On eighty minutes, a fan spontaneously combusted in front of me. Another doused himself with a canister of petrol and waved a match provocatively before he was wrestled to the ground by a posse of frenzied stewards. A female fan offered round a hip flask of Rohypnol. Everyone had their own solution. Any excuse to sidestep another mad Tottenham finale.
The late substitution of Mousa Dembele was met with dumbfoundment and derision by those around me as Spurs clung on to a slim 1-0 advantage over a desperate Swansea. Andre Villas-Boas’ negative substitutions in winning positions have been a contributing factor to the glut of late goals conceded in recent months and the removal of our midfield talisman only increased the likelihood of a late Swansea equaliser. We had been here before.
A sporting encounter peppered with easy-on-the-eye passing swiftly degenerated. The fear of what might happen overshadowed events on the pitch. The sound of jangling nerves was audible in the stands. Swansea, who failed to register a shot on target, found encouragement and fed on the prevailing air of uncertainty.
Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Hugo Lloris raced out to punch away a late Swansea punt and poleaxed Michu with the follow through. Referee Mike Dean played advantage and Spurs broke away seeking a second, game-killing goal on the counter only for impressive sub Andros Townsend to be foiled by Swans’ keeper Gerhard Tremmel.
The away side furiously objected to Townsend playing to the whistle and, as tempers flared, a tracksuited Jake Livermore sprang from the bench like a geezer at a bus stop to defend his friend and teammate (receiving a booking for his troubles). When the whistle blew, a stopwatch-defying eight minutes into injury time, fans punched the air and greeted the clean sheet like a minor miracle.
Late tensions aside, there was much to be admired in the home display. Spurs pressed Swansea relentlessly all over the pitch and, but for the profligacy of the off-key Jermain Defoe, might have sealed the points earlier and saved the home support from their injury time travails.
William Gallas was an old rock in defence while Kyle Naughton showed pleasing assurance at left-back and made a terrific, chance denying interception in the second half. The criminally underrated Aaron Lennon fizzed around the field like a runaway Christmas toy and the late introduction of Townsend offered Spurs another jet-heeled outlet in the absence of healing superstar Gareth Bale.
Jan Vertonghen’s lightning reactions from Kyle Walker’s free-kick delivered the crucial goal but fellow Belgian Dembele was, again, the star turn and driving force between defence and attack. Rarely has a £15 million fee appeared such a bargain. Spurs have yet to lose while the Belgian has been on the field of play, ever more reason to keep him on it.