UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 3RD OCTOBER, 2018
(8pm – at Wembley)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(0) BARCELONA 4(2)
Messi, 56, 90
Referee:- Felix Zwayer (GER)
Assistants:- Thorsten Schiffner (GER) & Marco Achmüller (GER)
Fourth official:- Guido Kleve (GER)
Additional assistants:- Tobias Stieler (GER) & Sascha Stegemann (GER)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies; Winks, Wanyama (sub Dier, 57); Lucas Moura, Lamela (sub Llorente, 79), Son (sub Sissoko, 66); Kane
Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Rose, Walker-Peters; Skipp
Booked:- Alderweireld (foul on Coutinho), Wanyama (foul on Messi), Lamela (foul on Busquets), Kane (foul on Pique), Dier (foul on Suarez)
Barcelona (4-3-3):- Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Arthur (sub Vidal, 87), Busquets (sub Vermaelen, 90+1); Messi (Capt.), Suarez, Coutinho (sub Rafinha, 83)
Subs not used:- Cillessen; D. Suarez, Dembele; El Haddadi
Booked:- Arthur (foul on Winks), Busquets (foul on Lamela)
At times we were intense. Twice we were dense.
The official attendance figure said that over 82,000 were at Wembley last night, but it seemed that the world and his dog had come not just to see their beloved Spurs, but of course one of the greatest teams on the globe, with one of the World’s best players, Lionel Messi. In that sense they would not be disappointed as Messi shone, scoring twice, hitting the woodwork twice more, and generally mesmerising whichever Spurs player cared to try and stop him. There was one glorious second half moment when Harry Winks took the ball off the maestro from Argentina, and Spurs did have some second half intensity when Spurs fans sniffed a draw. However that intensity was undermined by utterly dense play at the very start and the very end of the game which gifted Barcelona the goals which ultimately clinched the game.
The Champions League theme was preceded by “Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur” and “Come on You Spurs!” by way of tribute to Chas Hodges, whose widow Joan, and partner Dave Peacock were interviewed by Paul Coyte at half-time, along with Ossie Ardiles.
Barcelona did not bring a full contingent of away fans.
As for the game, Spurs were missing four key players who would have played had they been available – Vertonghen, Dembele, Eriksen and Dele Alli – plus Serge Aurier. How they would have loved to have played in this game. How we would have loved to have seen them. Those Spurs players who did play did put up an excellent show for a spell in the second half when they scored two goals, and threatened more, with excellent driving and high intensity performances from Lucas Moura, Lamela and Kane in particular.
Spurs though (in particular their goalkeeper captain Hugo Lloris, returning from injury) committed hari-kari as early as the second minute. Messi from the centre of midfield sent a ball to Jordi Alba who was outside the left of the area. Inexplicably, Lloris raced out and over-committed himself to race towards the Barcelona left back, who had a simple job of cutting the ball back to Coutinho, who had the simple job of scoring into the unguarded net. Pochettino was angry and not particularly unguarded in his post-match comments regarding his goalkeeper. We all know that no team can afford to give a team like Barcelona a start.
The Wembley pitch was in poor, sandy and threadbare condition, particularly in the centre sections, probably due to the recent Anthony Joshua fight held here. The Spurs front four were showing their intentions at times, but the problems were at the other end. In fairness, Mauricio Pochettino had gone with four and not five at the back, and did show his intentions of taking the game to their illustrious opponents. Toby Alderweireld had taken a booking for his challenge on Coutinho before Spurs forged a chance with a cross from the right headed by Son into Kane’s path. Harry hit a shot from the edge of the area, but it was straight at Ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal.
Spurs went two down in the 28th minute after a stunning strike by Rakitic. The goal followed a Messi pass, a failed attempt by Suarez and also by Coutinho, who did get the ball back to the Croatian midfielder who hit a stunning volley which went into the net off Lloris’s left post. Spurs had a mountain to climb.
