Thursday 27th November 2014
We all hoped that come game six of our group we would be making our latest visit to Istanbul when the game is largely irrelevant. With half an hour to go against Anderlecht a few weeks ago that situation looked highly likely. Given what happened that night and our recent run of results however, we couldn’t help but go into last night’s encounter with Borussia Dortmund wondering if we could still slip up. Without a better performance I don’t think there is any doubt we could have!
A misty and murky London N5 greeted our arrival pre-match, considerably clearer than many parts for any of us who had travelled from outside of London believe me! The fog was that thick in some areas we could be forgiven for thinking the game might be off! With it being relatively mild, very little breeze and some moisture in the air, the mist did not take away the fact it was an atmospheric and perfect night for football. All we needed was our team to prove just that.
With our friends from Germany being as noisy and colourful as ever we could not have asked for a better start. A fine one-two between Santi and Yaya before the latter buried the chance to get us on our way. The joy around the stadium was definitely graced with a degree of relief, any nerves being eased a little to the bargain.
Easy to say this when you are winning of course but lessons learned from Saturday were hugely apparent for the rest of the night. Our visitors were typically and expectedly good with the ball but we kept our defensive shape extremely well and always looked threatening going forward. Perhaps demonstrating how fragile any lead can be, no matter how well you play, Dortmund did have a couple of chances but only 2 throughout, one of those being in injury time when the game was virtually over as a contest. Both times, in addition to his handling being safe and secure all night, our young goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez made fine stops.
The Ox put in another fine performance I felt, matching his current form and only the crossbar prevented him from wacking the icing on the cake from a quite superb long range effort. Naturally coming so close can have us all wondering if yet again it might not be our night!
Alexis soon eased those fears of course with another quite superb strike from outside the box. Happy faces all round at last. It certainly feels like a while since we’ve seen those.
I was also very pleased for Nacho Monreal last night. Playing totally out of position yet again he has found himself a little bit of a scapegoat in recent weeks when there are plenty of others out there than have contributed to some poor results. I thought he was excellent in an all round much more pleasing team performance. If only the ‘injury Gods’ could be just a little bit kinder to us we might see what this current squad is capable of.
So, yet again, we progress from our Champions League Group. It hasn’t been totally plain sailing of course but we are through. Although looking unlikely now, we still have an outside chance of winning the group. With a victory for us in Turkey and Anderlecht in Dortmund the only way this can happen, the odds are heavily stacked against this being the situation. But we are through and that is the main thing. We can forget about the competition until February.
Premier League points are now the number one priority with a hugely important run of games as we head towards that busy Christmas period. That starts with Saturday lunchtime’s visit to The Hawthorns.
Lets make some noise!