Apparently it was the best time for Spurs to meet Barcelona in the Champions League, Spurs took this to heart, no one told Barcelona.
It didn’t even take two minutes to get Barcelona back on track, when the returning Hugo Lloris charged out to the edge of his box leaving a nice open net when Alba cut the ball back to Coutinho, for the Brazilian to score. Thus ended that bizarre stat that no Barca player other than Messi had scored and away goal in the Champions League for over two years.
Don’t know what Hugo was thinking or doing, other than making people think Gazzaniga hadn’t done anything wrong to be dropped.
Hugo was in a tough competition to be the worst player in a Spurs shirt as they started badly and just didn’t get that much better throughout a chastening first half. It had been claimed this was Spurs greatest test in Europe, well you’d think facing the then reigning champions, winners of three competitions, four out of the last five, Real Madrid, would have been a greater challenge but not, it seems.
A little under a year ago at Wembley it was a different Spurs that face Madrid than this one Pochettino could put out against their biggest rivals. Three players missing through injury. All three big players for Spurs, Vertonghen, Dele and Eriksen. Dier had been dropped to the bench. Also there was a change in formation from a back three to a back four.
It all made for an easy time for the visitors, especially in the middle of the park. Things opened up for them again just before the half hour mark, Messi’s delightful chip into Suarez, he chested down to Coutinho and his shot was saved by Hugo but as everyone stood and waited for the ball to go for a corner the Brazilian played the ball back bouncing to the edge of the area where Rakitic volleyed in a cracker.
Spurs were gifting them chances and they were now scoring worldies. Gonna be a long night.
Spurs did have the ball in the back of the net, a nice finish by Son from Trippier’s cross, but the ref had blown for a hand ball by the fullback. I wasn’t too sure and the official certainly wasn’t endearing himself to the home support. Claims in the media that there was booing as the half-time whistle went are correct, it’s just the media claiming the target of the boos was the Spurs players when it was more likely the ref, as he’d just given another strange decision.
Spurs players were making it easy for him. Everyone knows the likes of Busquets and Suarez will go down and roll about with just a waft of air touching them, so then if you’re gonna get booked why not at least do some damage.
They were making it easy for Barca full stop. Lamela and Moura were doing a lot of running, chasing down, Harry was dropping deep and playing the number ten role to those two but the link up wasn’t clean. Son was trying but could never seem to get the ball out from between his feet. There was quite a bit of running into cul-de-sacs.
The second half looked like it was going to get even worse, as Messi started dancing through the vast open space of Wembley where Wanyama and Winks were meant to be to hit the woodwork, not once but twice. At this point the post was Spurs best player.
Shortly after Harry Kane showed him how to score, receiving the ball he ran into it, before stopping and turning back inside, totally doing his defender before curling a cracker past the keeper. Pure Kane.
Game on. Well as Bill Kerr used to say “I’m only here for four minutes”. As Messi just wanders through the middle of the pitch into the box onto the end of a cross to restore the two goal lead. All just too, too simple.
Ten minutes later the lead was cut again as Lamela’s attempt was deflected away from the diving keeper, into the net. Twenty five minutes left but Spurs couldn’t do anything, Barcelona don’t do Spursy, and in the end the two goal lead was restored as Messi got his brace after more omnishamble defending. Not helped in any way by Pochettino’s decision to bring on Sissoko. There wasn’t much else on the bench when he took Son off in the 66th minute but anything would have been better than Sissoko.
Hugo, needlessly out to Trippier – you’ve got Llorente on with Harry and the seconds are ticking down, lump it up the park – Trippier on to Sissoko… ball lost. Ball is into the box, step over by Suarez and Messi is yet again all on his lonesome in the middle of the box for an easy finish.
Messi wasn’t as great as they’re all making out he was, he didn’t have to be, he was gifted the freedom of the park. Winks wasn’t as good as everyone was making him out to be, Oooo 95% passing success but how many of them did anything? How many were aimless sideways passes or passes straight back to the player who had just passed it to him?
Two games down and two losses. PSV up next who are actually in a worse situation. Don’t win both of them then you don’t deserve to get anywhere. Gift them chances like they did against Barca and it’ll be curtains no matter how bad teh Dutch side is. The return of those injured players is a must but how long will Vertonghen be out? Club saying four weeks but that’s about six to eight months in real weeks.