The European champions torn apart. Gareth Bale establishing himself as Europe’s form player with two magnificent assists down the left to follow his hat-trick in the 4-3 defeat at the San Siro a fortnight ago.
Bloody incredible. Why spend all that money and angst on Wayne Rooney when glorious Gareth is about? The only problem? The boy was born in Cardiff not London.
On Twitter, lifelong Arsenal fans were kicking themselves. Spurs have never been a particularly likeable side—I remember Steve Stammers of the Evening Standard saying the “Yids” were complaining on the terraces even during the double-winning year of 1961—but everywhere you looked last night, praise was pouring forth.
Younes Kaboul held together the struggling back four despite a magnificent goal from Samuel Eto’o, the master Barcelona stupidly swapped for Zlatan Ibrahimovich and a few million.
Carlo Cudicini, in for the suspended Heurhelho Gomes, pulled off a stunning save from Wesley Sneijder’s free-kick just before half-time.
At 1-0, scorer Rafael van der Vaart was taken off injured during halftime. But Spurs remained unruffled. Aaron Lennon stormed down the right. Tom Huddlestone sprayed the ball about in the centre of midfield. Even William Gallas got his old legs going. Benoit Assou-Ekotto did his bit at full-back behind Bale, though Scotsman Alan Hutton looked to be the weakest link.
It was a night to savour. Tottenham's finest in fifty years in this their first season back in Europe. Even a died-in-the-wool Gooner has to confess: The White Hart Pain fans were magnificent too.
How has this happened? How has the team we all love to hate reached such a peak? It’s down to HR. That’s Harry Redknapp, not Human Resources.
He took over when Juande Ramos had taken Spurs to rock-bottom and they haven’t looked back. In two short years they have gone from strength to strength—in style. Portsmouth fans may point out that his departure led to their club's demise, but forget all that. Redknapp is a genius. And an entertaining, informative, comedic genius at that. Ask anybody who has attended his press conferences. Laugh-a-minute. But to-the-point.
Signings like Kaboul, Cudicini, Jermain Defoe,Crouch, Van der Vaart... often controversial, often repeat signings to and fro from Portsmouth. But they’ve gelled. None of your Manchester City bickering.
And ‘Arry’s master-stroke? Switching Bale from left-back to left midfield. He terrorised the great Brazilian Maicon last night. After Modric made the first for Van der Vaart, Bale created two on a plate for Crouch and finally sub Roman Pavlyuchenko, just when it mattered.
Rarely has a player evoked such emotions. He is powerfully built, he knocks surrendering Italians into touch... and his pace is quite breathtaking. No need for Ronaldoesque step-over, just surge through and BOOM!
Redknapp said after the game: "Bale? Amazing, amazing. The dope testers are here. They should test him. The boys can run and run. It’s everything really. Gareth’s got great ability, he can run all day. He can cross with that left foot, shoot, dribble, head. He’s got everything.
“And you couldn’t meet a nicer boy than Gareth. He’s just a lovely boy. That was a fantastic night’s football, from first to last. We worked ‘em. Modric has come back to top form but it was an amazing performance from every single one of them. The whole team."
Spurs now top Group A (aka the Group of Death) ahead of Inter Milan on goal difference. Both have seven points. FC Twente have five. Manchester United's 3-1 win went almost unnoticed at Bursaspor, as did Rangers devastating defeat in Valencia. Scuffles after Barcelona's 1-1 draw in Copenhagen matter not a jot.
This night belonged to Gareth, Harry and Tottenham. As Paul Walsh, the former Spurs and Liverpool striker said: “Bale has mullered Maicon twice in two games. Fantastic.”
And all this without Defoe, Michael Dawson, Gomes, Ledley King. Harry, you are the master.