'Cor bloody hell, we scraped out of that one, didn't we?! 2-2 and I left happy (reasonably) in what felt like midsummer sunshine.
On a hot hot day with an early kick-off the atmosphere built up very nicely in the ground. All the build-up on Five Live was talking about uncertainty at Arsehole with David Dein's departure, the fact we've only beaten them once in all competition in something like twenty-five attempts, etc, etc, etc. I was half confident, half not. Bit like the trip to The Emirates in the Premiership earlier this year, and look what happened there.....
Hearing the Arsehole line-up it sounded like they'd be playing five across the middle. Mmmmm..... wasn't sure I liked the sound of that. I had terrible visions of us being overrun in the middle. And Rocha at left back..... ouch! Well, gotta be better than Chimbonda playing there! But never mind, with Keano and Berbatov playing up front I had every faith we could cause them problems. I was equally certain we would not be keeping a clean sheet!
As the first half swung into action we played pretty well. For the first ten or fifteen minutes Arsehole went at Rocha and he got caught a number of times too close to our centre-half pairing. Not surprising really since he's a centre half! An early-ish scare with Arsehole netteing (Adebayor I think) but ruled (quite rightly) offside. We played reasonably well, but there was something of a lack of decent link-up play through the middle. My earlier fears of seeing Arsehole overrun us in that area didn't materialise either.
With the half wearing on what was most noticeable for me about Arsehole was that they were adopting a very different approach to that which we've become used to of late. Not many - if any - really quick breaks. A much more measured and patient passing approach. For our boys, well, I was pleased with the effort - Zokora making his marauding runs much earlier in the game than he often does and Tainio biting where needed to help keep the midfield on an even keel.
And then it came..... Keane almost on the goal line redirects Dawson's (I think) header past Lehmann. 1-0! Yeeeeeeeeeesssss! Get in! There aren't many feelings as good as taking the lead against the Arsehole. Maybe taking the lead at their gaff, but not many! With about fifteen minutes left in the first half we got a bit more sure of ourselves, and despite a couple of decent Arsehole attacks, we went in a goal up. Come on!
Now don't get me wrong, we didn't have it all our own way. They came close a couple of times, most notably when hitting the foot of the post and with the ball coming straight back out to Adebayor (I think) he smashed it over. A close shave. But all-in-all we played well, and could feel pretty satisfied with the lead.
Half-time entertainment this week was seeing Allan Nielsen, Les Ferdinand, and that true White Hart Lane legend Steffen Freund introduced onto the pitch. The biggest cheer was, of course, for Freund. I always loved him when he played for us. Never ever gave anything less than his all and while we'd never claim he was a technically brilliant player, or that he could compare with Roy Keane or that w&%£$r Viera, we loved him. He never scored for Spurs of course. Remember him coming close a couple of times, but never scored, and he quipped about the fact that Zokora seemed to be following in those footsteps with some of his first half efforts! The cries of "I love Steffen Freund, Steffen Freund loves me!" reverberated around the ground!
Onto the second half and after being pretty steadfast for the first five to ten minutes it all began to go pear shaped. We conceded possession too easily, we failed to win a host of challenges, and overall we let Arsehole dictate the pace of the game. The Arsehole's measured passing approach gave way to much faster movement and we struggled to keep up. We really did.
The amount of pressure that Arsehole applied was going to tell eventually and after hitting the woodwork a couple more times they equalised, took control of the game, and then took the lead. Bugger. All of a sudden the Arsehole contingent had found their voices and this was beginning to look ominous for us.
Our biggest problem was that when we were in possession we made it look remarkably easy to give the ball away cheaply, yet when Arsehole had it I counted just one pass they made in the second half that went straight to one of our boys. OK, they misplaced a couple of passes out of play, but they kept possession pretty comfortably, and they were moving forward much more quickly in the second half than the first.
It was fortunate for us, I think, that they weren't particularly incisive. One particular effort - a header if I recall from bloody Adebayor again - that should've made it 3-1 didn't look like it was going to cost them.
With our subs making minimal impact it looked like we were destined to take nothing out of the game we looked so comfortable leading in the first half. With four minutes held up as injury time my fingers were crossed, but I wasn't holding out much hope. More, however, than all those hundreds (maybe thousands) of supporters who had already left. Then, a moment of sheer magic. Ball drops to Jenas twenty-five yards out with pretty much all four minutes of time played. He hits it, I'm standing right behind the line of the shot, its past the defenders, Lehmann's diving but can't reach it, and it nestles in the bottom of the net.....
2-2! The most unlikely of comebacks but we'd scavenged a point with virtually the last touch of the game. Come on! That one point could go a long long way towards helping us back into Europe next season, but we've got a lot to do. The other results went OK'ish for us today, but Pompey could leapfrog us tomorrow. We've got a lot to do!
So, what did I really think about the game? Well, first, let me say that Wenger is a tit for saying they should've scored five and won handsomely. Not that I'm bitter!
Second, let me say that I think we were very very lucky. The second half performance was gutless in a game of this magnitude. And I mean gutless. I was embarrassed. Our lack of ability to keep possession coupled with the Arsehole's proficiency in doing so looked like it was going to cost us. It didn't, but it should have.
Third I thought Jenas was rubbish today. His passing wasn't good, and his tackling didn't get near enough, often enough. It was a surprise to me that he stayed on for as long as he did given Huddlestone was thrown on, but ultimately, I'm delighted he did! I really wish he could rediscover his truly best form. I honestly think he has it in him to take a game by the scruff of the neck and partnered with Tainio and Zokora, that triumverate should be helping us dominate the middle of the park.
Fourth, I thought Berbatov got seriously frustrated with the quality around him today. So many times he was pleading with the boys to get up in support of him to play a higher line. He probably won 50% of the balls pumped forward to him, and almost every time none of our boys took the gamble to put themselves in the space where the ball would fall.
Fifth, I was really disappointed with Lennon. I think the length of the season has got to him now. Chimbonda also didn't have his usual sparkling game, but I was very pleased with the progress that King has made in his comeback. That bodes well for us. King and Dawson in the middle of the defence is a different story altogether to any other partnership.
So, there we have it. 2-2. A point gained, but a whole load of work still to do. The boys have really got to pick themselves up and realise that we have it all to play for still if we're to qualify for the UEFA Cup again. I hope they can get it together. We have a week off. Four wins out of four and I reckon we'll be there. But its a tall order. I hope their desire is as great as mine.