Ok so slightly belated and perhaps influenced by a couple of days of watching replays of incidents, I thought I'd have a crack at a match review seeing as it was my first trip to the new ground.
I came in from Hackney Wick, so didn't have quite the same approach that many of you will take. There's no denying that, from the outside, the ground is highly impressive - a long way from the days when I used to get the train to the ground to see what I could buy from the portakabin that was the club shop out the front.
Walking round the ground and seeing the big screen outside and the throngs of people arriving from the Stratford end really was very impressive - there's no doubt it certainly looks better than the Lego castles from before.
Even outside the ground though, there wasn't quite the same atmosphere - perhaps because it wasn't a case of everyone being so congested, maybe because the beers hadn't been flowing quite so readily before a lunchtime kick off or perhaps because I'm not 12 any more. But I'd did expect a bit more electricity in the air around such a big derby.
Going in and seeing the pitch for the first time still has an air of awe and wonder to it, it's just not touching distance any more, and doesn't quite have the 'hairs on the back of your neck' feel but again I don't know if my feelings towards It are just my age.
The seats were midway up the 'kop' stand opposite the away dig out. No issues with the view from there at all, though I appreciate how others may have other things to say on that matter.
The line up was spot on from Bilic - Hernandez through the middle with winners out wide made perfect sense. We beat these guys with calleri up front last season (and should have done away) and a pressing game not allowing them to settle seemed the best way.
Things started out well - they had a spell of possession at the start, but even within a couple of minutes Aurier was holding back players to stop counter attacks. The ref made a huge error of judgement in not booking him for it first time, and set a precedent that followed for the whole game of Spurs just getting away with awful niggley fouls, holding back and breaking up play.
Even so, for the first half hour we looked sharp, looking for balls in behind the defence for the front three to get on to, Kouyate and Noble were doing well in midfield with Noble showing a good range of passing that Obiang and Kouyate don't necessarily offer. Spurs were on the back foot and not really creating anything, whilst we were releasing Arnautovic almost at will down the left. He had one chance in the third minute, bursting forward down the left and into the box but his ball across wasn't great - he seemed to look for a pass instead of drilling across and hoping for a touch and it was easily cleared. Shortly after, Hernandez tried a long range effort that landed on the roof of the net, though lloris had it covered.
Spurs then launched their first attack, but Ogbonna easily cleared the danger and a couple of neat passes in midfield quickly worked the ball to Arnautovic who tried to release Hernandez but Lloris did his sweeper keeper act to clear. Then it was Eriksen's turn to emulate Hernandez from distance (perhaps because he'd been given no room to do anything yet), but his partly deflected effort wasn't picked out well by Hart who decided to tip it over, despite there being little pace on it and it seeming easy to just catch.
And then there was a three or four minute spell which perhaps defined the game. After easily breaking down another attack, Arnautovic was sent through again, getting in behind aurier. His control was excellent as he bore down on goal but Aurier came back and made what looked like a superb tackle from behind to knock the ball away. At the time I was frustrated that Arnie, under increasing pressure, hadn't shot earlier but replays clearly show aurier with a full handful of shirt pulling him back before tackling him. How a penalty wasn't given is beyond me. It would have been a red card too. Just a few minutes later, and Aurier clattered someone else in midfield and got a talking too. It was, by this stage, about his 4th fouls and the match was barely 20 minutes old. He could easily have already been booked twice, not to mention a cross which he totally missed and knocked away with his arm that wasn't given either.
What was becoming obvious though was that, as much as we were trying to use arnautovic down left the as Aurier was happy to get forward, arnie is a lazy **** and was happy to not track back. This cause issues for cresswell and eventually resulted in Spurs' first chance when Aurier got in behind cresswell after doubling up with Alli but Kane was offside from the resulting cross (and missed the open goal anyway). It was the first time Kane and Alli had done anything of note, and it should have served as a warning.
Still we were comfortable - they were struggling to get the ball, and we were having a lot of nearly moments. Arnautovic went on another run down the left but overhit his cross and was in again but got crowded out when he perhaps should have cut back and gone for a shot.
