Breaking the Shackles – Red Star Belgrade vs Tottenham Match Report

As Peter Drury, the BT Sport Commentator eloquently described, Tottenham arrived and “turned down their [Red Star’s] flame, and caught fire themselves” in what was a decisive and much needed victory not just for our progress in the Champions League, but for our season as a whole.

This 0-4 loss is Red Star’s biggest loss at home in their European footballing history, with Tottenham being the first English side ever to beat them at home in a European cup tie. Red Star have also not failed to score at home since May, whilst Tottenham on the other hand have kept only 2 clean sheets in their last 20 away games across all competitions. This also happened to be Tottenham’s first away victory since winning emphatically at Ajax in May. Could these broken shackles be somewhat of a turning point in our season? Let’s hope so.

Most Tottenham fans would have been bracing themselves for yet another disappointment on Wednesday, given our form and the opponent’s hardcore home reputation, as described in my preview. However, the way in which we dispatched Red Star with such ease had a strange, somewhat anticlimactic, feel to it. Not because the performance was bland. Far from it. It simply left me with mixed emotions – a brilliant and clinical performance on the one hand, and on the other, a level of confusion as to why we can’t do this week in week out.

Heung-Min Son answered the many who were inquiring about his mental well-being after Sunday’s match, finishing off two great attacking moves. This leaves him on 9 UCL goals so far during 2019, level highest with Raheem Sterling. Although I would love to give Son my man of the match award, I will instead give this to Giovani Lo Celso on his first start for the club. There may be a small amount of confirmation bias in this decision since I expressed in my preview article that I wished he would start over Christian Eriksen.

To boost my satisfaction in being proved right, he actually had a fantastic game, scoring his first goal for the club. Having only played 63 minutes prior to Wednesday, his performance leaves me asking, why so few? In his 86 minute long performance against Red Star he showed more than Eriksen has shown the whole season so far. With a high defensive work rate, willingness to get stuck into tackles, his attacking intelligence, and having no aversion to taking a shot on, he seemed to play almost box-to-box, as well as Eriksen’s creative role. With Erik Lamela currently injured, I think it is time we see his compatriot Lo Celso starting more games. This will either motivate Eriksen to start performing or possibly be the start of a shift. With Eriksen seemingly petal-picking until his contract ends, and Lo Celso being an option to buy (replacing Eriksen?) providing we qualify for Europe, I think we should see more minute sharing between the two players from now on.

Another player needing a notable mention is Eric Dier. Again, a player who was on my starting XI wish list for Wednesday’s game. He played sharply and was indistinguishable in ability from Toby Alderweireld at centre back, who was left on the bench throughout the match. If anything, as I had hoped, he brought an element of hardiness and heart back into the side.

Now, a word about a player going under the radar at the moment. Paulo Gazzaniga. Considering he was thrust into the starting XI for the foreseeable future unexpectedly after Hugo Lloris’ elbow injury, Gazzaniga has been outstanding. In the early stages of this fixture he made a brilliant save, saving with his feet to deny Red Star a 1-0 lead. This type of last-ditch reaction save is something we are now seeing almost every game from the Argentinian. In fact, Gazzaniga almost single-handedly kept us in the game against Liverpool on the 27th October, making multiple great stops. If wasn’t for an unfortunate rebound goal which he could have done little more to stop – ironically the rebound came from an exceptional initial save – we could have come away from Liverpool with a point.

To close, with our deeper midfielders in Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele driving with the ball through channels, organised and dynamic pressing resulting in a goal, Danny Rose’s dynamic attacks down the line, and Kane showing why he is one of the best ball-playing strikers in the world, we played in a way which was reminiscent of the late knock out stages of last season’s UCL campaign. Let’s find momentum in defeating the red and white army of Red Star, and roll it straight through the regimented red and white outfit of Sheffield United this Saturday.

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