The lights went out at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium as Spurs played out their final group game in the Europa League losing 1-0 to Besiktas which ended their unbeaten group run.
But unlike the blind character Audrey Hepburn played in “Wait Until Dark” the Spurs players stumbled around the particularly woeful playing surface, so like that character it really didn’t look as if it would make any difference if the lights were on or off.
It was a dead rubber to some extent, both teams having already qualified, it was just down to who would top the group. Don’t lose and it’s Spurs who avoid all the drop-outs from the Champions League. They lost and so with an inevitable predictability there’s a very good chance their name will be drawn out of the hat along with Zenit St Petersburg managed by one Andre Villas-Boas.
After an initial awkward moment when Chirches got caught up trying to play football – something Clarke Carlisle commentating particularly didn’t like to see, well when you’re football career boils down to a couple of appearances on Countdown, playing football is well not part of the repertoire – Spurs created the best chance before the first break in play.
Lovely ball from Dembele – who according to others Les Ferdinand said was told he would be the next target for Real Madrid – to Chadli who put a cross just over Soldado’s head. Soldado obviously to blame for taking the wrong path. Of course if Soldado had taken the “correct” path the cross would have gone where he actually went.
Then the lights went out and some were entertained by the wit and wisdom of Les Ferdinand and the ITV panel. Well it could have been worse it could have been Dim himself, not just his “yes boss” sidekick. Personally the mute button was immediately pressed.
Though not before hearing the likes of Dembele have been usurped by the likes of Bentaleb. Never mind telling the Belgian that Madrid could be after him, point this out to him, Bentaleb, you’d think that would be motivation enough. This was the last real nothing game to let those on the fringes show they have a future before the window opens. Nobody really grabbed the opportunity.
Dembele did his usual stuff of gliding about, handing off players and such but didn’t really dominate. Yes the pitch wasn’t helpful and yes I’d rather Bentaleb was sold.
One player who showed exactly why he should be shown the door was Townsend. Another awful display from a player who has regressed game by game. And game by game he does the same useless things that don’t work and never learns. Naturally his only decent contributions came at the wrong time. He pit a couple of decent crosses over after he’d been moved to the left but this came after Soldado had been substituted.
Again Pochettino’s changes were head scratchers. Yes the introduction of Lennon was bleeding obvious but bringing off Soldado when a goal was required, meaning there was no real striker on the pitch, was bizarre.
Yes Soldado had missed a couple of chances, or they had been saved, depends on how you view the player but this was stupid. And so Townsend’s decent crosses were met with an empty area.
It was also a game for those returning from injury. Danny Rose at left-back gives Poch another player to disrupt a stable back four as does Walker on the right. Apparently he’s the missing link to Poch’s system. Could well be but how many are holding out real hope? First up it’s Spurs and a player with an injury that was going to be a couple of weeks but turned into best part of a year, how long before he picks up some niggle?
Then there is those that think his attacking play is great. But in reality it wasn’t as good as they think – players do seem to get better when they don’t play for Spurs. His insistence on stopping the ball and rolling it with the bottom of his foot nearly always gives the defender time to get back and slows down attacks. There’s generally a headless chicken approach and well then there’s the defending.
Walker has said that the long break hs given him time to work on his defending. Does this mean he’s actually start trying to defend with his feet and not his arms? Will he be able to get the right side of the attacking player? Two things that meant he was a defensive liability before, like so many English defenders who just rely on their quick pace.
Well it didn’t take long, just under an hour into his comeback, for a goal to come from him being non-existent as a defender. From a corner on the left a ball played over to the right saw Townsend run out of the box to nowhere leaving Sahan all alone to take the ball and cross to Tosun with Walker looking around completely befuddled.
Spurs had had most of the game and could have got back into things but the substitutions really seemed to put an end to any real hope. It was a confused muddle before hand but it was worse now. So when just before the end when the lights went out for the second time it seemed an ideal time for the ref to just say “that’s enough lads”.
Apparently they came back out and finished it off…