Whereas the pre-match optimism in this corner of the interweb had been based on the fact that our forward line knows a few more trade secrets than that other lot, and were therefore likelier to get the best of the half-dozen goals that seemed likely, winning a game of this magnitude on the strength of a superior defence did have me sipping the celebratory late-night bourbon in a rather thoughtful manner.
Truth be told, that first half may have been a triumph for scrumptiously-weighted passes into the path of onrushing lilywhite midfield types, but it was something of a disaster for the dubious art of high-line defending. Vertonghen stuck out a limb in timely manner on a couple of occasions in that first half, but the high line hardly looked watertight, for willing though they are, neither the Belgian nor Dawson are really blessed with the most searing bursts of pace. Still, l’Arse did not have the sense to play the right pass when opportunity presented itself in the first half, and in the second the whole business of high defensive lines was largely negated by our lot dropping deeper (albeit presumably by accident rather than design), the aforementioned centre-backs repelling everything with all the gusto of a couple of heroes from a big-budget Hollywood battle epic. Nerve-wracking it most certainly was, but barely a clear chance was actually fashioned at our goal.
One ought not to muse on proceedings without pausing to toast the two goals, for hilariously inept though the defending was, the passes from Sigurdsson and (oddly enough) Parker were enough to merit that a small gold star be ironed onto the sleeve of their shirts next time they take to the pitch. Amidst all the hullaballoo there has also been a tendency to overlook the quality of the two finishes, which is really just not cricket. Identical chances, taken in very different but equally expert styles – someone in a smartly-fitting suit ought to tap his glass and say a few words of tribute amidst a cloud of cigar smoke.
Elsewhere on the pitch it was hard-earned and mighty satisfying fare all round. (Almost all round, on reflection, for if you will excuse the slightly awkward clearing of throat it is difficult to ignore the fact that things perked up in the second half once Adebayor had been scraped from the turf and hauled away, with Defoe seemingly far more interested in applying himself to the day-job.) Our heroes may have segued seamlessly from perspiring elbow-greasers to care-free spring gambollers had one of those straightforward second half chances been popped in (quite what masterplan popped into the Sigurdsson cranium at the vital juncture is a poser), but in a curious way it was somehow more fun to see l’Arse toil so feverishly to no avail. So near, yet seven points afar. The heart bleeds for them.
Tedious points will presumably be made at this juncture about the remaining fixtures and last season and whatnot – for another time, please. Smug grins remain the order of the day.