From Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – You know how the old saying goes – ‘it’s a game of two halves’.
Well, Tottenham and Eintracht Frankfurt didn’t quite get the fractions right on Wednesday. It was more like a game of nine tenths plus one other tenth.
Spurs ran out 3-2 winners to move to the top of Champions League Group D with two games remaining. It was a much-needed victory and they were good value for it.
Having fallen behind to an early Daichi Kamada goal – largely in part to Eric Dier’s clumsiness – Antonio Conte’s men responded perfectly. Tottenham pulled their Bundesliga visitors apart with so much ease that the rest of the first half resembled a training exercise.
Son Heung-min secured a well-taken brace either side of a Harry Kane penalty which the England captain did ever so well to win, rolling back the years with a slaloming run and bouncing off two defenders before being slammed to the floor as the only means of stopping him.
When Tuta was sent off for cynically fouling Son twice just after the break because he had little other option, Spurs looked to be strolling to victory. They were already head and shoulders above Frankfurt, it wouldn’t take much more to waltz to victory.
Well, that was the theory anyway. Frankfurt threatened sporadically but didn’t essentially carve out a clear-cut chance.
But when Faride Alidou headed home from an 87th-minute corner, 60,000 north Londoners began hyperventilating. They all knew that the Spurs they know and begrudgingly love were capable of throwing up some late nonsense.
Bryan Gil came off the bench and, while he was thrown around all over the place with his child-like frame, did ever so well to earn a stoppage-time penalty and settle those nerves again. Only for Kane to sky the spot kick. Cue the hyperventilating once more.
Alidou tested Hugo Lloris from distance in the final seconds before the full-time whistle went and Spurs relievedly sealed the win.
It was a both a victory that Tottenham were totally deserving of – they played some of their best football all season for much of the evening – and yet they were equally as worthy of walking away with the singular point. It was a Jekyll and Hyde display that Conte will be more furious about than pleased.
The Italian did opt to rest several stars in order to preserve them for Saturday’s clash with Everton, but their concentration was already fading and they were punished for taking their foot off the gas and refusing to go for the kill until the very end.
The positive is that Conte’s Spurs do have a history of holding their nerve in difficult circumstances, and though this was an unorthodox effort, it will go down as a successful endeavour. But the doubts over their start to the season remain at the surface level – Conte and his charges won’t silence them until they secure qualification from the group.