Yet again, a horrendous start made last night’s Europa League tie in Madrid a steep uphill struggle, courtesy of our now all too familiar “Soft-Centre Syndrome”. But for that nightmare opening, I feel sure we could have given the strutting senors of Atletico a real game – if only we’d got ourselves properly settled in.
Sure, they had more class throughout their side … sure, they carried more sustained menace going forward … and sure, they had the arrogant self-assurance of a team that knows it should win. But still, for a heartening spell in the second half, before we surrendered to a slick but eminently avoidable second, we had them rocking to the extent that they resorted more than once to the hatchet-man tactics that seem to come so naturally to the Latin temperament when threatened.
If only we’d been able to capitalise on that fleeting spell of supremacy … if only Kayal had been more surgical with his feed to Hooper early in the first half, instead of playing it that fraction behind the hit-man’s stride … if only we’d had that comforting psychological base from which to launch our offensives, free from the dread of what might be going on behind our backs, particularly on the opposition break, it could all have been so different.
If only …
However, we are where we are and we just have to get on with it, starting you-know-where on Sunday. Let’s just hope and trust that Lenny can find enough positives from last night (and there were many, particularly when Ki and Kayal got motoring in midfield) to lift the heads and get the legs and mindset right for the weekend head-on clash with the Ancient Foe.
Our whole season may depend upon it, even this early.
C’mon the Hoops!!!