What looked a tough task after a first leg on plastic, ended up a more
straight-forward win that left the Young Boys of Bern looking like they
had nothing to offer in the second leg on grass and the Spurs men took
full advantage. Although having said that, the score could easily
have been 7-0 or 8-0, but Spurs settled for the Peter Crouch hat-trick
and a dodgy "handball" assisted goal from Jermain Defoe to progress to
the Champions League group stage.
In fact, even the driving rain that swept into North London in the
mid-afternoon failed to dampen the players' enthusiasm for the battle
ahead. With Spurs missing Luka Modric and Giovani dos Santos
relegated to the bench, the team lined up for the kick off with Tom
Huddlestone starting after his impressive sub's appearance in
Switzerland, alongside Aaron Lennon on the right side. Jermain
Defoe partnered Crouch, in for Pavlyuchenko and captain Ledley King
replaced Sebastien Bassong alongside Michael Dawson in the middle of
defence in the other change from the first leg starting XI.
Tottenham taking the field in their
all-white European kit to the strains of the Champions League theme was
something I had waited to see and hear for many years.
With the Swiss side kicking off, it would
be interesting to see how they would cope with the different playing
surface, although made slick by the soaking it got, it might have played
a little more like plastic than Spurs would have been used to. The
need for a good start and the early goal saw Tottenham set off with a
Having won an early corner on the Spurs
right, Gareth Bale crossed the pitch to swing it in, but the Young Boys
managed to knock the ball away, although straight back to the Welshman.
Bale picked up the ball, cut inside into the box and stood up a cross to
the far post, where Michael Dawson was underneath it, but left the ball
for the tall figure of Peter Crouch coming in behind him to bury his
header low across the keeper to give Tottenham a 1-0 lead within five
minutes of the start and put Spurs level at 3-3 on aggregate.
The crowd's early joy was tempered by the
sight of Heurelho Gomes laying on the ground holding his groin after
kicking a ball out. He looked uncomfortable and was limping
visibly, but either the Swiss side had not noticed or could not force
him into a period under pressure while he was hampered by the injury.
He had to punch one corner out when he could have caught it, but apart
from that there was only a shot that faded inches wide when a Jemal shot
was blocked and Hochstrasser hooked the ball towards goal and went
closer than perhaps he thought it might have ended up in the 39th
By that stage of the game, Spurs had put
themselves into the group stages. Benoit Assou-Ekotto stationed
himself on the edge of the box and struck a cleared corner very cleanly
and the shot then struck Jemal flush in his chest (although some fans
cried for handball). The force of the shot knocked the wind out of
the central defender and he needed treatment to recover. 23
minutes in, a Crouch knock down of Corluka's cross very nearly set up
Huddlestone, but he was not quite close enough to the ball and his shot
saw him slice under the ball and then Assou-Ekotto strode forward out of
the depths of his own half to reach 20 yards out from the Young Boys
goal before he let fly and the ball flew over the bar.
Just when Gomes was asking to be
substituted, Spurs nicked the ball away from YB and JD played a one-two
with Bale, leaving him on the edge of the D, where he took the ball
down, quite obviously using his arm to bring the ball under control,
before smashing it left footed between the keeper and his right hand
post. At 2-0 and with 32 minutes gone, Spurs fans could breathe a
little more easily.
It also seemed to free the Spurs players
up a bit more and Lennon's through ball allowed Defoe in on goal, but
his shot fizzed just wide as it flew across the goal and past the
opposite post. Young Boys really should have pulled a goal back,
when Gomes' injury caused confusion in the Tottenham defence, with both
Dawson and Corluka leaving Costanzo's cross and Henri Bienvenu was left
with a free header from six yards out, but he could only knock it over
the bar, with the limited mobility of Gomes rendering him helpless had
it been better directed.
With half-time giving the crowd a chance
to get their breath back, Carlo Cudicini was being given a good work-out
by Sam Erith (the fitness coach) and it was evident that he would be
replacing Gomes in a move that perhaps should have taken place twenty
minutes before the end of the first period.
The second half saw Tottenham press
towards the Paxton Road end, with a 50th minute free kick being swung in
by Bale, with Corluka not showing enough desire to get on the end of the
ball, with the goal yawning in front of him and no YB player picking him
up. Four minutes later, a ball into the box was not adequately
cleared by Dawson as the ball slid off his foot and it dropped
conveniently for Bienvenu, who spurned another straight-forward chance,
by not getting enough weight on his shot and Cudicini got behind the
ball and grabbed it comfortably.