Spurs did have the ball in the net through Son, but Kieran Trippier had already been called out by the officials for handing the ball before he crossed. Whilst this was a correct decision, generally the German referee Felix Zwayer did not seem to favour the home side, causing some frustration in the home sections. Lloris was down to a Coutinho shot before spurs came back with an attack where Kane fed the ball forward to Lucas Moura, who passed to Lamela on his left. Erik hit a shot which took a deflection, but was saved well by the goalkeeper.
Spurs were struggling to clear their lines at the other end and to get a foothold in the game. During this period, Messi had one shot saved and another which looped up from a deflection into the grateful Lloris’s arms. Arthur won applause from the home crowd for skilful play out on the Barcelona right flank winning his battle and keeping possession.
Within two minutes of the restart Messi hit the post as Barca made a break after Son had lost the ball in their half. Busquets sent the ball forward to Messi who still got through and got his shot in despite three Spurs defenders in his wake. Wanyama hit a good ball down the line for Lucas Moura, who won a corner, taken by Trippier, which was cleared. Victor then became a villain as he lost the ball on the other side, allowing that man Messi to race away again and hit a shot which beat Lloris, but not the post.
Spurs had two lucky escapes, but got back into the game when Lamela passed to Kane on the left of the area. Harry switched the ball to his right foot and curved a lovely shot across Ter Stegen into the net sending the home crowd into hopeful raptures. Messi restored the two goal lead four minutes later. From nearly 30 yards out he fed the ball to Jordi Alba on the left and then moved forward for the return, simply passing the ball into Lloris’s net in the same corner where he had twice hit the post. Pochettino’s immediate response was to bring on Eric Dier for Wanyama.
Arthur was booked for a foul on Winks and the free kick was taken by Trippier, but nothing came of that. Lenglet lost out to Harry Kane in a battle for the ball on the right of the area. Harry kept the ball then passed inside to Son who teed up Lamela for a shot, which took a deflection and beat Ter Stegen. Spurs had got the score back to 3-2 and were back in a game when they could easily have been four down! The crowd sniffed glory and urged their team on in a terrific atmosphere. Most were not impressed when Sissoko replaced Son, but until the last minute madness, Sissoko did alright, adding strength to the midfield.
There was a mix-up at the back when Sanchez under-hit a back pass, and Lloris had to chase the ball outside his area. Messi took it forward and Toby Alderweireld came to the rescue, with a goal kick being awarded to Spurs. This pre-occupation with passing the ball backwards to the keeper would cost us dear before the end of the game. At the other end, Trippier was onto a long ball which he cut back for Sissoko, but the unfortunate Frenchman skied his shot. Lucas Moura was onto Kane’s pass after 72 minutes and passed to Ben Davies, who fired over, but was offside anyway. Dier and Kane moved the ball to Trippier whose cross was cleared.
Harry Winks made that great tackle on Messi and passed forward to Kane, who was offside. Lamela went down for treatment and was replaced by Llorente. We can only hope this is not going to be another long term injury for Spurs. Lucas Moura had a shot held by the goalkeeper after Spurs had quickly moved the ball forward following another Winks interception. There was a great piece of trickery by Lucas Moura inside the box as he cut inside from the left, hitting a cross/shot which took an involuntary deflection and went for a corner. After a second corner by Trippier, this one from the right, Davinson Sanchez had one effort blocked then a header held by the goalkeeper.
The final act came in the 90th minute as Spurs tried to play the ball out from the back. Sissoko failed and Suarez teed up Messi for his second goal and a decisive 4-2 lead. The mass exodus of Spurs fans began. Where there had been hope, there came despair and the inevitability of defeat.
In the other game, Inter beat PSV away, so Spurs are still third in the group, without a point. They simply have to beat the Dutch side at home and away (away first), then beat Inter at home to have any chance of qualifying from the group. We always knew this was going to be a tough game, but these are the games we so much hope to see. Spurs have much work to do to prolong this year’s Champions League expedition.
Group B Table
P W D L F-A GD PTS
1. Barcelona 2 2 0 0 8-2 6 6
2. Inter 2 2 0 0 4-2 2 6
3. Spurs 2 0 0 2 3-6 -3 0
4. PSV 2 0 0 2 1-6 -5 0