Tottenham 3-0 Inter Milan: A Spurs Supporter's Reaction to Perfect Victory
I will freely admit it: When Andre Villas-Boas made clear his intentions to chase the Europa League at the beginning of the season, I was skeptical.
It wasn't that I thought the competition held no merit, like others have suggested. It wasn't that I didn't think that Spurs had the ability to achieve European glory.
It was the glaring figure of Atletico Madrid, the Spanish club that put so much into winning the Europa League last May that they finished fifth in La Liga and out of the Champions League spots, all despite having enough quality to trounce the reigning European champions 4-1 in August.
It was the heart-breaking manner in which Tottenham missed out on the Champions League last season, jumping out to a huge lead in the race for fourth, collapsing halfway through and righting the ship to finish fourth before one penalty kick in a competition they had no say in destroyed their dreams.
It was the injuries that so ravaged the back four last season, a key factor in the side's late-season woes.
It was just how imperative Champions League football is for this side going forward, with many great players' careers at White Hart Lane hanging on the club's Premier League finish.
Of course, there were many pros to these cons, such as the European experience that the Europa League can bring and the opportunity for some awesome nights.
However, I was still slightly worried.
As reasoned as my feelings were back then, it's hard not to laugh at how silly they seem in retrospect.
Now several months later, Tottenham sit third in the Premier League, a comfortable seven-point cushion shielding them from fifth-placed Arsenal, and continue to press on in the Europa League.
While the side is on one of the best runs they have had in the Premier League in recent time, they have also established themselves as Europa League favorites with a remarkable 3-0 victory over Inter Milan Thursday in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie.
Rather than a detriment to the Spurs' ambitions, the Europa League is proving to be an incredible boost.
Tottenham's experiences in their Round of 32 tie with Lyon, where they played average football and still pulled off the tie with three wonder-goals and scored the winner at the death, have instilled the sort of confidence in this side that can prove vital going forward into bigger challenges.
Meanwhile, players like Gareth Bale are using the competition as a platform to prove themselves on the European stage and help their league form.
For evidence of the effect the Europa League is having on this side, one need look no further than Thursday's awesome win against Inter Milan.
Yes, it was a 3-0 victory that all but assures safe progress to the quarterfinals and gives Spurs yet another victory over the three-time European champions.
If one can look past the result for a second, though, they can see just what this did for this side.
Jermain Defoe, just returning from injury, got a good chance to run out and contribute for a full 90 minutes. Sure, he could have done better, but for a player fresh off injury, these minutes were vital.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, whose career at White Hart Lane started with some mighty struggles, put in yet another great performance, setting up Bale for the first goal and slotting home the second. Easily one of the Icelander's best performances in a Tottenham shirt and one he will hopefully keep with him going forward.
Most importantly, though, Scott Parker had what was probably his best performance in a year. The England international missed the first few months of the season due to surgery and came back a little out of rhythm. While his performances have been getting better of late, this is one performance that can catapult Parker back to his best.
With all of these performances coming on a European stage, they are sure to inspire the players through the season's run-in and beyond.
A former Europa League winner himself with Porto, Villas-Boas surely must have known the benefits of the competition and that he had the squad to pull off a run. One can only hope that the competition's detractors and those looking for it to become defunct are paying attention to Tottenham's run and taking note of the league's benefits.
Meanwhile, for Spurs, a result at Liverpool in their Premier League encounter Sunday will go a long way in validating their Champions League credentials.
For now, though, let's just revel in this perfect win.
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