How ironic that the man whose goals got us into the Champions League and
have kept us there, may be the man who ends our involvement in the
competition by producing a fine imitation of Gazza in the 1991 FA Cup
Final. By getting sent off in the 15th minute and leaving
ten Spurs players to play Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, Peter Crouch can
only salvage his and Tottenham’s season by scoring league goals to help
the team to a top four finish.
that now seems unlikely, with the team unable to win in the last six
games and not having scored for the last four, the tired players will
have to face up to the physical rigours of a Premier League game against
Stoke City on Saturday after being caned 4-0 by Real.
The score-line was unimportant in the
end, with more damage likely to be felt by the injuries to Bale, Corluka
and Gallas. The defence had so much to do and now we have so few to do
it that the remaining eight league matches look like eight too many ...
even though five of them are at home.
Meeting Real in the quarter final of the
Champions League was a bit of a dream come true and we knew how hard it
would be, especially with Madrid being coached by Mourinho, who
understands English football. The reality of the Real game was that we
barely got started. Well, Aaron Lennon didn’t, not even making it up
the tunnel as he had a sore throat and felt like he had no energy. The
remainder of the players (Peter Crouch aside) felt that same after 90+
minutes running around chasing the ball.
Two moments of headstrong impetuosity
cost Spurs the game and left Real the simple task of knocking the ball
about. While Spurs defended manfully, every time the ball was cleared,
it came straight back. There was no respite. And while Dawson put in a
great shift, two of the goals we conceded were poor and two could not be
stopped, even though Gomes might have done better with the fourth.
In the end, the number of attacks was
just too much for Spurs. They could stop some of them, but not all and
by the end, even players who normally hold the ball well (Modric, Bale)
were so tired physically and mentally that they turned the ball over
The game started badly, with Lennon
unable to take to the field with illness and Jermaine Jenas appearing in
the camera shots of the line-ups for the Champions League anthem like
Lennon on stilts. Obviously, being thrown into the team at the last
minute is not ideal preparation for anyone and the first corner Real had
saw him picking up Adebayor, leaving the ex-Gooner with an easily won
header that Gomes got a hand to and that touch foxed Modric, who could
not get behind it to keep it out on the line. The ball literally
trickled into the side netting.
Four minute sin and a goal down, but
nothing to worry about too much as Spurs had been in that position of
being behind before this season and had come back to get something.
However, what they hadn’t accounted for was the rush of blood that Peter
Crouch had in sliding in to kick Sergio Ramos up in the air to get a
yellow card and then eight minutes later launching Marcelo into orbit in
a similar fashion with the same result, leading to his departure from
Three red cards in this campaign have
been shown to Spurs players and this is the one that will really hurt
when we look back on the Champions League run.
Leaving only a not totally mobile Rafael
van der Vaart up front meant that there was no out ball. Rafa did OK,
but with Spurs setting up two banks of four in front of Gomes, the
midfield was finding it hard tog et up and support him. Bale was just
finding it hard, as every time he got the ball there was Ramos blocking
his way by fair means or foul. But he did get on the end of Dawson’s
raking pass to chest it down, but just take it too far to his left to
get his shot on target and it hit the outside of the side-netting.
Another piece of quick thinking saw Alonso concede a throw and Bale took
it quickly to van der Vaart in the heart of the penalty area, but the
ball would not come down for him and Carvalho managed to nick it away at
waist level as he shaped to shoot.
And really that was all Spurs could get
going forward in the first half. Everything else was backs to the
wall. Jenas was almost anonymous, Sandro was too busy chasing Real
players with the ball and Modric could not find anyone available to take
his passes when he got hold of possession. The back four were penned
back in their own last third and had to be careful not to dive in and
concede free kicks in and around the box.
Ronaldo continually tried his luck with
not much troubling Gomes, as his shots nearly all went wide. Adebayor
was fairly quiet apart from getting a booking for a late slide in on
Assou-Ekotto and Ozil prompted and probed around the edge of the area.
Neither Ozil, Alonso nor Di Maria were outstanding, but then they didn’t
have to be. It was just a question of waiting their opening and they
didn’t have to force the game.
The only bit of luck Spurs had was when a
volley from Di Maria flew up off Michael Dawson's thigh and hit his
hands when he was inside the penalty area. Luckily, referee Brych
waved play on.
The second half looked like it would be
much more of the same until Spurs fell asleep at a Madrid corner and
Marcelo lifted a ball into the middle of the Spurs penalty area and
Adebayor rose to head the ball back the way Gomes had just come to make
it 2-0. Khedira was also there and Gallas was little off the two of
them, with no other Tottenham defender within five yards of them.
Having done so well in the first half, the conceding of a second goal in
such sloppy fashion early in the second half set Spurs a tough task in
the second leg.
But worse was to come.
As Spurs tried to hold the ball, with
Defoe's introduction for van der Vaart designed to put this into
practice, they tired and many players started to cramp up. Spurs
offered little in attack and had to get as many players behind the ball
when Real came forward. It left them physically drained and the
two goals that followed were a result of the effort Spurs had put in.
The ball was worked across the pitch to De Maria, who took Assou-Ekotto
on in the box and cut inside from the right wing onto his left
foot and struck a curling shot that Gomes could not get near and entered
the goal close to the far post to end a fantastic finish.
As the ball was almost the unique
preserve of Real Madrid by this stage, a fourth goal was harsh, but had
been coming. Kaka had a yard of space and picked out a cross from
the left across the box to where Cristiano Ronaldo was standing and he
shaped his body to strike a volley past Bassong and Gomes could only get
a weak hand to it as it went in low at his near post. It was a
soft goal for a keeper to let in, but he didn't have a clear view of the
shot, had just come across from the other side of the goal, so wasn't
properly set and it would be difficult to be too critical, as he had
made a fine reaching save to push a header over the bar from Adebayor
that would have given the Gooner a hat-trick had it gone in. So
things could have been worse !!
Tottenham's only effort of the second
half worthy of note came from a cleared corner that Benoit hit straight
back, but his shot was a yard wide and has Casillas scrambling, but not
On the other hand Gomes had to make two
saves from Ronaldo and Ozil, while Ramos struck a fierce shot over the
bar from an acute angle.
4-0 hardly flattered Real as they had
little resistance in the latter stages and picked Spurs off with
clinical efficiency. 4-0 was harsh for Tottenham who gave a lot
and ended up with little.
If they end up back in the competition,
hopefully, this will be another lesson learned.