It wasn't our best performance, but it sure was fun, wasn't it?
Tottenham Hotspur and FC Twente played the most entertaining tie of Tuesday's Champions League fixtures beyond any shadow of a doubt. It had every kind of goal that the neutral fan could ask for, Spurs got the result that they needed to finish on top of Group A, and Twente got the point they needed to qualify for the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League. All three sets of fans - Spurs, Twente, and neutral - got exactly what they wanted out of the match. Spurs and Twente finished in the best places possible while the neutrals got a back and forth goalfest.
The scoring was opened on possibly the worst howler I've ever seen in my life. Defender Peter Wisgerhof was credited with the own goal, but the real credit goes about 25% to a bumpy pitch and 75% to goalkeeper Sander Boschker. The 40 year old club legend was making his Champions League debut, and it was painful to watch a veteran player with over 500 matches played for his club and a trip to the 2010 World Cup botch his debut so badly. Wisgerhof played a back pass to Boschker which should have been cleared away easily, but the ball hit a bump on the field, the veteran keeper whiffed completely, and ball drifted into the back of the net. It was an unfortunate bounce...but trap the ball, dude. Spurs were up 1-0 through great fortune, but it didn't last long.
It took only 10 minutes for Twente to find an equalizer through a penalty kick. Benoit Assou-Ekotto was called for a handball in the box on a decision that I would call 50-50. The announcers made it clear that they believed BAE was turning away from the ball and made no effort to actually play the ball with his arm. However, Assou-Ekotto did raise his arm, the ball did hit his elbow, and the shot had a decent chance of making it on target had it not hit his arm. Denny Landzaat stepped up, and despite some shenanigans that forced him into taking the penalty twice, he would eventually convert. The penalty probably should have been dealt with by Gomes, but it's always hard to criticize a keeper for missing a penalty kick.
Things would go quiet for a while, just before 20 minutes of insanity. Four goals came between the 47th and 64th minutes, all of fantastic quality. Jermain Defoe scored two classic Defoe goals set up by Gareth Bale and Wilson Palacios, respectably. Twente's goals came through a great header by Roberto Rosales and an equally stunning free kick by Nacer Chadli. Spurs took the lead three times and Twente equalized three times. Awesome stuff for the neutrals.
So, our defense kind of sucked in this one. Oh well. I'm not that concerned. Two of the goals were brilliant, one was kind of lucky, and the team regularly plays like this when they feel like they should win. Based on our games against Arsenal and Liverpool, I don't think there's any reason to believe that we won't be up for a game against Chelsea. This was good clean fun and not indicative of our defense's ability. Nothing to see here, move along.
Hey, did I say that we won our group? BECAUSE WE WON OUR GROUP! Pretty sweet, huh? I think we're pretty lucky that Rafa Benitez is a crazy person and Werder had a total meltdown, but first place is first place is first place. We are awesome, you are not, na na na na boo boo.
Here's the thing I don't like about finishing first: We'll probably be favorites against the team we draw. Even against Valencia or Roma, we'll be slight favorites. At the end of last year and in the beginning of this year, we have been better against great teams. We need to have our backs against the wall or be considered underdogs to play well, for some reason. Hopefully Harry can convince the boys that they're still serious underdogs against a struggling Chelsea team on Sunday, and hopefully he can do the same if we draw someone like Valencia, Roma, etc.
Know Your Opponent with Graham MacAree of We Ain't Got No History is coming your way shortly, so check back later today.