By this point, and with 25 minutes already in the clock, Antonio had done little other than win a couple headers. Davies and Dier seemed pretty close to him most of the time, and the rare attacks down that side came from work from Zabaleta more than Antonio, but a good ball from Zabaleta gave him a chance to have a run and he somehow managed to lose the ball, win it back, get past his man and put a decent cross in all in one go. Nothing happened from the cross, but he went down and didnt get back up and that was it. Me and everyone around us were all saying the same thing - Spurs could not cope with the pace and movement in our attack and were defending deep enough to afford us space to build in midfield and pick passes. Hernandez was making some great runs to create space too. So for gods sake bilic, gonkike for like and bring in sakho or ayew.
Then we saw Carroll on the touchline and that was that.
Instantly Spurs pushed up about 10 yards, and we lost all the space in midfield and started to panic. It was as if they'd trained all week expecting Carroll to start and now they could adopt their game plan. They were much better at quick little passes and we struggled for possession. Oddly though, Carrolls first touch was ok - it was his second that indicated he day he was going to have. He did well to brush off his marker and chest a ball down and there was an insanely simple through ball on for Arnautovic. It just needed knocking past aurier. Sadly Carroll just swung his hoof at it and the ball went miles away from Arnie and the chance was gone. Moments later and his marker shoved Carroll to the ground and he won a free kick. For a brief moment, I thought maybe he could get at them a bit.
Then there was a scrappy period in the middle where neither side could get the ball and tackles were flying in. Noble was eventually penalised for what was an excellent tackle and Sissoko started barging him. Again the ref did nothing. Spurs made a hash of the resulting free kick and we won it back, the ball making it's way to Carroll on the left touch line Carroll heading backwards towards his own half. For some inexplicable reason, he decided to do a blind pass infield on the half way kine. Kouyate leapt out the way of the ball (perhaps assuming it was a pass meant for someone else - overestimating Carrolls intelligence is a dangerous game) and the ball went straight to Eriksen who clipped a great ball through to alli, he drew the defender and worked his way to the edge of the box and chipped a perfect cross onto Kane's head for a simple finish. It was a great counter attack, but Bourne out of a stupid pass.
Things got worse for us and Carroll just moments later when he decided not to challenge for a ball played upnto him from Hart (who, in fairness, has excellent kicking which is a refreshing change), lost it, and two touches later Alli was away. Hart was incredibly slow off his line, but made a decent save, but the ball went straight to Kane (lucky for them but he was in the right spot) who tucked it away into an empty net. Both goals were from carrolls awful, lazy errors but both also had poor positioning and ball watching from defenders. Kane could easily have been marked for the second, Cresswell went for neither Alli nor Kane for the first.
At this point Spurs were in total control, but really hadn't done anything to deserve it. They pressed even higher up the pitch and we struggled to get near the ball for the rest of the half.
There was no atmosphere in the stadium now, although a lot of anger about the decision to bring Carroll on. The feeling was perhaps reflected by the fact the second half kicked off like a Wembley match with half the seats still empty with people not bothering to come back.
We started on the front foot and a great ball released Arnautovic, but he took a heavy first touch and the chance almost went until he forced a corner out of it. The corner was half cleared to the right hand toucine and Noble tenaciously kept after the ball in the corner, winning it off Davies and breaking towards th edge of the area near the byline. So naturally he was hauled down. Again, no card was given - this was easily Spurs 12th or so foul. Nothing happened from the free kick.
Spurs were looking threatening every time they broke forward though, and Alli managed a jinking twisting run which was well tracked and marshalled by Reid in the area, winning the ball but inevitably seeing Alli chuck himself to the ground. No penalty but Alli wasn't penalised either.
The pattern of play now was big sam esque. We were just hitting Carroll, but without him actuallybstaying up front - he was all over the pitch, sometimes ****ing the ball on sometimes nodding it back but not with much regard to where anyone was and the players weren't making the right runs as they had no idea what he was going to do. From one flick on, the Spurs defence worked the ball to alderweireld, who managed to storm forward a good 40 yards unchallenged and produce an excellent scooped pass over the defence to Kane - who had, luckily, stayed offside
The joy was short lived though as or free kick came straight back at us again, and resulted in Fonte challenging Alli and the Spurs man chucking himself on the floor despite their being minimal if any contact. Up next, another weakness was about to be exploited - Joe hart cannot dive to his left. The free kick was wide on the right hand side but Kane wanted his hat trick so he stepped up and drilled and excellent low curving effort last harts delaqiri f dive and into the post. The ball defelcted out to Aurier, and with out defence static and failing to get out the box, he crossed. It was well charged down by ogbonna, but again the balm broke straight to a Spurs player - Eriksen in the right place just inside the box to hit it first time on the volley again last hart diving to his left, though he was slightly unsighted by Reid being in front of him as we just didn't bother clearing our lines.
