The Shove Seen ‘Round the World

Steven Bergwijn jumped to his feet after going down in the 18-yard box, and shoved Leicester’s Cağlar Söyüncü to the ground. Spurs fans around the world groaned as referee Jon Moss reached into his pocket and pulled out a yellow card to book the Dutchman. The careless 94th minute foul would waste precious seconds in the race towards the end of stoppage time. Spurs, despite their 27 shots and 52% possession, would lose 2-1 and suffer a grievous wound in their pursuit of Champions League Football.

Tottenham had been in the ascendancy from the first whistle, piling on the pressure and creating chances galore. Spurs’ 27 shots and 10 shots on target were both a new high for the 2021-22 Premiere League campaign, an unexpected boon for supporters feeling less than enthusiastic about the potential for creativity from Conte’s starting XI. Yet Spurs were stymied when sloppy communication and execution in their backline allowed Foxes’ Patson Daka to put Leicester City ahead One to Nil against the run of play. Tottenham were able to equalize in the 38th minute with a vintage strike from Harry Kane, but were dealt another blow in the 76th minute when James Madison put Leicester up 2-1.

Spurs may have been expected to struggle at King Power Stadium, missing the pace and wily attacking abilities of Heung-Ming Son, who is still suffering from a muscle injury in his leg; whilst arguably their top two Center Backs in Dier and Romero also did not play, as they continue recovering from their own injuries. Still, one could argue that Spurs played one of their better matches of the season as the final minutes ticked down. Heading into stoppage time the Lilywhites found themselves in a very unlucky 2-1 hole, having failed to be clinical enough with their opportunities.

In the 79th minute Conte introduced Steven Bergwijn as a sub for Sergio Reguilón, and in the 94th minute, the winger’s frustration bubbled over. Bergwijn charged into the Leicester 18-yard box chasing a pass, and went down fairly easily after contact was made by defender Cağlar Söyüncü. The Turkish defender, who was clearly upset with Bergwijn’s decision to go down,  stood over him and said something right to his face. Bergwijn launched to his feet and shoved Söyüncü; it was now the Leicester player’s chance to go down easily. The Tottenham man stormed away, angrily slapping Kasper Schmeichel’s hand aside as he strode back up the pitch. Bergwijn looked angry, frustrated, annoyed, and sick of it all.

What followed was 79 of the most mind-boggling seconds a supporter will ever see. With the 95th minute winding down and Spurs’ fate nearly sealed, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg put a beautiful ball into the box which deflected off the chest of Matt Dougherty. Ironically the ball could not be collected by Söyüncü, and fell into Bergwijn’s lap. He promptly positioned himself and rifled home the equalizer, to the delight of Spurs’ faithful everywhere. Leicester fans choked on their most recent chorus of “Tottenham get battered everywhere they go.” Spurs fans thanked God for salvaging a point. But Harry Kane and Steven Bergwijn had retrieved the ball and were racing furiously up the pitch like mad men. There was no celebration to be had by Spurs. There was only belief.

Jon Moss restarted play, and Leicester played the ball back, before advancing it quickly forward. Hojbjerg intercepted the ball and played a neat pass to Kane in the center of the pitch. Harry Kane then did what Harry Kane does. Oft criticized for dropping too deep, he played a perfect through ball into the final third for Bergwijn who outpaced the nearest defender (you guessed it, Söyüncü), and maneuvered around a charging Schmeichel. He finished with his right foot, shooting across his body, the ball deflecting off the left post and in. 

79 seconds: the difference between pain and glory. Mayhem, limbs, scenes. All that football is and is meant to be. Spurs found their glorious ending, their three points, and a landmark moment for a Dutch lad who has struggled to make a home for himself in North London. Lucas and Lo Celso celebrated on the back of stewards, Hugo raced the full length of the pitch to join the celebration, and the away fans threatened to spill onto the pitch. Some will says Spurs announced themselves in the race for Top 4, others will say Conte has killed “spursy” and is instilling his own winning mentality. Only time will tell.

But  maybe it all started before that equalizer. When Bergwijn jumped up and shoved Cağlar Söyüncü, maybe he wasn’t just lashing out at a Leicester defender. Maybe he was lashing out because of the brutal misses at Anfield in December 2019 that may well have cost Tottneham three points at such a crucial time in their season. Maybe he was lashing out at the thousands of Spurs’ supporters that so cruelly maligned and mistreated him after that miss. Maybe he was lashing out at Mourinho for failing to properly utilize him. Maybe he was lashing out for the countless other missed scoring opportunities he’s accumulated the past 18 months. Maybe he was lashing out at the constant nagging injuries which have frequently hampered his progress. Maybe he was lashing out because of the Ajax transfer rumors flying around this January. Maybe he was lashing out at himself.

Maybe, just maybe, Steven Bergwijn has had enough, and took his destiny into his own hands. That shove of Söyüncü, that loss of self-control, released the flying Dutchmen. He didn’t crack or falter this time. His strikes were cool, collected, and true.

No one knows what is next for Steven Bergwijn. Perhaps Tottenham will sell him to Ajax. Perhaps he stays with Spurs, but fails to carry the momentum gained in this match and continues to struggle. But maybe something else will happen. Maybe Steven Bergwijn is good enough for Tottenham Hotspur, and is ready to show the world who he really is. And it all started with a shove. 

My name is Jeremy Morehouse, and I am an avid Spurs supporter from New York, USA, and a contributor to PODSPUR.  Click HERE if you liked my thoughts and want to follow me on twitter. Cheers!

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