of two interlinked modes of attack – one spearheaded, in this instance, by a combination of Kane, Dele and Academy newcomer Parrott, the other by Son, Lucas and Eriksen, with the option for interchangeability and overlap when Spurs really want to supercharge things, as they did during parts of the Juventus game. Call it a chemistry experiment, if you like. Although goals were thin on the ground, post-game Pochettino seemed pleased with the attacking football he saw today – so we can give this particular experiment an A- (or a B+ if we’re being harsh).
But Spurs’ defence, which is undergoing a similar but more frought bout of experimentation (especially following the departure of Trippier), is a more problematic case study to appraise based on today’s evidence. United cut through Tottenham’s defence with alarming ease, and to devastating effect. Ole’s men were rewarded for their regular deployment of an unexpectedly hard, condensed press that Spurs struggled to properly contain; in the end, United scored twice, but it could easily have been more – early on, Martial hit the post, and later Rashford found himself on goal but was caught offside by fine margins.
Their second goal, a senior first from a promising-looking Angel Gomes, should never have happened. United had packed the press and organised themselves well, but Spurs had, accordingly, packed the box in response. It was not lack of numbers, but instead sloppy, non-committal defending on Tottenham’s right-hand side which failed to shut down a clever, nimble team-effort from United.
The resulting goal was hard to begrudge; Juan Mata played a perceptive one-two onto Gomes, who duly struck from a difficult, tight angle. It was this angle that also made the shot unstoppable – there was no way poor Gazzaniga could stretch to cover the far post without leaving his near one completely exposed (Fig. 1a and 1b).
It’s fair to say that Gazzaniga had a less-than-ideal game. He was not at fault for the second goal, but could surely have stopped the first on a better day. This first goal, courtesy of Martial (21′), came in at the near post, and slipped just inside the space in-between the Spurs goalkeeper’s left-side (with his arm caught in an awkward and frankly unhelpful position) and the post (Fig. 2a and 2b). Credit to Mr Martial where it’s due – even if there was an element of luck, it was an excellently-placed ball, targeted with precision from an angle which left no room for even the slightest error.
It was a tight angle, just like the goal which eventually followed (Gomes struck at 80′); now, either Ole and his crew had analysed and figured out the precise pressure-points of Spurs’ normally robust defence, or the goals were the natural result of the weaknesses of the right and left-backs (in the case of the second and first goals respectively) – i.e. Spurs’ full-backs were pushed to their limits and Martial and Gomes subsequently overflowed like a river into those tight angles which fall just wide of the goal and encroach on the goal-line. Likely, United’s success in these locations today was a combination of the two – it’s common knowledge that Pochettino is taking a natural opportunity to conduct a pre-season experiment with those full-back positions. Accordingly, it’s a loophole that should, and most likely will, be shut down by the time Spurs’ first League game of the season rolls around against a freshly-promoted Villa on 10th August.
A perpetually-shining light for Spurs today, as has been the case so often in the past six months, was Lucas Moura’s sheer skill and unwavering bravado coupled with his tendency towards calmness under pressure – a combination of talents which lead to Tottenham’s only goal (Lucas, 65′). It was, all things considered, a comparatively scrappy goal for Spurs, born from scrappy play – but the positioning from Son (who provided a relatively-rare header) during his assist, and that of Lucas himself, combined with a skilful first touch and finish from Lucas, required real talent to pull off. Maybe, sometimes, Spurs might like to consider the possibility that banging it into the mixer is occasionally a legitimate recipe for glory – especially when the team have players with a track record of fancy-footwork in claustrophobic spots. Lucas’ first touch masterfully brought the ball under control, and he then juggled it between his feet whilst swarmed by defenders with only inches to move in (it was characteristically Lucas, and characteristically Brazilian). He then got the shot off, and after a minor deflection was rewarded with the goal (Fig. 3). It wasn’t the most sublime goal ever recorded, but it was a goal nonetheless and a well-deserved one.
