Not even Michael Caine could have turned this around.

6 Jan

Well played Spurs. Let’s start right there. Brentford went down 2-0 on Tuesday to miss out on a place in the League Cup final against a quality side packed with more than enough talent to reach Wembley. Jose Mourinho went strong and was duly rewarded. Mind you, so did Thomas Frank with only Pontus Jansson missing from what could now be deemed his preferred starting XI. It wasn’t quite enough. The combination of defensive generosity, great finishes and the machinations of VAR being enough to see Tottenham through. They controlled the game, no doubt, but there was enough about the Bees to suggest this wasn’t going to turn out the foregone conclusion many expected. Manchester City play Manchester United this evening to discover who will contest the final. Luckily for both, they’ll be spared referee Mike Dean.

Urghh. What can you say about the controversial man in the middle? Personally, I was left thinking that this is how it would be if Keith Stroud did regular top flight action. Soft yellows given to Brentford. Robust challenges unpunished from the hosts. Josh Dasilva sent off for an accidental, albeit painful looking, foul on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Understandable on review, even if without any intent. Yet it was the second half VAR controversy (words as intrinsically linked as ‘Mrs Browns Boys’ and ‘unfunny’) that left the sour taste in the mouth. 

By that stage Spurs were already ahead. A bright start from the Bees being stopped dead in its tracks with not even a quarter-hour played when Moussa Sissoko was given the freedom of the penalty box. Marking that took the social distancing guidelines to the letter of the law. The Tottenham man heading home with pleasure and Brentford on the back foot. The wind taken from our sails and containment the immediate next order of the day. A flurry of half-chances and no further breaches the best we had to show.

Half time came and went. The Bees back out with a spring in their step. Lucky shirts being worn back home were clearly doing their thing. Forget the ever closer Ivan Toney. The magic of Bryan Mbeumo. The I don’t know what of Mathias Jensen. The goal felt like it was coming and sure enough, it did….. Just after the hour who else but Ivan Toney was there to head home from close in!! TW8 erupted. The players celebrated. Game on. Echos of the quite magnificent Escape to Victory ringing in the ears… “We can win this!!

Sadly though, we couldn’t. Michael Caine, Pele et al may have had a dodgy referee, physical opponents and superior opposition to deal with. We had, well all of that  – albeit without the dodgy acting – but also VAR. The much maligned tool alerting Mike Dean to the fact that the Championship’s leading scorer may have been offside as he guided the ball home. Indeed, after multiple replays Dean felt obliged to chalk off the goal he had already awarded. Toney’s fingernail being apparently ahead of the last defender’s heel and, as such, interfering with play as fell to his knees.

We quoted this one in last night’s post match immediacy. There’s no reason not to do it again. 

Hey, its not Spurs fault and no sour grapes towards them. Does anyone really think we’d have complained had it gone the other way? Of course not. Yet this doesn’t make it any easier. Doesn’t make the game we love feel even further away from the thing of excitement and spontaneity that it used to be. Instead, the life has been sucked out of it with goals being tediously dissected by set squares and sub-millimetre thin lines on screen. Its not even close to being obvious. Its an absolute joke.

Spurs, of course, did what teams do in these situations, Remained calm, professional, well used to it. With Bees fans and players feeling the most tremendous sense of injustice, out hosts carried on as normal and within minutes had gone down the other end to double the lead. Son Heung-min bursting clear to leather one past David Raya. A top quality move and finish from one of the best players in the land. No complaints. No arguments. First class. Game over man. Game over.

There was still enough time for VAR to alert Mike Dean to the fact that he may want to give Josh Dasilva a red card. It was inevitable the second the replay was shown on the big screen. It made no impact to the outcome but does now mean he misses out on the FA Cup (who doesn’t though?) and the more important league games with Reading and Luton. Thomas will need to get his whiteboard back out and rejuggle for them.

Tottenham deserved it overall, even if that’s not how football necessarily works. Ultimately, it comes down to balls in the back of the net and we had that denied us in the most painful of circumstances. Thomas would talk about how proud he was at full time and I guess he’s right.

Yet thinking about it this morning, the overall feeling is one of genuine frustration that we haven’t beaten one of the best teams in the Premier League. That we have had the chance of victory, could have taken it, matched our opponents but were ultimately denied by external factors. That is perhaps what we should focus on. Nobody gave us a chance but we just carried on doing what we’ve done so far this campaign. Played our best combination against the team in front of us. And we ran them blinkin’ close. 

This was no trashing and whilst I don’t overly do the ‘plucky losers’ thing (nobody remembers, or cares about how unlucky the beaten team were) the feeling remains that we had enough about us to win this one. Had the breaks gone, then who knows. The experience alone could prove invaluable in or long term future. 

Jose Mourinho was adamant at full-time that we’d meet again next season in the Premier League. I think he’s right, too. In the short term then look positive. At least we can concentrate on the league.

Nick Bruzon

2 Responses to “Not even Michael Caine could have turned this around.”

  1. Rob Osborne January 6, 2021 at 1:46 pm #

    Nice one Nick. Generally agree with what you’ve written – though don’t think we played as well as we have in our capabilities (as is pretty standard on big occasions for Brentford … and obviously also down to JM’s nous).

    Its quite funny, in a queasily cynical sort of way, how obvious the ‘unconscious’ bias towards the big boys is. Refs/VAR/Sky commentaries. Its very much emperor’s new clothes. Something we’ll need to prepare for if/when we get to the top division. No point moaning – just have to aim to win factoring this in.

    But it is a great achievement to get to this stage – and we have shown we can at least compete. So good benchmark to work off. Now just have to get promoted and do better than this week in week out over 30 odd games in a season.

  2. Simon Sapper January 6, 2021 at 6:15 pm #

    Same as Rob’s comment really. Not at our best but we didn’t freeze or fail to turn up. First goal a bit soft, but we learned. VAR seems to do everyone over eventually. Josh unfortunate to slip as he went into the tackle but can’t really argue about the red. I just thought we didn’t look in any way out of place against Top 6 opposition, and Mads keeping Kane pretty quiet and causing panic with his long throws deserves a mention. As Thomas said after the game, the boys have done really well and we move on, irrespective of some inane crap from the Sky commentators. Just one point I’d disagree with you on Nick – I’d have Dean every and any day over Stroud!

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