The Warm-Up: BVBeasted
Jack Lang recaps last night's Tottenham heroics, wishes Kevin Keegan happy birthday and has some important #ladnews...
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
Way of the cross
Imagine telling a Tottenham fan, a few months ago, that their first Champions League knockout game would look like this:
Now The Warm-Up knows a few Spurs fans blessed with the gift of optimism, but that hardly reads like a recipe for success, does it? Throw in their group-stage toils (yes they made it through, but not before making Luuk de Jong look like Gabriel Batistuta), and the pessimist-realists might have been forgiven for bracing for a car crash.
And yet here we are, basking in the glow of what must go down as one of Tottenham’s best European performances in recent memory. The excuses were lined up like dominoes, but never got an airing as Borussia Dortmund were brushed aside.
Or rather crossed into oblivion, with all three Spurs goals coming from balls whipped in from wide areas. Jan Vertonghen, buffalo-rampant from left wing-back, teed up the first for Heung-Min Son with a devilish delivery, then got on the end of Serge Aurier’s centre to double the advantage.
Dortmund, who had played reasonably well in the first half, looked stunned. And their misery was compounded in the closing moments, when noted stealth merchant Fernando Llorente was allowed to ghost in and nod home from a corner. It was, apparently, his first ever Tottenham goal as a substitute. Better late than never, amigo.
Tie over, then? Not necessarily: Dortmund were missing key men and are more than capable of pulling something special out of the bag back in Germany. But Tottenham themselves have extra Kane-flavoured gears to reach, and should be feeling pretty good about life this morning.
Death Star Madrid on the march
Is there anything more grim, more asphyxiatingly inevitable, than Real Madrid in the Champions League? God, they’re like every baddie from every film, book and video game you’ve ever consumed, all rolled into one and dressed up in Adidas.
Ajax have been great fun in the Champions League this season and played well last night. They hit the woodwork, missed chances, and had a goal ruled out by VAR – correctly, you’d have to say, but that only became evident after watching the incident 70-odd times. “There to catch the clear mistakes” and all that.
But obviously, in the end, Madrid did their thing. Late winner, dark arts from Darth Ramos, job done. They’re going to win it again, aren’t they?
Of Rice and men
The Warm-Up has never felt the need to read How to Win Friends and Influence People, but assumes there is at least a small segment dedicated to the topic of international football. A few lines would probably suffice. “Don’t play for one country and then decide to play for one of their historic rivals,” or something along those lines.
At which point, enter Declan Rice, Republic of Ireland prodigy. Hang on, let me double-check these notes… ah, sorry, now England prodigy, after the conclusion of the slowest volte-face of the decade yesterday.
“This has been an extremely difficult decision,” said the West Ham man. “I have equal respect for both England and Ireland and therefore the national team I choose to represent is not a clear-cut, simple selection. Ultimately, it is a personal decision I have made with my heart and my head, based on what I believe is best for my future.”
Which is a much nicer way of saying, “Erm, I’m good and Ireland are a bit crap” than The Warm-Up could ever have come up with.
IN OTHER NEWS
You know the lads. You’ve seen them on the high street. You know, just past the corn exchange. Doing their little jumps. The lads! Come on, don’t pretend. You know the lads. With their hats and handshakes. Oh, they’re just trouble. Always shaking up cans of fizzy pop and doing wheelies. A menace to the village! The bloody lads!
Well they’ve only gone and done it this time. That incident with the Asda trolley was one thing, but this is a whole new level. The lads. At the stadium. The lads with a master plan and the goddamn stones to pull it off, straight-faced. They’re legends now. Living, breathing myths.
Two thumbs up for the lads. Two thumbs up.
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: Moussa Sissoko’s social media guy
Never knowingly undersold.
Also: “S17SOKO”. Utmost respect for persevering with that one against all prevailing logic.
Zeroes: The Oystons
Overdue good news at Blackpool: majority owner Owen Oyston is finally being crowbarred from the club. The Tangerines have been put into receivership, and will be sold so Oyston – perhaps the creepiest-looking man this side of The Silence of the Lambs – can pay off some of the £22million owed to Latvian banker Valeri Belokon.
A very happy birthday to Kevin ‘Mighty Mouse’ Keegan. Here’s a nice little bundle of archive footage from when he pitched up to manage Newcastle back in 1992, complete with more natty tracksuits and questionable haircuts than you could shake a stick at:
And we are of course legally bound to include this, which remains the best rant in Premier League history, bar none:
"If you enjoy Qatar’s Voldemort-like status in a tournament they actually won, then you’d have loved the Khaleej Times’s headline: Unlucky Japan lose AFC Asian Cup final. Japan fought until the last second, this version of events lamented, and like a champion side, dug deep to grab a positive result but couldn’t succeed. Mmm. Sort of like a champion side, then. And sort of a positive result."
Those hardy souls who sat through the Europa League group stage start to get their rewards tonight, with a last-32 round that actually looks – y’know – semi-watchable. BATE vs Arsenal and Malmo vs Chelsea are the English concerns, and not much cop, but Celtic vs Valencia looks promising, as does Lazio vs Sevilla.
Tom Adams, the man who would be king at Eurosport Towers, will be manning tomorrow’s Warm-Up.