Nov 1, 2017

Spurs show Real Madrid who's boss, assert themselves as European power

Tottenham Hotspur thoroughly outplayed Real Madrid, dismantling the reigning European champions 3-1 at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday night. It was a magnificent performance by Spurs, a "famous win" (Sky Sports) and "historic victory" (Guardian) whose result was never really in doubt. Even Zinedine Zidane acknowledged Spurs were superior in all aspects of this game. We told you Spurs were capable of this. Did you listen? No, you never listen and that's why this relationship is such a challenge.

We told you that Mauricio Pochettino needed his best player, Harry Kane, to start this match for his team to have a chance at victory. Kane did start, though he was noticeably compromised by the hamstring injury that kept him out of the weekend loss at Man United. It didn't matter. Compromised or not, Kane was able to stretch the Madrid defense, creating space for Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Tottenham's wingbacks. It was Kieran Tripper, a surprise starter on the right flank, who created the first goal by Alli with a pinpoint one-time cross. Indeed, Tripper owned the first half of this match on both ends of the pitch. Defensively his anticipation ended more than one Real Madrid attack.

In starting Trippier over Serge Aurier, Pochettino showed once again he is not afraid to use young (or not so young, in Trippier's case. Dude's already 27) English players over established international veterans on the big stage. Harry Winks also started again. While that is no longer a surprise at this point, Poch did have other options including Moussa Dembele at his disposal.

It was Winks who launched Trippier to set up the first goal. After a tentative start by both sides Tottenham started to establish themselves, growing in confidence in the early stages of the first half. Eriksen had a good early look at goal but his first touch deserted him. A few minutes later Winks lofted a pass behind Marcelo for Trippier to run onto. Trippier one-timed the ball into the six-yard box where Alli had split the Real Madrid centerbacks. 1-0 and Spurs never looked back. Alli got a second shortly after halftime and Real never really looked capable of fighting their way back. Tottenham's performance was that good.

This could be Spurs' transformative moment. It will reverberate around the world, says Bobby McMahon. There should now be no question Tottenham are now among Europe's elite teams, as Pochettino himself said afterwards. If the 1-1 draw in the first leg announced Tottenham's arrival as a contender on the continental stage, tonight's 3-1 victory drove the point home. This was timely, coming after a tough week of consecutive losses that saw Spurs lose the spot in our top 5 ranking. But it is clear now that this team belongs here. With the victory they are through to the knockout stage of the Champions League, and probably as the group winners. This sets Tottenham up for a potentially easier Round of 16 opponent than they might have drawn as runners-up. Not that that should matter. This win tonight will make teams throughout the continent take notice: Spurs can beat absolutely anybody.

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