It seemed game over and an exodus began of disgruntled fans all around. There hadn't been much to lift us after that the first goal now it was 3-0 with half an hour still to go and Spurs had barely boro men sweat - all three goals were gifts they gratefully accepted. And they nearly had another minutes later as Kane escaped down the left and ran at Reid, who ushered him as best he could but Kane unleashed a fierce low drive to Harts near lost which struck the post and went out.
However, then a miracle happened. As we broke to go down the other end, Aurier was booked at long last for hauling his man down. Spurs had 20 fouls in the game and revived 4 yellows. We had half the number of f fouls and the same yellows. The resulting feee kick ended up going behind for a corner. Our crossing had been woeful all game, nothing dangerous and often not beating the first man. So when Cresswell took this one and it came in low towards the front edge of the box, I groaned. However, Fonte crouched and ****ed a lovely header into the 6 yard box and there was Hernandez to nod home and restore a smidgen of pride. If it was a training ground move, it was well worked; if fonte improvised, fair play because it expertly executed.
A wave of muted hope spread round the stadium and you could feel it lift a little. Ayew replaced arnautovic who had done little after the first five minutes of the second half. A great cross from
the right saw Hernandez leap like a salmon to plant a header goalwards but it was straight at lloris - it really was an impressive jump, showing another string to his bow. And only moments later the Hope turned to genuine optimism as Aurier was given his marching orders after a reckless challenge on Carroll earned him a second yellow. He could have been sent off twice already.
The game changed straight away and Spurs looked nervous. 5 minutes of pressure followed before we brought on masuaku for fonte whilst winks came on for them. We were now 442 with Hernandez back in the centre alongside Carroll. And straight away it almost worked as first Carroll dragged a **** harmlessly wide after being worked into a great position in the box and should have done much much better; and then Hernandez brilliantly icked a deflected Cresswell ball over his shoulder and the ball appeared to roll off Sanchez's side and onto his arm. With everyone appealing the penalty Hernandez then noticed a gap and thumped the ball goalwards, but straight at lloris. Either side was a goal and the missed chance perhaps highlighted the difference between the two sides as the clinical finish shown by eriksen was lacking here.
Undeterred we kept going forward. Sissoko departed for trippier as Spurs went to a back 5. Cresswell and Arthur were getting some joy down the left, however and their over lapping and link up was causing a world of problems for Spurs. Eventually the combination saw cresswell control a cross field ball, play it to Arthur and make a great run which gave masuaku the chance to drive forward and deliver an inch perfect cross for Kouyate to power home a bullet header into the roof of the net. 3 minutes left, one goal needed and Spurs totally on the back foot.
Often in these situations a game letters out but we created enough half chances to fashion something out if the game.
A shirt corner routine saw masuaku and cresswell exchange passes and cresswell break into the box to dink the ball to the back list, the half clearance lashed over by Reid from an angle when the far better option was to sink the ball back in to the waiting heads. Hernandez screamed at Cresswell for missing his perfect run to the near post which would have given him a 3 yard open goal if he'd been spotted
Spurs couldn't get the ball away and Carrolls shot from distance was deflected wide for another corner, and when this cross came in Sanchez leant a perfectly timed arm into the back of Carroll to make him miss his header - but the ref again gave nothing, and the clearance dropped to Noble 20 yards out who smashed a volley over the bar.
The match ended in circumstances which could have happened earlier. A Carroll flick on was cleared back out towards him midway in the Spurs half. Dier fouled him to stop him winning the header and nothing was given so Carroll fouled him back in frustration. He didn't have a good game but Carroll was given nothing by the ref at all. His retaliation and chucking the ball away led to both teams having bit of handbags and that was game over with 4 players booked.
It was a sad end to the game which we really could have got a point from (deserved or otherwise) with a bit of luck at the end. It wasn't to be but the players gave their all in trying but lacked the cutting edge, final ball and a bit of intelligence to pick the right pass to get the result they wanted.
