If you’re a couple drinks in by the time you read this article (or, since this will probably be scheduled for Thursday morning, suffering through the hangover), I’d understand. Tottenham Hotspur went into a must-win Champions League match at PSV Eindhoven and somehow managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory, going down a man thanks to a Hugo Lloris red card and conceding late to draw 2-2.
It’s a hugely frustrating result that all but quashes Spurs’ hopes of escaping out of their group, and continues the pervading narrative that Spurs are a weak-minded team that can’t get it done on the world’s biggest stage. Which is hogwash, but who am I to stand in the way of a Europe-wide media driven narrative?
There are a few things we can take from this result, disappointing as it may be. Here are three things we learned from Spurs’ draw with the Peasants (yes, we couldn’t even beat a group of Peasants).
1. Spurs got football’d and it sucks
It’s fair to say that Tottenham’s result in Eindhoven was self-inflicted. Spurs were quite clearly the better side against PSV in this match, and you could also say that, result aside, that was one of the best performances Spurs have had all season.
Despite 67% possession and a 22-11 edge in shots (14-3 on target), Spurs were undone by two moments of madness. First, there was an uncharacteristic defensive mistake from Toby Alderweireld that gifted a goal to PSV’s Chucky Lozano, though it’s worth noting that Alderweireld very nearly recovered to make an amazing save on that play. Then, Hugo Lloris’ decision to rush out to contest a ball, only to find himself sent off for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. (And, you can certainly argue that it was the right call — a good decision, but terrible execution by Spurs’ captain.) The mismatch eventually led to the inevitable late concession, and a demoralizing draw.
That, of course, has sparked the usual bleatings of “THAT’S SO SPURSY” from the online soccerati, and this time they’re not wrong. Spurs dominated this match and came away with dropped points in a match they absolutely had to win. It’s enough for Spurs fans to tear their hair out, if they have any left.
And yet, if not for an absolutely inexplicable refereeing decision to disallow a perfectly good goal, Spurs would’ve won that match. After Davinson Sanchez fired the ball into the net, Slovenian official Slavko Vinčič (or, more specifically, his linesman) somehow decided that Harry Kane was either a) offside (he wasn’t) or b) interfering with play (he TOTALLY wasn’t). Wishes and horses, of course, but it’s a bitter pill for Spurs fans to swallow, especially after Tottenham deserved the three points in the Netherlands.
Despite the incompetent refereeing, Spurs had their chances to put the game away and didn’t — Christian Eriksen forced a great save from Zoet, and Harry Kane had a number of good chances that were either saved or maddeningly just off target. That’s football, but it’s small comfort to the Tottenham players who deserved better. If you want to hang your hat on something positive, it’s this: Spurs won’t lose very often if they continue to play the way they did on Wednesday in Eindhoven.
2. Spurs are much, much better with Christian Eriksen
The old adage says you never know how much you miss someone until they’re gone. As Spurs fans, this match made us realize just how much we have missed Christian Eriksen in Tottenham’s midfield. Spurs have plodded their way to wins over Huddersfield and Cardiff since he went down with an unknown abdominal injury a few weeks ago, but have looked decidedly devoid of panache without the creativity provided by Eriksen and Dele Alli. Even before he went down, we’ve been talking about how Christian just hasn’t looked like himself, with breathless exhortations about a “World Cup hangover” online and elsewhere.
No more. In Eriksen’s first start since returning from injury, he was outstanding, buzzing around the pitch and doing all the things we remember him being good at last season.
His dashboard doesn’t really tell the full story of his influence — he had one chance created and one assist, but was involved in just about every good thing Spurs did in this match. He had the “Modric assist” in Spurs’ first goal, splitting PSV’s back line and finding a streaking Kieran Trippier on the left side of PSV’s box, and his pass to Kane’s head in the second half was a thing of beauty.
After a series of gritty, ugly results, it was nice to see Spurs play beautiful football again, and Eriksen was a big reason why they were so good. If Spurs can also welcome Dele back sometime soon, it might make Spurs fans quickly forget about this result.
3. Spurs’ Champions League campaign is all but finished
In a tournament like the Champions League you simply can’t pick up one point in your first three matches and expect to get out of your group. But that’s the position Spurs find themselves after Wednesday’s draw. Remarkably, Spurs are still alive in the league, but their ambitions are very much on life support.
It’s not all in Spurs’ hands, though. Tottenham need to win their next two matches — home to PSV, home to Inter — and then hope and pray that Barcelona have already wrapped up first place and can rest their starters by the time Spurs travel to the Nou Camp on December 11. Winning out might... MIGHT... be enough to allow them to slip past Inter, who lost to Barcelona on Wednesday. But there’s no more room for error now, and any more dropped points could mean parachuting down to the Europa League, or — heaven forfend! — dropping out of Europe altogether. We can argue whether or not that’s a good thing later.