The referee was the centre of controversy as Spurs ran out 4-1 winners
over Twente Enschede, while playing the last half hour with ten men and
having been handed three penalties. The match officials appeared
spot-on, but not as far as Twente manager and former Belgian national
goalkeeper Michel Preud'homme was concerned.
For Spurs, it was the culmination of a
season and more's hard work. The first Champions League proper
game at White Hart Lane. And for the early stages, it looked as
though they had been over-awed by the occasion. The ground was
half empty to start with, as there were travel problems and a number of
fans were locked out by a fire alarm automatically locking the
turnstiles in the Paxton Road, keeping them out of the stadium for 20
system with Aaron Lennon on the bench.
Set up with five men in midfield, it
seemed like Twente were set to stack the midfield with players and
hopefully take a breakaway goal. With bean-pole striker Janko up
front, his inability to hold the ball up cost his side good territorial
advantage, while the team were mostly restricted to long-range shooting.
Ruiz's low shot made the returning Gomes dive to claim the ball, but he
was not over-stretched by the effort. The Brazilian keeper's
kicking showed that he was perhaps less than 100% fit, but he dealt with
what came his way in a competent fashion.
Tottenham's best opening attack came in
the sixth minute, when van der Vaart picked out Bale with a pass that
just went over the defender's head and Gareth hit a first time volleyed
cross, which saw goalkeeper Mihaylov get there just before Peter Crouch.
When the ball was moved to the Spurs end, Janssen took a quick free-kick
on the right hand side and Landzaat fired in a shot that Sebastien
Bassong had done well to get back to and throw a block in front of the
drive. Then the attacking was at the other end, with Bale racing
down the left wing and trying to get the ball before it crossed the
line, which he did successfully, Rosales took him into the advertising
hoardings, with the Welshman needing treatment to continue.
Huddlestone set up Pavlyuchenko for a
shot from outside the box, but he only managed to slice it wide and then
Gomes came to Tottenham's rescue, when Ruiz ran through, after Bassong
had been dispossessed, with the keeper delaying committing himself until
the Twente player tried to lift the ball over him, but it only got up
about three feet high, leaving Gomes the opportunity to slap the ball
away with his right hand reaching up above him as he went down.
An incident in the centre circle may have
left things ending very differently. Janko chased Tom Huddlestone,
tugging his shirt to pull him back. As Tom tried to shake him
loose he move an arm backwards and Janko went down like he had been
struck by a Haye-maker punch. Not surprising as Twente were
demonstrating a cynical and theatrical side to their game, which, as the
Good Doctor said to me, wasn't what we had waited all these years to
see. The referee ajudged Janko as the guilty party, giving a
free-kick to Spurs and maybe by crying wolf, his team-mates had done him
an injustice, when another official might have sent Tom off.
It was only fifteen minutes gone when van
der Vaart, who was to be a key player in the game, had a curling shot
from the left hand corner of the box to force Mihaylov to dive to his
left and palm the ball away and then eight minutes later, the Dutchman's
free-kick almost picked out Crouch's head. As has often been the
case this season, Bale's marauding runs on the left wing were
bewildering the defenders and he took on Rosales, putting in a low cross
pulled back that took the keeper out of the game and it was only the
intervention of Wisgerhof that stopped it reaching wither Crouch or Pav.
The other Twente full back Kuiper was getting forward and put a low
cross in that the Austrian Janko met on the volley and his shot was
hard, but slightly off target.
van der Vaart entered the action again
with a drive that rose over the bar from 25 yards out and then had the
ball played into him with his back to goal, flicking the ball up for his
own home-made volley that went straight at Mikhaylov with 36 minutes
gone. It was two minutes later, when Crouch was dragged to the far
post turf by Wisgerhof as van der Vaart's cross came in that the
Dutchman was proved fallible. The whole Twente team pursued the
referee, the goalkeeper wasted time and got a yellow card for his
troubles and then, as Rafael placed the ball down, having calmly stood
waiting for the histrionics to end, the players tried to persuade the
referee that the ball was not on the spot. It was, but the
distracting tactics must have affected our number 11, who put his shot
halfway up the goal to the keeper's right and he dived the right way to
tip it onto the woodwork and away - although half-time replays showed
the goalie well off his line before it was kicked. The miss
upset van der Vaart, who was booked a minute later for a sliding tackle
Never one to stay out of the action, a
Twente dead ball move broke down and Assou-Ekotto played a long ball
beyond the last Enschede defender and van der Vaart took one touch and
then cracked a dipping shot on the half-volley as the ball bounced up
and it was a little too straight, allowing the goalie to acrobatically
push it over the crossbar.
The half-time whistle brought the curtain
down on a vigorous first half, with Spurs perhaps having the more
chances, but the penalty aside, Twente should have scored with the Ruiz
opportunity. Keane warmed up in the half-time interval and it was
a surprise when the team that ended the first half started the second.
It was a good move by Harry Redknapp, as
within two minutes they were ahead. Huddlestone dinked a ball to
the far post, where Peter Crouch headed it down and Rafael took the ball
on his chest on the edge of the six yard box and then swivelled to
volley the ball past the keeper and a defender on the line. It was
a well taken goal and he really enjoyed it.
