I think my girlfriend was shocked when, whilst sitting in the car about to visit her parents, I let out an almighty “Get In!!!!!!” Gareth Bale had just scored his 20th league goal of the season in the 86th minute to put Spurs 1-0 up against Southampton, and seal a massive three points in Tottenham’s quest for Champions league qualification.
I was sitting at home relaxing after my early morning fishing adventures (I caught nothing) and noticed that it had just gone 5pm. There had been no notifications from my phone regarding Spurs’ game against Southampton. 5:05pm, 5:10pm, still nothing. I naturally assumed that Spurs had only managed a goalless draw at home to Southampton, a result that all but ended our dreams of Champions league qualification for next season, especially if Arsenal beat Queens Park Rangers in the late kick off and Chelsea beat Manchester United on Sunday. It was only when checking my betting coupon (I didn’t win) that I noticed the Spurs game was still going on, as kick off had been delayed by thirty minutes. Hope had been restored. I shared the opinion of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris; if we failed to take maximum points against the Saints, it was game over, and had it not been for the genius of Gareth Bale, and the tactical tinkering of André Villas-Boas, it would’ve been.
The game itself was very poor from a Tottenham Hotspur perspective, and from the highlights I saw on Match of the Day, Southampton were extremely unlucky not to come away from White Hart Lane with a point. I don’t think there could’ve been too many arguments if the visitors had taken all three. Southampton had the best of the chances in the first half, with Nathaniel Clyne missing a glorious chance to put the Saints 1-0, dragging his shot wide of Lloris’ far post after being put through on goal with a lovely chip pass from Rickie Lambert. Lambert also struck the post with free kick, whilst the best Spurs could conjure up was a snap shot from Jermain Defoe which went just wide.
Southampton also had the first clear chance of the second half when Captain Adam Lallana flicked the ball over Michael Dawson, which created the midfielder some space, but he lost his footing at the vital moment and the ball end up harmlessly in the arms of Tottenham’s French goalkeeper. As the half wore on Tottenham finally began to apply some pressure, with Emmanuel Adebayor creating an opening for Clint Dempsey, but the American fired over.
Then came the goal. Kyle Walker fed the ball to Gareth Bale, who was now operating on the right hand side of midfield, the third positional change of the afternoon for the Welshman. Upon receiving the ball Bale ran infield, and for the first time in the game he wasn’t instantly closed down by a Southampton defender. Bale continued his run across the box before firing the ball past Artur Boruc in the visitors’ goal. White Hart Lane erupted in delight, as did André Villas-Boas, as once again his tactical tinkering had made a difference. Spurs held on for the win to set up a crunch game with Chelsea this coming Wednesday.
Chelsea claimed a 1-0 win at Old Trafford on Sunday courtesy of 87th minute own goal from Manchester United’s Phil Jones. That win meant that Chelsea reclaimed third place from Arsenal, who had leap-frogged them less than twenty-four hours earlier following their own 1-0 victory away at Queens Park Rangers. Heading in to Wednesday’s showdown at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have 68 points, Arsenal 67, and Spurs, in fifth, have 65. Arsenal have played a game more that both Chelsea and Spurs. A Chelsea victory will all but secure them a third place finish and direct entry into next season’s Champions league group phase. A draw doesn’t really change anything and a Spurs victory, which would be their first away at Chelsea since 1990, would move them above Arsenal into fourth.
Mousa Dembélé suffered what appeared to be pulled hamstring against Southampton on the weekend and is a major doubt for the Chelsea game, which is a massive blow. Along with the Belgian midfield machine, Spurs are likely to be without William Gallas and long term absentees Younès Kaboul and Sandro. Chelsea are waiting on the fitness of Eden Hazard and John Mikel Obi, who both sat out the victory against Manchester United, and Oriol Romeu is definitely out.
The game on Wednesday will undoubtedly be a nervy affair, and could well be decided by one goal. Chelsea’s confidence will be high given their recent form and progression to the Europa league final. Many will back them for the win, especially when you throw in Tottenham’s Premier league record at Stamford Bridge.
In my opinion Tottenham are going to have to be at their very best to obtain the result they need, and I believe that they’ll only achieve this if the keep a clean sheet. Spurs cannot approach the game thinking just give the ball to Gareth Bale. Other players are going to have to step up and be counted. It’s also important that André Villas-Boas approaches this game as if it is any other and not get sucked in by all the talk regarding his short spell at Chelsea eighteen months ago.
I genuinely have no idea where I’d put my money if I was betting on this game. My head says it’ll be a draw, but my heart says Tottenham are going to do what needs to be done. I have to follow my heart.
COME ON YOU SPURS!!!