All white on the night!
Well the neutrals are having a field day again: goalmouth action; inept defending; three classic strikes; penalties; disallowed goals; red card escapes; late equalisers; controversy, and amongst that lot somewhere some almost decent football and both teams lucky to get a point and unlucky not to win.
So in No Man's Land there are brass bands and bunting and dancing in the streets. In the fanatic zones there are downcast looks; recriminations; helpless shrugs; points lost, and a man in the corner playing the 'Last Post' on the mouth organ.
The result did neither club much good and on reflection Mick McCarthy might be the more disgruntled manager. But then he always is, even when he wins. Let's take some positives: both our strikers scored more than decent goals; Sandro made another advance in his career with a good performance; Bale gave a late cameo appearance to establish his credentials for tonight, and might have won it for us; Modric was outstanding once again and we picked up another point after going behind (17th I think.)
But there are negatives:: some very poor defending especially by Hutton but also by Gallas; a lot of wasteful balls out of defence especially by Ekotto; some odd decisions by Harry who had one eye on the Milan game and by Gomes who had just the one eye on the ball, unfortunately.
Playing Bale and Lennon on their 'wrong sides' made sense without Pavlyuchenko, but why take him off in the first place when he was having a good game? Not to save him for Milan that's for sure. Piennar did very little but I would have replaced him with Palacios at that stage rather than Kranjcar who I would have started with. Jenas had a decent game but is indecisive at crucial moments. His forward run in the build up to Pavlyuchenko's goal was impressive but happens too rarely.
At least the substitutions were positive. We, like everyone else except City, trod water at the top. On form over the last 6 games we have gained three points on them but it could have been more. In another sporting vein the leaders are coming back to the field as the leading bunch tightens round Tattenham Corner. We are still good for a place but the metaphor lacks the stamina required as our race has hurdles and jumps unlike the Derby.
Our strikers have suddenly sprung to life but the defense has gone to sleep. Some mix-up in their medication I fear. Conceding six goals in two games against bottom of the table opposition is dire and we have a resurgent W.Ham to come. Chelsea and Man. City maintained their advantage with wins. Progress to the quarter finals of the CL. could energise our push for top four or could provide a distraction as it did here.
Tonight it's pretty clear that Crouch and Van Der Vaart will start with Bale on the left. Harry says we are going for the win and to be honest the way we are defending it's probably our best option. Palacios and Sandro, who played so well in the away leg, could possibly join Modric in midfield. Milan have to score twice to win the tie even if we were to score an opener. But somehow even knowing that, an early goal that will settle my inner anatomy even if it means little in statistical terms and they will have to come out and attack at some stage.
I can't see them laying themselves open to a Bale or Lennon sucker punch. A 1-0 loss leads to extra time and penalties, so let's avoid that at all costs. Any draw will do, but a win would allow us to go through in style. We will play in our all white 'European Nights' kit and a win to coincide with the publication of a book on John White by his son Rob, entitled 'The ghost of White Hart Lane would be a fitting and timely tribute.
It's hard not to think that it's coming up to 50yrs since our 5-1 victory over Athletico Madrid in the final.The quarter finals are beckoning. John White, Athletico Madrid, 50yrs,, all in white, at home, a strong team, a goal up; the signs are all there. What can possibly go wrong?
So not by any means 'the worst of times' in the league but a win or a draw tonight could push us closer to the 'best of times' in Europe.