I deliberately avoid using this column to rant about officialdom. Social media does that far better than I ever could.
But am teetering on the brink after last night.
That shouldn’t, however, detract from the fact that the overriding emotion after last night’s draw with Spurs was one of immense pride. Yes, there was exasperation in there too and obviously a sense of injustice, but after a difficult few months that was definitely one to be proud of.
We can’t swerve VAR (if only) but the first thing to say is how well City started the game last night. On the front foot, straight into their passing rhythm, winning every 50/50 and looking nothing like a side that believes its Premier League fate is all but sealed.
The changes made by Daniel Farke – perfectly sensible with such a heavy load over the Christmas/New Year period – worked nicely, and all four ‘new’ faces fitted in seamlessly, offering more of the same in terms of the system and the attacking intent.
As well as being great to watch, Spurs just couldn’t handle it. Mario Vrancic, him of the elegant disposition, the eye brows and left foot that can open a tin of peas, was imperious in the middle of the park against esteemed opposition; his eye for a pass allied to Emi Buendia’s trickery and tenaciousness was irresistible at times.
The opener from Super Mario may have been assisted by Juan Foyth’s carelessness but there was still plenty for the Bosnian to do. How we’ve missed someone, other than Todd Cantwell, who can regularly chip in with goals from midfield. Food for thought for Farke.
The calmness of the finish was a classic lesson in relaxing instead of tightening up in front of goal and, at the time, was no more than City deserved.
That VAR denied us a second still sticks in the craw, every bit as much now as it did last night. I hear those who describe VAR offside decisions in the same terms as goal-line technology in that it’s either a goal or it isn’t, but that’s clear cut, at a single millisecond in time, in a confined eight-yard space.
Offside has more variables: the timing of the pass, the width of the pitch, the proximity of attacker to the last defender and, while I’m no tech expert, is the technology really sophisticated enough to judge millimeters in those circumstances? And why should it? We have umpires call in cricket… should there not be a level of tolerance when the margins are so infinitesimal?
With, admittedly, my Norwich City bobble hat on, it felt like one that Stockley Park was looking to find a reason to disallow. I’m sure I’ve got that wrong though.
Still sticks in the craw. Was a goal in every sense. Or at least should have been. And that crossfield pass from Vrancic…
But still, City kept on keeping on. And they were good value for their half-time lead. Again. But we’ve seen that film before
Naturally, we all feared the worst after recent events but rather than City dropping off their level, it was Jose Mourinho’s changes, both in personnel and shape, that dragged Tottenham back into the game.
In addition to the energy and pace of Lucas Moura causing City far more problems, he found a way to stifle City’s attacking intent out wide, with Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons both finding it harder to get into those advanced areas. The speed and threat of Onel Henandez was also contained by the tweaks instigated by Mourinho, who himself cut a more subdued figure than we’ve seen in the past.
It was tough to contain Spurs as the game wore on and Dele Alli started picking up space in those pockets that give him time to link up with Harry Kane, but Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley handled the threat well. Tim Krul was mainly there to organise and sweep up.
But one diagonal later and what looked like a clip of the heels of Lewis and Christian Eriksen was afforded the chance to equalise from his optimum range. The outcome had a horrible predictability to it.
Was it a foul on Jamal? It was probably inconclusive and perhaps it the effect of the green and yellow bobble hat again, but was certainly one of those that goes against us while we’re breathing the same, refined air as the Tottenhams, Arsenals, Chelseas and co.
But, I guess you could argue the misfortune (if that’s what it was) of conceding that free-kick was cancelled out when Spurs’ back four went into Keystone Cops mode. Yes, it was a massive slice of luck for the second goal but my god we deserved it. We’ve had none lately; it was well overdue.
That Kane had to go and ruin it by first of all winning the penalty and then converting it was a blow to the nether regions but despite VAR doing it’s thing again, we could have few complaints second time around. It was a pen. And in truth, Spurs’ second-half performance was deserving of a point.
It would be nice though if for once – just once – a VAR decision that really mattered came out on our side because right now it’s not done us a single favour. And it’s getting on my wick.
But, that aside, it was a performance of guts and guile, and showed that while some of us have resigned ourselves to a return whence we came, this group of players are still fighting for their lives.
And that’s all we can ask.