Dele, who has stated publicly that in 2019/20 he wants to improve on his performances last season, won’t be pleased with himself this evening after missing Spurs’ other great opportunity on goal. Rising Academy talent Parrot, who again looked excellent, found Dele in just-about-clear space towards the centre of the goalmouth (Fig. 4). In what was essentially a one-on-one situation, Dele then struck the ball on the outside of his foot, and with the ball faltering in subsequent speed and trajectory, De Gea confidently blocked what should have been a certain goal from Dele, who has previously excelled in such situations. Generally, Dele was a powerful presence on the pitch – finding himself some much-needed space and tracking back regularly – but he was too powerful according to the (rather overzealous) referee who booked him for a late challenge on freshly-signed Wan-Bissaka. The booking wasn’t deserved at all – it is clear from the replay that Dele slipped on the ailing pitch and fell into Wan-Bissaka (Fig 5) rather than anything more sinister.
Elsewhere, Spurs drew more (mostly underserved) criticism for strong tackles – particularly so for Sissoko’s challenge on another new United signee, James. It looked incredibly bad on the replay, although it is clear that his so-called ‘stamp’, which is quite unlike him, was accidental and that Sissoko was another player to fall dramatically foul of the slippery terrain (although he arguably could, and perhaps should, have been more careful). Overall, it was a surprisingly impassioned match for a pre-season friendly thousands of miles from home which featured a teamsheet packed with up-and-comers who had no real reason to disagree with each other (although they might from this point onwards).
But it was clear that United gave as much as they were given, and took as much as was taken from them (and more) – and it remains unclear as to which side started this pattern of aggression. Spurs are a tight-knit team (Pochettino makes sure of this), socially as well as professionally, and are perhaps more united than most – including, ironically and arguably, this United side. They have shown on multiple occasions in the past (for example, notably so against Bournemouth and Manchester City last season) that an affront on one of their team-mates is an affront on them all, and that they will retaliate, particularly if younger players (for example Foyth or Parrot) are targeted. It’s likely that all the madness, on the part of both sides, was due to the extreme heat, pitch conditions and humidity getting to everybody – but there are also indicators that it wasn’t Spurs who started the scrapping.
McTominay appeared on several occasions to exert himself aggressively – most notably in an early push of Parrott which was clearly nothing to do with slippage (Fig. 6). Andreas Pereira flung himself around the pitch with the air of a petulant bully, sticking his leg forcefully and quite deliberately through Kane (Fig. 7). Son was another Spurs man who found himself seemingly targeted, receiving a deliberate and obvious foul from Matic (Fig. 8).
Perhaps on this pitch, in this climactic maelstrom of chaotic heat and humidity, with United’s mission being what it was and Spurs’ mission being entirely at odds with it, it was inevitable that the game would result in a scrappy melange of slip-and-slide challenges that at times resembled a derby. But perhaps, just perhaps, the match could have been more, for both sides. Pochettino said afterwards that he was pleased with what he saw from his players in terms of football (implying approval of the way Spurs’ new inconsistency-resistant system is developing). Ole was obviously happy with winning, which was his key objective – after all, the foundation of United’s identity is built on winning. Ultimately, however, the jury’s still out on what a Spurs vs United game might look like when the two sides square up against each other in the Premier League this season – and, indeed, what the two sides will look like more generally when they start playing competitive matches. As long as there’s plenty of glory – whether the Tottenham brand or the United flavour of it – to be had in the final form of each side, fans should be thrilled; after all, glory is what the game’s all about. ⚽
Next game: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Real Madrid, 30th July 2019 (KO 17.00, Allianz Arena), Audi Cup (Semi-Final)
Fun fact:This was Ndombele’s first start for Tottenham 🐣
Extra fun fact: This is the second game in a row in which Lucas Moura has scored in the 65th minute 🍾
Sunday 21st July 2019, KO 12.30 BST; Singapore National Stadium, Singapore [Pre-Season Tour 2019/20, Game #1]
It had all the hallmarks of a classic Lucas Moura goal – it came from a stealthy flash of determined genius, fired straight through the centre, and, perhaps most importantly in terms of Tottenham lore, it all happened so fast that a stunned Matthijs de Ligt barely even knew it was happening. It was Dutchman de Ligt’s debut for Juventus and, just like in that eventful Champions League Semi-Final, Lucas used a lethal combination of speed, passion and exceptional positioning to best de Ligt – the most expensive young defender in Europe – in a manner that will surely give the former Ajax captain pre-emptive shivers should he have to face down Spurs’ Brazilian Moura-cle worker (sorry) again this season in the Champions League.
