Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Spurs Ready for Champions League?

If Spurs really want to play in the Champions League next season, they could well learn how to sort out their silly mistakes first. Silly mistakes like failing to finish off lesser opponents and silly mistakes like the one Lee Young Pyo committed last night. Crazy moments like these would be exploited thoroughly by big teams like Barcelona and AC Milan. And Man Utd really gave Spurs a footballing lesson last night, a sort of welcome game for what to expect in the Champions League if Spurs actually qualify.

Spurs started off furiously with a host of chances as Keane, Defoe and Dawson took chances to miss. Defoe was agonizing close with a skewed effort that Lennon did so well to set up, missing the goal by a whisker. Dawson the ever improving centre back showed why he isn't a striker when he failed to convert two golden opportunities from the well taken freekicks by Carrick.

After 20 mins of adventurous play, the home side fell apart and became victims of their poor conversion. Efficient interplay by Van Nisterooy, Ronaldo and Rooney saw Man Utd at their counter attacking best, slicing apart the spurs defence with neat passes that resulted in Rooney's goal.

What was a setback became a foregone conclusion when Lee, instead of choosing the safe option of driving the ball out for a throw, decided to whack an innocuous ball into the legs of his compatriot Park Ji Sung. The rebound gave Lee another opportunity to clear it to safety but he decided that he should show some trickery to beat his fellow countryman. And when he could not, chose instead to run the ball around him through the face of goal. Of course, Park grabbed the opportunity with both hands by dispossessing Lee and handing the ball on a silver platter for Rooney to slam home.

Such clownish schoolboy error was thought to be evident in Secondary school matches but Lee, who is a professional, chose to throw that status to the bin by trying out a few amateurish moves. Any footballer worth his grain of salt would tell you that dribbling across the face of goal would result in the lost of possession, a goal or both. And in instances when you play a world class team, there is really no chance to amend this horrendous mistake. Lee knows it and his face was writ with disgust when he realized his moment of folly.

Such horrendous mistakes could be career threatening errors as managers are usually intolerant of such especially when the team is challenging for honours or a European spot. Whether Lee would continue to don the colours of a Spurs jersey remains to be seen.

What Spurs lacked last night was a consistent gameplan. They could only sustain their attack for 20 mins before deflating faster than a balloon. To make matters worse, their inability to keep out these simple goals are undermining their reason to be taken seriously as a good team. If Spurs can't kill off simple teams, take their chances as it comes and keep making mistakes, how are they going to compete against the very best of Europe?

Chances infront of goal are a premium against world class teams like Man Utd. Though Defoe and Keane are widely regarded as world class strikers, it seems that they lack that special something to deliver when it really matters. A host of chances went begging for Spurs last night and if at least one of the efforts had went in, it would have been a different ball game altogether.

Still, Spurs is a young team in transition. To demand so much from a team that just one season ago was wallowing in mediocrity is quite unrealistic. Kudos to Martin Jol for assembling a side that can now display a sense of attacking football against the likes of Man Utd. The Spurs of the old would have sat back and rolled over but not this team. Their adventurous play and high tempo football(albeit unsustainable), was a joy to watch and it comes with experience to tuck these little chances away. Opportunism comes with experience and if this team can stick together and play, there is no reason why this attribute won't come eventually.

The foundation is already there. A little more games and a few more experience signings could do the trick to totally transform Spurs into a world class team. But for now lets stick to taking a baby step into Europe with a UEFA cup slot first. An easier welcome would do wonders for a side that has been out in the abyss for so long.

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