The inevitableness became apparent as the teams lined up on the Santiago Bernabeu pitch, what had promised so much so the days before up to seeing the team sheet – yes ‘Arry you’ve picked the right lot – was blown away in one instant as the camera panned down the line of players during the anthem.
Just a minute, who’s that, that’s not Lennon, unless he’s had a growth spurt, it’s…no, can’t be…it’s a joke, like when that imposter lined up for ManUre…oh christ it is. At that moment it became inevitable.
It helped really, when you get the performance you expect it makes watching the game that much easier, removes all kind of tension. You know what’s coming, you’ve seen it so many times before, when all hope is extinguished before a ball is kicked.
So Lennon was out, a sore throat we were informed by the telly, via their source from UEFA. Nah, come on this is the Champions League quarters, in Madrid. Now ‘Arry is sounding like the little fella had a case of the two bob bits and had been ill all day, to weak to play. Well if the former is true then I say bin him, I’ve been a cheerleader for Lennon, club and country, but if he’s crying off because of a sore throat then I’ve no time for him again. The latter, well what’s he doing leaving it to the very last second and had he/them done anything about it?
So that meant only one thing, he’d been talking the game and himself up all week, here comes the Jenas, for it was him at the end of that line of players that destroyed the hope.
His presence had an immediate effect, as ‘Arry out thought himself with the tactical master-stroke of shifting everyone in the midfield around one. So with Jenas in the middle it means Modric ends up on the left and Bale on right, it’s an idea he’s come up with a few times recently and it’s failed every time.
It didn’t take long for his presence to pay dividends for Madrid, five minutes. Now they say late changes have an effect at corners, you don’t know who you’re marking. Except Jenas knew as he marked Adebayor, it’s just he then let the player get away from him for a free header. There was a challenge but as with him all game it was a day late and a dollar short. Yes Gomes and Modric should have done better but prevention is better than cure.
Well, we’ve faced this before at Inter, I said but it was three down and one sent of. This was very shortly before Crouch went into his second stupidly needless, sliding lunge on a Madrid player making it easy for the ref to show him his second yellow card. Both ridiculous attempts at tackles, that if he’d actually won the ball would have led to nothing.
Forget all the talk of playing 75 minutes with 10 men, it was really nine, as they started with 10.
So from then all it was all Madrid, camped out on the Spurs 18 yard box, though bizarrely Gomes had very little to actually do. In a bizarre way Spurs had probably the best chance, nice throw out for the rampaging Bale, his run blocked by Alonso but for the the resulting throw Bale showed a bit of the Rory Delaps and powered in a throw to van der Vaart, unmarked, in the box but the ball just wouldn’t fall and the Dutchman dithered a bit.
Bale then had the second best chance, a great cross field ball from Dawson behind the defence right in the path of Bale, who controlled it brilliantly on his chest at full pace. He shot near post and hit the side netting, if it had been on target it was one all as the ‘keeper anticipated a far post shot and was out of it.
But that ball from Dawson only really worked that time but was seen, from him and others, far too much. As Spurs fell into the usual pattern of giving away possession far too easily. Even before Crouch was sent off this was the case, too many aimless long humps that he couldn’t control. Yes it had worked in this European campaign but this was a case of overkill. It seemed the only thing certain players did.
Giving away the ball so easily was going to tell in time. A great job to see it out to half time just one down but after the second leg of the Milan tie had they played their luck card. Well there was one piece of it when Dawson got away with a John Terry save.
Twelve minutes into the second half and the next self inflicted wound and the score was doubled. Madrid take a quick corner while all in dark blue are lollygagging, Adebayor and Khedira are all on their own 8 yards out, free header for the former for his second. What went on there, god only knows. Gallas made no challenge, seemed to be feeling his injury and Dawson, where was Dawson. He’d blocked everything before but here he was at the back post picking up no one bar Assou-Ekotto.
Defoe had come on at the break for van der Vaart, you wouldn’t know as the ball was just kicked anywhere out of defence. And a number of times it was so far short of Defoe it was a joke, a weak header out from Corluka and Madrid are on the attack again, played out to Di Maria, Assou-Ekotto allows, in fact encourages the Argentinian to come inside on his stronger left foot and have a pop, Dawson has gone to pieces and puts in a Ferdinand ponce out of blocking the shot block, third goal from another piece of self inflicted play.
The fourth goal came from yet another one, Ronaldo given the freedom of the far side of the box as Kaka is given all the time and space by Jenas to float a ball right onto his foot. Bassong ponces, Ferdinand style, the block and Gomes fumbles it into the back of the net.
Everything that made this a four nil thumping could have been easily avoided, that’s what makes this so hard, not that it was a thumping – all English sides have been on the wrong end of a continental pasting – but it was a self inflicted thumping.
Well we were four nil down at half time against Inter… and we lost on that night…
There is one thing that could save the day… I didn’t get tickets to the final in the draw.