Bale was the key factor in the victory
and his cross in the 56th minute was arrowing to Jermain Defoe in the
six yard box, but Spycher did very well to get something on the bal land
to get the ball away from the position of danger. The corner that
came from the clearance was headed down by King, but it hit a white
shirt and dropped to Crouch, who tried to power a shot home, but Wolfi
(Smith) did well to throw himself in the way and keep the ball out from
close range. However, the goalie was helpless just four minutes
later, as Crouch got up well to meet Bale's corner and this time made no
mistake from a central position to head down past Wolfi. Degen,
who had impressed in the first leg was not happy and took a swing at
Crouch ... mainly because he was so frustrated with Lulic, who failed to
challenge the England front man. In fact, Degen was lucky to be on
the pitch, as he had been leaving his foot in late and snarling and
complaining about every decision that went against him. Such a
contrast to his play last week and his obvious happier countenance when
things were all going his way. He was booked for a late tackle on
Huddlestone, with the referee doing well to go back to book him after
play had been allowed to go on.
Lulic had already been booked for a
cynical foul,He was not the same character who gave the Spurs defence
trouble in the first leg ... more that he was troubling Spurs players by
how injured they might get if they were near him when the ball appeared.
Jermain Defoe's groin injury had limited him to 60 minutes and
Pavlyuchenko came on to replace him, and was almost immediately
cautioned for a late tackle on Affolter.
Then another fine passing move worked the
ball through the Young Boys side to end with Gareth Bale wide on the
left. He looked as though he might have lost the ball, but he
wriggled through two yellow shirted players in the box and Lulic whipped
his legs away from underneath him and the French referee waited for what
seemed like an interminable length of time, before blowing his whistle
and pointing to the penalty spot. In the ensuing melee around the
referee and the red cardfollowed, while Lulic was lead from the pitch.
Crouch grabbed the ball and wanting his hat-trick, he placed it and
waited for the delay to pass before making an awkward run up to the ball
and putting it past Wolfi, who dived the wrong way, into the keeper's
bottom right hand corner. 4-0 and the game was up for Young Boys.
But there was more left in the game, even
with the visitors reduced to ten men and Spurs wanting to reserve a bit
of energy for Saturday's match. Kranjcar came on for Bale for the
reason of saving him for the Premier League match and Spurs continued to
attack the Swiss side's goal.
A corner from Hud was planted onto
Corluka's head, but once more he displayed his disliking for heading the
ball by putting a routine header over the top, when anything on target
would have stood a good chance of being a goal. When Spurs worked
the ball down the left to find Roman Pavlyuchenko, the Russian held the
ball up well and played a very unselfish pass square to Crouch as he ran
in and he was denied a fourth goal by Wolfi spreading his legs to block
the ball in the 84th minute.
With the flanks giving Tottenham a lot of
attacking potential, Lennon swapped pass with Kranjcar and as the ball
popped up, Lennon made a volley for himself, but did not keep the ball
on target, with it going over the top by a few feet.
With hardly any efforts on goal, Young
Boys capitulated pretty easily and after the first game, you would have
thought they would have gained great confidence from the win.
However, Spurs played a good tempo and passed pretty well, although they
must not give away cheap possession as better teams will be much more
vicious when you don't have the ball. Spurs were also lucky that
they were not punished when they made mistakes and while it might not
have made much difference to the outcome, it might have heaped some
unnecessary pressure on themselves.
Flags waved and fans cheered, but there
were still murmurs of discontent as some left the ground. There
will be games ahead that will test Spurs to a different level than they
have been used to in the group stages. Will this be a good thing
or will it just lead to cat calls from sections of the crowd ?
Well, unless you play against the best you might not ever find out how
good you are. ... or how bad. It will be a valuable
experience and getting this far might attract a different class of
players and that might consequently help us in the domestic league
It is another step in the development of
We haven't made it yet. But we have
made the Champions League group stages and that is somewhere we haven't
been before. Maybe it will be those single steps that are at the
beginning of a thousand mile journey. The group might take us over
the thousand miles, but this first step is a significant one whatever
the outcome of the first Champions League campaign.