What a game!
This was a deeply emotional, experience. A glimpse of what Wembley can be if it’s full of 90,000 crazily happy people. One of my favourite games ever, certainly my favourite at our temporary home.
I took my dad, who hadn’t been to a match since a rare Soldado goal against Cardiff three seasons ago. He remembers going to games in the 60’s – one where Greaves and Blanchflower came back from a goal down to defeat the United of Law, Best and Charlton – but even he’d never seen us beat Real Madrid, probably the grandest name in football.
And what a game. This was no lucky Mourinho 1-0, no backs to the wall gritty victory. Much like our win over Dortmund it was glorious end to end stuff.
We played the perfect tactical game against the reigning European Champions – a team of Galacticos, entertainers, whose first instinct is to pour forward.
Our defence was immense even after losing Alderweireld and the consequent reorganisation. Vertonghen and Dier were imperious. Sanchez always seemed to be in the right place to clear the ball.
One standout memory is of Ronaldo trying to bamboozle with his step-overs, while Jan just patiently waited then took the ball off him. It reminded me of that moment in Indiana Jones where the bad guy shows off by juggling his sword around, then Harrison Ford calmly pulls out his gun and shoots him.
Real left so much space to break into and this was perfectly exploited by Dele Alli. He is the kind of player who tries things others wouldn’t. It can be frustrating, he gives the ball a lot, but often he’s the key to unlocking the opposition.
Even Sissoko played an important part in our counter-attacks. The much maligned midfielder appeared to be playing as a wide receiver – running down the pitch to collect long lofted passes, then laying the ball off to his more technical teammates.
Winks was the key to getting the ball out of defence quickly, looking so experienced despite his youth. Kane worked his socks off, bullying the Madrid backline.
At right back Trippier was a thorn in Madrid’s side. One criticism of him is his reticence to get forward but here he looked a different player. No better displayed than when he broke into the box, pushing aside the despairing challenges of two Madrid defenders.
At one point, three goals up, Spurs were passing the ball around with ease, the crowd ironically shouting “ole” at the Spanish champions. Real seemed to have given up.
Zidane made a couple of substitutions to change that.
There were still scary moments. Playing against a team with such attacking riches, there always will be. Out wide Real got behind our defence with too much ease and there were some heart stopping goal mouth scrambles. When Ronaldo drove the ball home with ten minutes still on the clock I was extremely nervous. Those ten minutes lasted an age.
But we won and we are through from a group many thought would be too much for us.
Pochettino deserves a lot of credit. Long criticised for his lack of a plan B, here, and against Klopp’s Liverpool ten days earlier, he came up with the perfect strategy to beat a team that likes to come forward but leaves space at the back.
People complain that we haven’t won trophies, and I agree, that would be nice. But football isn’t just about silverware, it’s about memories, about moments. This game will live long in the memory.