Tottenham suffered their second straight one nil defeat at their new stadium, this time to a somewhat better side, in Ajax, in the Champions League semi-final first leg.
Apparently at the end of this first leg of the semi-final, both sets of players were disappointed. After what Ajax have done in their previous two away games, putting two past Juventus and four by Madrid, Spurs should be happy with just a one goal defeat. They shouldn’t be happy with the performance.
In Spurs previous defeat against West Ham you wondered if they were playing that game with more than one eye on this game. They then went and played against Ajax in a similar manner. Thoroughly outplayed in the opening 20 minutes, they weren’t even second best. Ajax ran rings around ’em. Highlighted by the one goal of the game.
Some lovely one/two touch passing – take note Spurs, take note please – and movement – take note Spurs, take note please – and Donny van de Beek all on his lonesome in the box with just Hugo to beat, which he does after putting the keeper on his arse. He might have the look of Michael Dawson about him but he ain’t no big lumper.
Again, the returning theme of this season for Spurs, it took a change in formation to get them into the game. Starting with a back three, which quickly became a back five, they were lost. The central pair had no one really to mark, with the movement and the nominal Ajax striker, Tadic, dropping deep.
When they did get the ball, they didn’t keep it. Floated balls not so much humped up the park but nonchalantly tapped were again falling short… well short. The midfield was nonexistent as a footballing force. Eriksen had disappeared, Dele must have been looking for him, while Wanyama just struggled. Llorente wasn’t holding onto anything that came his way.
The formation changed to a back four, with Vertonghen moving to left-back and Rose to the midfield. This didn’t last long. On the half hour a Trippier free-kick went long into the Ajax box , Toby and Jan went for it. Both went down injured, Jan came off worse. There was blood everywhere and while he didn’t seem to have been knocked cold he didn’t look good. After quite a bit of on field treatment he went off to change his bloody kit. Returning the ref wanted a look and a word with the doctor and he was allowed back on the pitch but shortly after as the ball went over his head he stood with his hand up and then made for the touchline. That was it for the game, when he reached the technical area he looked like he was about to be sick and had to be held up by Pochettino and then helped down the tunnel by two men. It wasn’t a good look.
After the shift, Spurs got into the game, probably had the better of the rest of the game but that isn’t saying much. They did so little and it looked like ajax were happy to just hold what they had. Van de Beek could have had another shortly after his first and they hit the post later on but they weren’t the same as in that first part of the game.
It was Sissoko who came on for Vertonghen that brought the energy that was missing from the rest. Unfortunately it needed more than just him. Eriksen never appeared. Dele was present for a little bit but looked lost without Harry. Rose was getting plaudits for showing some energy and showing it “meant something to him” but he was generally hopeless. Running about like a headless chicken, giving away stupid fouls and getting into fights while his final ball was beyond awful. Trippier put in a couple of decent free-kicks, that those on the end of should have done better with but was generally useless.
I’ve been one to back Trippier, when they got rid of Walker but this season has been atrocious from him and quite frankly if they can get the money that’s rumoured to have been offered for him, Spurs should snap their hand off. When Foyth came on he provided more in those ten minutes. Have to wonder why the youngster didn’t start.
Might think the same about Eriksen. I know, long season and he’s featured heavily because, well there’s no one else but he can’t half disappear when he’s needed the most. He had one chance to have a shot but chose to pass the ball off instead.
Moura saw the most action but Ajax really had him in their pocket. All he did was run into a couple of players and lose the ball. Time and time again.
With the attacking players providing nothing Poch had nowhere to go with a bench full of defenders and defensive midfielders. Those two transferless transfer windows paying dividends.
But it’s only half time. It’s only one nil. Son should be back for the away leg, which should make a difference, as long as he’s better than he was at the weekend. He’ll be rested this week at least. While Ajax won’t be as rested for the decider, their weekend league fixture was postponed while this weekend they have the Dutch cup final.
Spurs have been out of this competition so many times… one more escape…