The defeat didn’t hurt quite as much as I’d anticipated. Maybe I was half expecting it. Maybe it had been such a good day out, the result couldn’t spoil it. The frustrating thing was we started well, hitting the woodwork from Eriksen’s freekick. If that had gone in everything could have been so different.
Sunday had began full of promise. Spurs first final in six years (and the first one I’ve had a ticket to). Outside the ground on Wembley Way, the atmosphere was building. Spurs songs filled the air, Chelsea’s fans were surprisingly quiet.
Pochettino’s team selection made sense, all the key personnel were there – Lloris, Eriksen, Bentaleb, Kane. Dier got the nod over Fazio, a bold choice but one I wholeheartedly agreed with. The young defender did a good job of keeping the malevolent Diego Costa under wraps for most of the match.
Mourinho, left a conundrum by the absences of Matic and Mikel, picked defender Kurt Zouma to play an unfamiliar midfield role alongside the combative Ramires. The wily Portuguese, chastened by his side’s New Year’s day demolition, was showing Spurs a little more respect this time around.
It was clear from the start that Chelsea had come with a defensive game plan. Kane was afforded no space, not always entirely legally as his shirt was held on several occasions. There were some cynical fouls, particularly on Danny Rose, stopping Tottenham from launching counters. Zouma followed Eriksen around the pitch keeping him relatively quiet.
The whole Chelsea team were very compact, strangling the game. It was interesting to see the richly assembled league leaders pay this young Tottenham team so much respect, content to look for goals on the break and from set pieces.
The two areas where Chelsea pressed aggressively were with their front players – stopping us building attacks from the back and trying to coax an error out of our defenders – and on the wings where Townsend in particular often found himself trapped with nowhere to go. The England winger wasn’t very effective and it was no surprise when he was the first player Pochettino replaced.
Spurs had lots of possession but were struggling to break down obdurate opponents. Eriksen’s freekick was the closest we came. Frustratingly it thudded back off the bar.
It was noticeable from the start that we were struggling to defend Chelsea’s set pieces. There had already been a couple of hairy moments from corners and freekicks – both Terry and Ivanovic came close to breaking the deadlock.
The goal was to come from this source and crucially right on the stroke of halftime.
Willian swung in a freekick, Danny Rose headed it on when others were better placed to clear, and the ball fell at John Terry’s feet, yards from goal. The Chelsea captain’s shot deflected off the unfortunate Dier, giving Lloris no chance.
At the break the Spurs players trudged disconsolately off the pitch. What an awful time to concede.
Things got worse ten minutes after the interval. An unlucky deflection beat Lloris again, this time off Kyle Walker, after Costa had shot from a tight angle. I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to be our day.
The goal seemed to deflate Tottenham and for twenty minutes Chelsea were well on top. The players briefly lost their composure, we looked like a punch drunk fighter, almost on the canvas.
As on so many occasions this year, we revived for the last ten minutes. Unfortunately it was too little too late. Several times the ball flashed across the Chelsea box but there were no lucky deflections this time around. Harry Kane had one great chance after finally beating Cahill in the box but Terry slid in with a fantastic goal saving tackle.
The final whistle blew and the dream was over.
This final has to be seen as a massive positive for Spurs. We didn’t expect to be so close to winning silverware in Pochettino’s first season in charge. We had a fantastic day at Wembley and our young players got a taste of what these occasions are like. Hopefully that will spur them on to many more in the future.
What did you think of Spurs’ performance? Who was your man of the match? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.