Rarely can White Hart Lane have seen a game of two such diverse halves
of football, as an abject Spurs side slipped to a 0-2 half-time deficit
before some tactical changes and what must have been a rousing half-time
team talk from Juande Ramos and Gus Poyet inspired a dramatic turnaround
to earn a 3-2 victory.
Just when it looked like our once proud home
European record would take another dent, Spurs came out looking like a
side interested, as opposed to the nonchalant eleven who took the field
in the first half. A lax defensive approach left Tottenham chasing
a two goal deficit, with one goal coming just 113 seconds into the tie.
Enevoldsen took the ball from a throw-in and stepped infield to curl a
shot beyond the reach of Robinson, with no Spurs player getting close to
the Aalborg midfielder. Although unbeaten since Ramos took control
of the team, it was the worst start we could have.
Unfortunately, the crowd contained a
large number of irregular watchers and many who had been given free
tickets and their response was in keen contrast to the constant
cheering, singing, jumping up and down and general good-natured support
of their team by the red and white clad Danes in the Park Lane end.
it is not too far from the truth to say
that Aalborg gave Spurs a bit of a footballing lesson in the first half
and they could easily have gone in at half time four goals to the good.
They passed the ball well and showed good control and a willingness to
find some space to allow the man on the ball to pass it on.
Jermaine Jenas was having trouble getting
in the game, as were the rest of our midfielders, as the ball was passed
at speed around them and when JJ did get forward, he was crowded out,
just as he was about to cross the ball and then he couldn't get his foot
over the ball when it dropped to him and it went high into the Park Lane
end. Tottenham had a little period of pressure and forced some
corners, but they were all defended by the Aalborg team. The
Danes then broke at pace to leave Spurs trailing and Johansson played
the ball through to Prica, who crumpled under Lee's challenge, but the
referee, who had a good view, pointed for a corner rather than a
At last, Tottenham got Lennon into the
game and one ball from Jenas gave Aaron the opportunity to run onto it
and his cross was missed by everyone except Keane at the far post, but
he could not get around it and he hit the side-netting. Another
ball in from Bale caused panic, but it saw Lennon fly in for a header
(no, really) and miss, but Berba was at the far post and his volley flew
As we approached the half hour, Olesen
played a pacy ball in that Prica headed wide when well placed and .a few
minutes later, Spurs were caught out as Aalborg broke again and the lone
striker Prica drifted out left and played a low ball into the goalmouth,
but Dawson fell over and Risgaard was alone in the sic yard box to
bundle the ball across the line to make it 2-0 and cue groans from all
around the ground. It could have been worse in the next attack, as
Prica drifted in between Dawson and Lee to meet the ball with his head,
although his weak header floated wide.
Spurs tried to get back into the match
before the break, with Lennon putting Jenas through, but he only managed
to clash with keeper Zaza and both needed treatment before being able to
continue. Chimbonda jumped highest to nod a header goal-wards, but
landed his attempt on top of the net, much to his frustration, as he
kicked the goalpost to show his annoyance.
So, half-time when the changes Ramos made
changed the course of the match and did so within a minute of the
whistle that started the second half. Off went Lee and Jenas with
Bent and Huddlestone coming on. New, slim-line substitute Tom
Huddlestone looked up and saw Bent and Berbatov bursting into the area
and as Bent went down under a defender's push, Hud picked out the
Bulgarian's run with a pass along the turf and he stretched out a leg to
direct the ball slowly past the on-rushing keeper.
Back in the game, Huddlestone was the
axis that the Spurs team were playing around and the tempo that
Tottenham were playing at was upped considerably from the slow moving
first half display. Within five minutes, Darren Bent's shot
bounced out to Robbie Keane, who played it to Steed Malbranque to smash
the ball into the net off the underside of the bar to equalise. It
was a dramatic way to get back into the game and perhaps showed what
might have been had the side started in this fashion.
Aalborg were struggling to put together
the passes they strung together in the first half. This lead to
the ball regularly heading back towards their goal, as the lone striker
system fell down under the pressure Spurs were building. A
tactical switch by moving Zokora to the middle of the back four and
Chimbonda wide right, allowing the pacy Ivorian to cover the long ball
through. The only chance Aalborg really created in the second half
came when the scorer, Enevoldsen, fired a low shot on goal, with Robbo
scrambling across his goal and relieved to see the ball fly about two
feet wide of the mark,
When Lennon skipped past Augustinussen
and was hacked down, just level with the right side of the penalty area
and about 25 yards out, Gareth Bale's eyes lit up. He must have
been even more amazed to see the Aalborg goalkeeper line up his wall,
which consisted of just one man. Taking the invitation as it was
intended, the Welsh defender smacked a shot on target and although
straight at Zaza, the ball could not be held by the Danish side's
stopper. As the ball squirmed from his grasp, it found it's way to
Aaron Lennon, who blasted a shot-come-cross that flew across the six
yard box and Darren Bent was on hand to gleefully fire home at the far
With 24 minutes still remaining, there
was still the prospect of the game being pulled back by the Danish team,
but with Prica heading wide when having a free header, their last chance
went begging. Meanwhile, Spurs continued to press on and
Huddlestone hit a wild volley wide, before Chimbonda headed a free-kick
back into the danger area and a defender hit a panicky clearance just
wide of his won goal, as everything seemed to move in slow-motion.
From that corner, the ball was pinging around the area until it dropped
for Dawson and his effort on goal was blocked on the line by Califf.
Tottenham were going for the fourth to
try and pout the game beyond doubt, with Bent playing the ball square to
Kevin-Prince Boateng and the German fired a 25 yard shot straight at
Zaza, who could only knock the ball down and have it cleared for him.
Boateng also got on the end of another shot, when bent played Lennon
through and his shot was saved, but Kevin's effort this time almost made
a throw-in. Steed almost wrapped it up in the last minute of added
time, but poked the ball wide after he appeared to have done the hard
part of rounding the goalie.
The Danish fans were still singing away,
as their players grabbed the trophy of a Spurs shirt from their
favourite player, but the earlier chants of "You're s**t and know you
are" looked a bit pale on our second half showing, although they were
accurate on our first half display. When they sang "Sing When
You're Winning" when they were 2-0 up, Spurs hadn't actually been
winning in the match and Spurs fans might have responded with "You don't
know what you're singing !!"
Three precious points in the group
situation for Tottenham and with two wins, it edges us closer to a
qualifying position, but it will all come down to how we approach the
game next week in Belgium. A better side than Aalborg, Anderlecht
might not be naive enough to let us back into a match if they get a lead.
Still, 23 years ago, a trip to Brussels saw Spurs bring home a draw that
lead to us winning the UEFA Cup. If that happened again, the first
half of this game would be long forgotten.