Spurs seized the moment and got bale in
on the left and as he broke into the box, Rosales could only slide in to
floor the Welshman. After consultation with the official behind
the goal, the referee pointed to the spot and this time Roman
Pavlyuchenko stepped up to stroke the ball past Mihaylov into the bottom
corner that the keeper didn't dive to. So, two goals in four
minutes and the game had been turned on it's head, but not as much as it
would be in four second half minutes coming up to the hour.
The delay in the restart obviously
annoyed the Twente manager and players, as the ball had been booted out
of the net and Ledley king was running back to his own box, when a
Twente player started pushing him and the Dutch side had distracted the
referee by complaining about the goal celebrations.
King was soon involved in some football
action, as he threw himself in front of a Ruiz shot and then when the
ball was played back into the box, Huddlestone headed away with a Twente
player lurking behind him. 54 minutes were showing on the clock,
but it found Spurs on the back foot. Janssen, the free-kick
expert, put one into the mixer and Tom headed out, but only as far as
Janko, who reacted quickly to head back at goal, but it landed on top of
the goal instead of in it. When another free-kick came in
from Janssen, it ricocheted around the box until it ran loose to
substitute Chadli who struck it past a group of players and into the
For the first time in the match Twente
put Spurs under a period of sustained pressure with some neat one-twos
around the edge of the box. A proud man the Twente manager may be,
but he will no doubt be kicking himself that the team he sent out were
set up so defensively, with only the rare break forward, until they were
0-2 down and then they started to play a bit and if they had approached
the game in this manner, Spurs may have been more troubled.
But four minutes after the goal, the
turning point was reached when, just a minute after van der Vaart
turning his backside into Landzaat to stop his progress, a high ball out
of the Spurs defence saw Rosales leaping high on the touchline to win a
header, but the Dutchman went in without much hope of winning the ball
and sent the Twente midfielder spinning to the floor. It was a
needless challenge and one which should have been avoided, as the red
card that was produced was a little obvious in coming. So 61
minutes gone and Spurs down to 10 men.
It looked as though Tottenham might have
a bit of hanging on to do, as Ruiz drove a shot over the top from
outside the area. However, within three minutes of Rafael's
sending off, Spurs were 3-1 ahead. A neat exchange of passes ended
with the ball being presented to Pavlyuchenko's feet and hr drilled a
shot on goal, which Kuiper blocked on the edge of the box. From
where I sit in the Lower East stand, it looked as if the defender had
clearly moved his arm towards the ball to protect his face. It
took a conversation with the linesman to get the referee to once more
point to the spot and it was our Russian striker who stepped up to take
his second penalty of the game. This time, he decided to chip the
spot-kick at goal and luckily, Mihaylov's weight had shifted the other
way, leaving unable to react to the shot and the ball arced through the
air and in the centre of the goal.
Once more, cue red shirted players
surrounding the ref as the award was made, before the kick was taken and
when they went to kick off again. This time it was because Spurs
wanted to replace Pav, according to the fourth official, but it was
Crouch who eventually made way for Jermaine Jenas to add some fresh legs
to the midfield and protect what Spurs already had.
They needn't have worried too much, as
Twente took a liking to shooting from long range and Janssen missed by a
considerable distance, while an effort worked inside the area saw Janko
hit a weak shot straight at Gomes. Spurs did manage the odd break,
with Pav freeing Modric through the middle and Douglas stretched a long
leg out to block the ball, just as the Croatian let go a shot.
Gomes had not had too much to deal with in the air, but one cross saw
him come to punch it and it went straight to Chadli, who tried to
measure his volley, but only managed to put it wide and high.
Substitute de Jong had a great chance to
score, when he took one touch in the box to get around Bassong, but with
only Gomes to beat, he swung at the ball and missed by a long way,
leaving Spurs to collect the bal land launch another attack.
Within two minutes the ball was in the Twente net. Some good
passing football had seen Spurs take the steam out of the Twente
revival, but some quick movement of the ball saw Brazilian defender
Douglas not get enough on a header back to his keeper and this allowed
the athletic Bale to race onto the ball in the area and slide a shot
past the keeper Mihaylov and make the score 4-1. At this stage,
even Twente had given up trying to persuade the ref it shouldn't have
stood as a goal, settling for arguing amongst themselves to hide their
embarrassment of losing to ten men.
This time Pavlyuchenko did come off,
replaced by Robbie Keane, who had two good chances to run through the
middle of the Dutch defence, but both times played the ball against the
defenders' leg when he could have played team-mates in. There were
little to speak of in the four minutes of added time, with Spurs
weathering the storm of Twente pressure without too many scares.
With Tottenham, you know you are never
going to get an easy ride, but this was something else. Surely not
every Champions League game can be as incident packed as this. But
if they are half-filled with as many, they will be compulsive watching
and the Spurs defence will need to be considerably more alert when they
face Internazaionale in the next two matches.