The Santiago Bernabeu. One of the world’s most iconic football stadiums and home to European footballs most successful clubs: Real Madrid CF. Los Blancos hold a devastating home record in the UEFA Champions League and are undoubtedly the world’s best team in recent years having picked up three of the last four UCL titles as well as success on a domestic level. Their squad has been assembled with the third generation of President Perez’s ‘Galacticos’ who include some of the best players in the world in each position. So you might be excused for thinking this would be a daunting task considering our own lack of Champions League experience and the disappointing representation we gave of ourselves in last year’s competition. This Spurs side were about to defy expectations and lose their label of being a small team. This was our coming of age.
Despite the task ahead of us I was feeling surprisingly optimistic given who the opponents were. Our away form has been simply stunning in 2017 helped largely by mature, brave performances lead by Harry Kane and a team of rapidly developing players. Memories of Tuesday April 5th 2011 and that 4-0 drubbing the last time the two sides met did little to damage my hopes; this was a different Spurs side ready to show their worth, a stark contrast to the starry eyed boys looking up to the best in the world. Here we were about to go toe to toe the biggest club there is.
Straightaway from the kick off we played ‘The Spurs Way’ as Pochettino had promised in his pre-match interview, his confidence and belief heading into such a huge game was great to see as a fan so as a player they must of felt ten feet tall going into the match.
We got the ball down and played out from the back with confidence, Harry Winks looked incredibly calm and composed for a young player that only burst into the first team squad this time last season and two weeks ago made a dream come true by earning his first England cap and deservedly so. Jan Vertonghen put in a leaders style performance, shutting out the likes of Balon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and others with crunching tackles and firm but fair defending. Our record signing Davinson Sanchez has made a promising start to his Spurs career and last night was his biggest test, he certainly did not disappoint, showing incredible strength and composure against the usually free scoring Real Madrid who couldn’t find a way through in open play. Hugo Lloris or ‘Le Chat’ as I like to call him thanks to his cat like reflexes was unbelievable. Jumping onto Karim Benzema’s effort which looked a certain goal and ‘pawing’ over CR7’s blast towards the top corner. It’s been suggested that Lloris is error prone in big games but his performance was the best of any keeper Real must have faced in a long time; let’s just hope they keep their eyes on United’s De Gea! What about Moussa Sissoko?! The Frenchman who has been called out on numerous occasions by fans for not re-paying the clubs investment in him had their prayers answered as he produced his best showing in a Spurs shirt, superb.
Although Kane didn’t have much joy in front of goal, I was so pleased with his showing either side of the referee’s whistle. He flies the THFC flag better than anyone. The example he sets in terms of how he conducts himself is something every young player at the club and even England should be looking to follow. His respect for the fans at the final whistle, his balance of self-confidence and modesty. What I really liked was the fact that he didn’t over-celebrate our goal. This small act in itself shows the stature of club that we have become, most other teams would go berserk scoring at the Bernabeu but it was of no surprise to Kane, his professionalism and example must be so contagious for his teammates.
As the game wore on, those jitters usually only present during a north London derby grew present but thanks very possibly the best Spurs defending I’ve seen, patient build up play and a composed team showing we saw the game out sparking cries of ‘COYS!’ from each watching fan in Madrid and England at the final whistle.
This next month will be a ‘real’ test (pun intended) as we play Madrid at home, Man Utd away, Liverpool at home, West Ham at home in the cup and the first NLD of the season away at Arsenal. But with such an impressive showing against the world’s best we have no need to feel fear toward any team…….
The Future’s Bright, The Future’s LilyWhite, COYS!
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