If this all sounds like a rather hyperbolic description of what is, essentially, a pre-season friendly, it is – but with good reason, as a Spurs XI packed with less-experienced Academy talent hit all the right notes in this melodic game against a near full-strength Juventus, in what must undoubtedly be a harbinger of future successes for Spurs in the season to come. The game’s first goal (30’) exemplified the potential of this pre-season travelling squad’s winning combination of fresh talent and experienced superstars – in order to take a pass from an assured-looking Son, a broadly excellent Parrott made an excellent run culminating in the up-and-comer’s shot being initially stopped by Buffon, only to be tapped in immediately afterwards on the rebound by a well-positioned Lamela (who was a joy to watch back in action, after a season plagued by recurring injuries).
Other Academy talent that impressed included skilful Oliver Skipp, who will surely play a decent amount of first team minutes this season, Jack Roles (who, like Lamela and Lucas, was one of the many Spurs players on the pitch who showed great positioning) and defensive duo Tanganga and Georgiou, who both put in solid shifts. Kyle Walker-Peters, who may find himself as Pochettino’s preferred starting right-back following Trippier’s recent departure to Atlético Madrid, proved effective against an ever-enthusiastic Cristiano Ronaldo (Ronaldo, incidentally, exchanged shirts with Heung-Min Son at the conclusion of the first half). During the celebration of the third goal, the sight of Lucas bringing several of these younger players into the fold (namely, by pulling them into the comforting nexus of the group-hug) was fantastic to behold, showing the relentlessly supportive team spirit that has characterised Spurs in the Pochettino era.
This game was also remarkable for other reasons, two of the chief ones amongst them being the debut of Tanguy Ndombele for Spurs and a (literal) show-stopping performance from Harry Kane that closed the game. And let’s talk about Tanguy’s pretty-much-perfect debut – the club’s record signing was subbed on in the 63rd minute, and it barely took seconds for him to register an impact. Through diligent stalking of the ground between the second and final left-hand third, his first touch was a scorcher – an interception of an errant aerial pass from De Sciglio, which he duly whipped straight across to Lucas, who, as described above, then banged it in straight through the centre to score Spurs’ second goal (65’). After this equaliser, which came after Juve scored two goals (Higuain 56’, Ronaldo 60’) in under four minutes, it is easy to see why Spurs fans are excited to see Ndombele at the club this year.
In the final seconds of the game (a Spurs speciality, it goes without saying), Lucas (this writer’s Man of the Match) masterfully won a challenge against Rabiot (who reportedly described Spurs as beneath him in discussions over his future whilst exiting Paris St-Germain) and knocked the ensuing ball onto Kane. Endearing hero Harry knew exactly what he was going to do with that ball; despite being scarcely across the half-way line, seemingly without even looking up (having previously noted that Sarri’s substitution for Buffon had gone AWOL from his line), he sent the ball screaming mellifluously into Juventus’ goal (90 + 3’). There was an audible collective gasp from the Singapore National Stadium as the ball floated through the air, suspended in slow-motion transit, as if an incredible magic trick was underway. The efforts of Szczęsny, the former Arsenal keeper (perhaps explaining Kane’s impetus) were almost comically futile and it sailed right over his outstretched left arm into the net – realistically, he never had a chance.
Kane’s goal was a stunning end to a match full of sparkling Spurs promise. Perhaps most tantalisingly, the game showed a glimpse of the potent prowess a subtly tweaked shade of Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1, spearheaded in tandem by Kane and Lucas, might possess this season, especially alongside a bolstered midfield and some striking Academy talent. ⚽
Next game: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United, Thursday 25th July 2019 (KO 12.30 BST), International Champions Cup
Fun fact: This was the first time that the Men’s Senior First Team wore their 2019/20 Away kit. 🐣