Wednesday the 1st of November, 2017. This is a date that will live in infamy….for Real Madrid fans at least. It’s a little after 9.35pm, as up and down the country people are preparing to go to bed and Arsenal fans are sitting nervously in front of their televisions, speculating furiously amongst themselves as to how the latest episode of Emmerdale is going to end. In a small corner of North West London, a whistle is blown and with it, history has been made. Real Madrid, the back-to-back European Champions and world-renowned sore losers, have just been comfortably beaten 3-1 by the mighty Tottenham Hotspur. Not only does this represent their first Champions League group stage defeat in over 5 years but it is also the biggest losing margin that has been inflicted upon them in Europe, since 2008. It’s times like this that I sincerely regret ever moving to Australia in the first place. Not only because it's virtually impossible to watch the latest episodes of Emmerdale over here but mostly because I couldn’t join my Dad at Wembley on Wednesday night, to experience what can only be described as Tottenham’s greatest European night in recent history. If this were a schoolyard game of conkers, we would now rightfully have inherited the crown of European Champions. But alas, it is not....and we are not. But right now, it sure as hell feels like we are!
Ahead of kick-off, you would have been forgiven for wondering which Spurs were likely to show up on the evening, as our recent performances at Wembley had been about as erratic as a series of Donald Trump tweets. Would we see the Spurs that somehow squandered a two goal lead to lose to relegation threatened West Ham or would we be treated to the clinical Spurs that demolished title rivals Liverpool, 4-1? Needless to say, after the first 5-10 minutes, it was clearly going to be the latter. Boosted by the timely return of our talisman, Harry Kane, we set about Real Madrid with a tenacity and a hunger that I have rarely seen in a Tottenham team until today. Despite not getting on the score sheet, Kane was a constant thorn in the side of the Real Madrid defenders, bullying them in a way that was reminiscent of Didier Drogba in his prime....of course, without all the cheating. And the way that he pulled the likes of Sergio Ramos and Nacho from pillar to post, meant that he created plenty of space for Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen to exploit, which they clearly did to devastating effect. And thankfully for us, Dele Alli picked a very opportune moment to return to his scintillating best and as a result, I can guarantee that if he wasn't already on Florentino Perez's summer shopping list, he most certainly is now!
Aside from scoring our first two goals, it was actually Dele's movement and sheer dynamism that was the real joy to behold. He floated around the pitch, dipping in and out of moves at will, before ruthlessly putting Real Madrid to the sword when an opportunity came his way. It was the Dele Alli of old, the one we have all come to know and love. I have no idea where he has been all season but it is bloody brilliant to finally have him back. Equally impressive was his midfield partner in crime, Christian Eriksen, who not only worked his socks off but also scored our third and final goal to put the game to bed and end Real Madrid's European reign of terror, once and for all. And if you think about it, this result is even more impressive when you consider that we lost Toby Alderweireld to injury after 20 minutes and were forced to play the rest of the game with 10 men (he was replaced by Moussa Sissoko).
As a result, Poch was forced to reshuffle the formation and Eric Dier dropped back into defence with Jan Vertonghen, who were both excellent throughout. It also meant that Harry Winks was moved into a more withdrawn role, where he proceeded to boss the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and the vertically challenged Casemiro, who based on that performance, appears to go down easier and more regularly than Harvey Weinstein's PA. On the back of another faultless display, it's becoming very difficult to argue with Pochettino's recent assessment that Winks is the "perfect midfielder", as he made his star studded counterparts look distinctly ordinary for the entire 90 minutes that he was up against them. And whilst we are on the subject of perfect midfielders, it was also great to see the one man wrecking ball, Mousa Dembele come off the bench late on and fulfil every true football fans dream, of kicking Sergio Ramos in the nuts....and getting away with it!
So there you have it. This was another counter attacking master-class from Mauricio Pochettino, similar to the ones we put on against Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool earlier in the season. And it is great to see that both the players and the boss appear to have learnt from the European mistakes of last year and I think it's fair to say that this game very much represented our Champions League coming of age. The same could also be said of Poch, who similar to Harry Kane, has finally made that leap from "elite" to "world class" during the course of this season.....even if he is yet to win a Carabao Cup! And this is why it is imperative that we keep him at the club, for as long as is humanly possible. Even if Daniel Levy has to keep buying him Bentley's, it will be worth it in the long run. So long as he doesn't buy him David Bentley...that is certainly something we could all do without right now.
And that is why it was so funny to watch the face of Florentino Perez as each and every goal went in against his so called Galacticos. You could just see him sitting there, calculator in hand, looking more and more forlorn as it started to dawn on him that no amount of ill-gotten government subsidies would be enough to prise Pochettino, Kane, Eriksen and Dele away from Spurs this summer! At this rate he would be lucky just to get Sissoko. And of course, it wouldn't be a Madrid defeat without Cristiano Ronaldo throwing a tantrum, and he duly obliged immediately after the game, defying the pundits and the stats alike by declaring that Spurs were lucky. But to be fair, I actually think he had a point....we were lucky. We were lucky in the respect that we had dominated Real so convincingly that we could afford to take Harry Kane off with 11 minutes to go, in order to keep him fresh for an even bigger game against Crystal Palace at the weekend! First world problems, eh? I suppose the only downside to such a monumental result, is the fact that this probably signals the end to our lucrative and equitable "special relationship" with the reigning European Champions. However, with Daniel Levy being the master negotiator that he is, I am sure that we can thrash out a new, improved agreement that will be better suited to all parties. Just off the top of my head, maybe if Real Madrid can promise to stop tapping up our players on a yearly basis, we will promise to stop embarrassing them on the world stage? COYS