Bilic - 5 - made the perfect choice to drop Carroll then backtracked after 30 minutes when Sakho or ayew should have come on. Masuaku's introduction was great though and we did nearly claw it back. I'm still baffled as to why, with 3 minutes to go against 10 men and needing 1 more goal, you wouldn't make the final substitution and bring Sakho on
Hart - 5 - made two saves, one an unconvincing tip over the bar the other a block to Kane for their second. Slow
Off his line (you can see why any manager wanting a sweeper keeper would ditch him) and utterly unconvincing with shots down to his left. Good kicking though...
Reid - 6 - some great defensive work, in particular on Alli in one on ones. Failed to get out quickly enough for the third though and blocked Harts view and wasted a good attacking opportunity by blazing over late on
Fonte - 6 - pretty solid but caught out twice by counter attacks and lacking the pace to get back. Comfortable on the ball though and looked ok further forward a few times
Ogbonna - 7 - best of the three centre backs and got forward well on a few occasions. Unlucky that his block for the third fell straight to Eriksen but should have been out sooner to close down and properly block the cross
Cresswell - 6 - looked better when Arthur came on, prior to that he struggled a bit. Not helped at all by Arnautovic being lazy, but his crossing was poor for most of the game and had a habit of getting forward too soon and leaving unnecessary gaps behind
Zabaleta - 7 - really solid display, showing a good all round game. Great positionally, comfortable on the ball, surprisingly good in the air and willing to get forward. Actually has the makings of a solid holding midfielder if his legs fail him as full/wing back
Noble - 8 - I'll get ****ed off for this but I thought he had a great game. Covered lots of ground, some great tackles especially early in the first half and showed a great range of passing. Shame he tried to be a hero Kate on by flashing a volley over the bar from distance with players waiting in the box
Kouyate - 6 - great header and was very impressive before Antonio went off but once Spurs squeezed the play he seemed unable to find space for himself and ended up next to Noble a lot. Jumped out the way of Carrolls pass for their first too.
Antonio - 5 - I'm convinced he wasnt fit to start with. Managed one very decent st. I've and cross but injured before he'd really done anything or seen the ball.
Arnautovic - 6 - seems like a harsh score as he looked threatening and was unlucky when he was pulled back when clean through but, despite getting kits of the ball and looking threatening, he didn't do anything with it. No shots, not one decent cross and amazingly lazy in never tracking back. Flattered to deceive although I'm sure he'll have better days in terms of end product and was always a willing outlet
Hernandez - 7 - constantly on the shoulders of defenders, looking to pull away a and find space. Great poachers finish, should have scored after a great deft tough in the area instead of hitting it straight at Lloris and again with his header. If his team mates spotted his runs better he could have had a couple more too. A handful, and showed real tenacity as well
Carroll (for Antonio) - 2 - largely awful - have the ball away for both of their first two goals, and was all over the pitch (not in a good way) so balls out of defence to him were tough as the defence never knew if he'd be up front, somewhere on the wing or randomly on the centre spot. Better in the last half hour but wasted two decent chances to cross or do something by blazing shots off target. Inconsistent with his flick Ina and headers and his team
Mates also seemed exasperated. Still should have had a penalty at the end and was fouled but wasn't given which resulted in all the handbags
Ayew (for Arnautovic) - 5 - came looking for the balm and tried to make things happen but I don't actually recall him really doing anything, largely because everything went down the other flank as soon as Masuaku came on
Masuaku (for Fonte) - 7 - a very willing runner, linked well at times with Cresswell but, one brilliant cross aside, his end product let him down. But certainly an option as an attacking wide player.
Ref - Oliver - 0 - simply awful. A team that commits 20 fouls but only gets 4 yellows, two of which are from a scuffle in injury time, is a stat to be ashamed of from a refs perspective. Should have stamped out the niggles and pull backs early on, missed two penalties for us, gave a free kick against Fonte for their third that really wasn't and the red card should have come a good half hour earlier. We were the architects of our own downfall but this **** was happy to constantly shove us to make sure we were down
I have no doubt at all that Carroll will start against Swansea, and ironically they are a team he normally does well against. But these matches aside I will never have any confidence in winning if he starts - he should be an impact sub and nothing more.
Missing Antonio and Lanzini is a big deal as well so a win in any way against Swansea will be fine - most teams will struggle if they are without their best two creative outlets (Spurs without alli and Eriksen anyone?) so getting maximum points without them will be a tough ask.