Wembley, Messi and tears!
This will be only the third match between Tottenham and Barcelona and the first since April 1982, where we faced them in the semi-finals of the Cup Winners' Cup, which Barcelona won 2-1 on aggregate. We have only drawn one of our 12 home games in the Champions League (won seven, drew one, lost four). So, that is the statistics, to the day and match.
Even though we lost our match against Inter Milan, a game we should have won, we had high hopes for this one. After all, Barcelona has shown a shaky defence and poor performances of recent times.
On that hopeful Wednesday day, I started by getting up at 5am, bad back and all. Bad back or not, I had breakfast and then made my way to the gym for a 3-hour session. Then back home to prepare for my journey to Wembley.
I got to my cousin's house at 3pm. Waited for my cousin to come home, had a cup of tea and then made my way – walk-bus-train – to the stadium. It took about 40 minutes.
Once there I waited in the queue for 5.30 (when the Premium members were let in) and chatted to Steve, Martin and his young lady friend Arvinder. Once in we found a large table to accommodate all – as others joined us – got our food, wines, teas and coffees. Two hours of listening to a three-piece music group that sung sixties songs, chatted in-between and then half an hour before kick-off we all made our way to our seats.
We settled down, spellbound that Massi was playing before our eyes. On top of that, we hoped our young side had the ability to dent Messi’s Barcelona. At least not embarrass ourselves.
But it never works out the way you wish; Lionel Messi produced a Wembley masterwork to condemn our beloved Spurs to our second successive Champions League defeat. He was the outstanding orchestrator behind a superb attacking display. Barcelona ended up proving too much for our spirited players.
Our keeper, who, to my mind, shouldn’t have started, but should have been on the bench, gifted Philippe Coutinho Barcelona's opener inside two minutes with a mad dash from goal before Ivan Rakitic put them further in control before half-time with a spectacular 20-yard strike.
The whistle went, and we got up for our 15-minute break; free drinks in the hospitality lounge and then back to our seats.
Messi hit the post twice before Harry Kane gave us hope with a quick low finish before the Argentine superstar slid home from close range to restore the visitors advantage.
Erik Lamela's deflected effort set up a grandstand finish but Messi had the final word with a simple strike after Luis Suarez's brilliant dummy.
Throughout the match Steve, who sat next to me, was in full voice, giving me and others a full commentary on the rights and wrongs of the game, including referee. Without such characters what is left? Silence, that isn’t a football match. The trouble is with some fans who rarely go to a football match they expect to watch a game as if they are at the theatre, silence and all that crap. Some get a rude awakening when coming to their first match.
That’s it; we sat amazed at what Messi and co could do/ did, and most were pleased to see them at Wembley, as for us/ loyal Spurs, we just dropped our heads and muttered under our breath as we left the stadium. We had shown our inadequacies. Our performance – even though plucky at times – was nothing compared to last season’s UEFA Champions quest. Was that the fault of injuries, poor performance or poor orchestration from the conductor?
This defeat leaves us third in the group, six points behind leaders Barcelona and second-placed Inter Milan and facing a difficult task to progress to the knockout stages. Contrast that to last season!
Pochettino commented afterwards “he was proud of his team”. I am sure all managers are proud of those that lose matches, I am also sure that he would be prouder had we won this game and the previous one against Inter Milan. Then he could really push the boat out.
It is going to take a brave fan to predict that we will do well in this competition after two UEFA Champions league defeats in a row. Of course we could still pull a rabbit out of the hat, but to be honest, we are nowhere near good enough to win this competition. And if we finish third then it could be Europa League football with Arsenal (won’t that be a treat!).
With hopes of this competition fading before our eyes, we might also struggle to get into the top four of the Premier League (going on the last couple of performances), then the only chance we’ve got to win silverware would be in either the FA Cup or League Cup competition, or both. The trouble is, we face the Hammers in the League Cup in the same week as we face City (actually two days later) and I have no doubt that Pochettino will put out a weak squad for that one, which means we could be throwing that competition away. That leaves the FA Cup. And we all know what happens when the year ends in a ‘9’? Yes, nothing, as it isn’t the year that ends with a ‘1’. Of course, that is all baloney, so it would be nice to win something with a 9 in it (oh, yes, our first season at our new stadium, but that isn’t a win, more a debt).
After the 4-2 defeat, we went back to the hospitality lounge and stayed there until 11pm. Then Martin, Arvinder and I made our way to the Metropolitan line platform at Wembley station. The train arrived a few minutes later and we were off. Martin and Arvinder got off at Rayners Lane (as their car was parked there), then I got off at Ruislip Manor station, waited for a bus and then got back to Susan & Roger’s house at about midnight. I finally got home at 1.20pm. So knackered that I didn’t get up until 9am. All in the day and life of a Spurs supporter.
Next up is Cardiff at Wembley on Saturday.
By Glenn Renshaw