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A Season's End

Tottenham 0 - 0 AC Milan: A disappointed Lilywhite's appraisal of the match

By Matthew CurtisPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 4 min read
Credit: Richard Pelham / The Sun

What are some of the things that can go wrong in a football match? Well, why don't we just consult the encyclopedia we were able to build from those 96 minutes? Poor standard of football - check. Slow, ineffective tactics - check. No goals - check. Red card - check. Elimination - check. Outraged fans - check. It had everything apart from an injury, but lets wait to see if Romero's foolish assault got him a two-for-one? It was one of those games. The kind where I'm wondering what I show up for, wondering why the sport looks and feels so bad and then I realise its because I've been demoralised to the extent that I now only tune in to watch the Tottenham echo-chamber out of loyalty.

Bizarrely, some of the building antipathy for the season had decreased from the defeat at Wolves. The team had energy, the fans had their voice, but for all their will, they could not manage a way. So many times, balls that should have gone forward went backwards, and when the ball went backwards the forwards dropped 4 or 5 yards deeper. Son, a player who's ascendancy to one of the greatest attacking threats of Premier League football has relied mightily on his expert and instinctive prowling of the defensive line, was only getting a kick of a ball near the centre circle. Deki, notorious for his centre of gravity, his drop of the shoulder, his weaving and jinking, ran head-first into wall after wall. It was all so off. Off-brand. The players weren't playing like themselves.

Everything was disconnected. Every move ended after the third or fourth pass. It were as though the opening whistle had been blown 70 minutes into a dogged performance. Milan looked sharper, more confident and much, much more comfortable. They had a spring in their step, cohesion to their play and an idea that translated to all eyes watching. Our legs were heavy, our crosses repeatedly sailed out of play and everywhere you looked white shirts were shaking their heads, shrugging their shoulders or raising an arm in apology. Davies was caught on camera barking orders at his team-mates. He made his hand into a mouth. Talk, he begged, as yet another simple gather had gone out of play due to confusion and collision.

The team were booed off at half-time. Not for being 7-0 down like certain other clubs, but for playing like it. Conte asks us for patience, for unity and for continued support. For now, he has it, at least where I'm concerned, but others will not be so generous. Halves of football like that do not help his cause. The team must be able to, at the very least, bring a concept to the table, an operation of play, the conclusion to the proposal - how to put the ball in the net - a thing in which we can place our belief.

That thing turned out to be Pedro Porro. His introduction in the 50th minute - a surprisingly early move given Conte and Stellini's recent reluctance to make changes until late in the game - brought Tottenham to life. He made two of the best passes on the night, finding Son with a precise, cross-field ball and picking out Kane with one of our only accurate crosses and one befitting of the number 23. His energy on the right also brought the best out of Kulusevski, who found himself more involved and growing in confidence with every pass, flick and link-up with our newest recruit.

In the second half, Spurs played the game pressed higher up the pitch. They hunted in packs, spread the ball quicker and mazed about the pitch with more imagination. Milan, resultingly had their own sights at goal, and on two occasions really should have made the breakthrough. But I prefer this version of Spurs; one that wants to play, to take the game by the scruff of the neck, one willing to leave the back door open as they knock hard on the front. Yet, just as Tottenham's potential to find their much needed goal peaked, Cristian Romero received his marching orders for a tardy version of one of his trademark tow-the-line tackles. His sending off could not have come at a worse time and the Argentinian now must acknowledge that he has let the club down in a pivotal moment, more so than any other individual at the club.

Down to ten men, Tottenham had fewer options and retreated back into their cosy shell of incompetence. To compound the misery, in response to Romero's dismissal, Conte made a decision that prompted all four corners of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to sound their distaste and derision; Kulusevski being hooked for Davinson Sanchez. The last time that happened a manager lost his job. If you're already in a losing position, if you desperately need a goal, if your season hinges on the impending result, you do anything but what Conte chose to do. After that change was made, Spurs had one less option going forward against a team with the greater number. Milan, convenienced again, bathed healthily as the match devolved into its first half form; that of tentative, sluggish malaise.

Kane's late header was the best and only moment we produced that resulted in a save. AC Milan ought to have scored, but they will have no regrets. They have cruised through to the Quarter-Finals and Tottenham with the season on the line have been found wanting. In truth, a month ago, this was not the one we looked towards with expectancy. This one only stings with increased potency as a result of the festering wound opened at Sheffield. Top four is still achievable, but is not something desirable. Just think, all that effort last season to get into the Champions League, just to have this tie, this night.

So what is worth the effort of showing up for now that we're out of every cup? How will the team motivate themselves to take to the pitch in the Premier League? What's left to play for? Everyone at Tottenham, for me personally, is now in the status of 'currently singing for their supper'. Nothing short of a Summer of ruthlessness is required.

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About the Creator

Matthew Curtis

Queen Margaret University graduate (Theatre and Film studies).

Currently trying to write a book.

Lilywhite, Pokemon master, time-lord, vampire with a soul, Virgo.

Likes space and dinosaurs. And Binturongs. I'm very cool.

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    Matthew CurtisWritten by Matthew Curtis

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