Champions League Semis: Tottenham – Ajax, Leg 1: Not As I Hoped, But Pretty Much As I Expected

Tottenham 0 – Ajax 1

Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino have generally been fun to watch. They play high-pressing, short-passing, ball-control-oriented attacking football–basically the general formula played by every team that has successfully internalized the insights that Barcelona gave to the world with tiki-taka. So it was less than fully satisfying to watch Spurs resort to blasting long-balls up the field, and all the more so because a substantial number of them were aimed not at tall Fernando Llorente but at really-quite-short Lucas Moura. They might as well have put WE DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE ANY IDEAS up on all of the big fancy screens in their new stadium.

Ajax, on the other hand, played high-pressing, short-passing, ball-control-oriented attacking football, and they’re really good at it. It’s not hard to see how they beat Real Madrid and Juventus. Tottenham looked totally bamboozled for the first 30 minutes, and substantially the lesser team for the rest of the game. Spurs were lucky to escape with a 0-1 loss.

I read a cute article in the soccer press earlier today that argued that Spurs still totally have a chance to win the tie. Ajax might rue that they only won by a single goal, the writer argued. Well, in order to advance, Spurs have to go to Amsterdam and win. So, I wracked my brain and came up with all the reasons I could think of to believe that Spurs are capable of beating Ajax. Here’s my list:

1.

Will I watch anyway? Sure. There’s reason to think it could be an entertaining match. Spurs have to win; it’s that simple. That means they can’t hold back. If they can’t hold back, then they’ll be vulnerable to the counterattack, and Ajax certainly have counterattacking capabilities. Every goal that Ajax score means that things get more desperate for Spurs, which means they have to commit even more to the attack, which makes them ever-more-vulnerable. It’s not crazy to think that Ajax might find the back of the net more than a few times. I’m not likely to see my team make their way to the final, but it could be a fun game nevertheless.

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