Werder Bremen (Away)
Champions League

Tuesday 14th September 2010

Spurs make their debut in the Champions League group stages with a trip to Germany to meet an experienced Champions League side in Werder Bremen.

Shorn of their star man Mesut Ozil, the midfielder had a big influence on their game last season, as he blossomed into the player we saw at the World Cup finals for Germany.  His national team-mate Marko Marin is a Bremen midfielder, who could be the one who is tipped to take over from Ozil in midfield, but he is a wider operator and a bit more substantial in weight, so it remains to be seen if this energetic and zippy player makes as big an impact on the Werder side.

The hosts have been hit by the loss of Per Mertesacker and Naldo both being injured and that has ripped the middle of their back four out of the defence.  Spurs might have made more of these absences if they had Jermain Defoe available.  With one to play up front with Crouch, Keane and Pavlyuchenko in the frame, it will be up to the likes of Rafael van der Vaart to support from midfield.  The striker who plays for Spurs in this match may come up against a former team-mate of William Gallas, who will probably play for Spurs.  Mikael Silvestre who was released by Arsenal could feature for Bremen, as they are light in central defence.

Captain Torsten Frings was not picked to travel to South Africa with the national squad for the World Cup finals, but he is a driving midfielder, with good vision of the play ahead of him and also a cracking shot on him.  Alongside him is fellow former German international Tim Borowski, who is a tall, tackling and passing player, who covers a lot of ground.  Spurs might pair Tom Huddlestone with Sandro in midfield, as Hud's passing might help produce chances and Sandro will be keen to get stuck in and can also get forward, perhaps in a more effective way than Palacios.

Goalkeeper Tim Wiese was at the World Cup too and he has a reputation as a solid keeper, who was prone to mistakes in his younger days, but now uses his experience to read the game better.  At 6'4", he is a good height for a keeper and his judgement has improved over the years, so that rash rushes from goal are a thing of the past.

Up front, some of the Ozil money has been spent on Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic.  He is a microcosm of all our group opponents, having started at Twente Enschede, then gone on loan to Internazionale before being signed by Werder Bremen in the summer's transfer window.  He has scored two in three games and needs to be shut out, so Gallas and King will have their work cut out.  Claudio Pizarro, the Peru striker who spent some time at Chelsea without making a big name for himself, is unlikely that he will be paired in attack with Arnautovic, as he has a thigh muscle injury.

While Spurs are having trouble scoring, Bremen beat Ahlen 4-0 away, won 4-2 against 1FC Koln and lost 1-4 to Hoffenheim, so there are goals in their games.  Having said that, they achieved a good 0-0 draw away at Bayern Munich at the weekend, so can keep things tight too.  With the Tottenham team still trying to find a pattern of play that the players are accustomed to, it could be a tough game to start with, but then there are no easy matches at this stage ... unless you get groups like Arsenal and Barcelona have.

It will be a daunting task to keep the home side in check, with a big crowd behind them, but the Spurs fans will make themselves heard and may have a little to shout about come the end of the match ...

PREDICTION : -    Werder Bremen    1      Tottenham Hotspur    1


WERDER BREMEN :  -  Per Mertesacker (out - eye); Naldo (out -); Claudio Pizarro (out - thigh); - (-); 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Jermain Defoe (out - ankle), Michael Dawson (out - knee & ankle), Jonathan Woodgate (out - groin), Jamie O'Hara (out - back); - (-);


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Werder Bremen   2    Tottenham Hotspur   2      (Half-time score : 1-2)

Champions League Group A
Venue :  Weserstadion
Tuesday 14th September 2010
Kick Off :  7.45 p.m.  (8.45 p.m. local time)
Crowd :   40,000
Referee :  Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)
Spurs kicked off the first half.
Weather :  -  Wet throughout
Teams : - 
Werder Bremen :

  1  Wiese

  8  Fritz
  3  Pasanen  (o.g.)
15  Prodl
16  Silvestre

22  Frings (c)
44  Bargfrede  (14  Hunt 37)
10  Marin 
  5  Wesley  (  6  Borowski 67     )

  7  Arnautovic
23  Almeida    (19  Wagner 79)

Unused subs: 
  2  Boenisch
17  Huseinovich
20  Jensen

Tottenham Hotspur :

23  Cudicini

32  Assou-Ekotto
26  King (c)
  4  Kaboul
22  Corluka

  3  Bale
  6  Huddlestone
  8  Jenas     
  Lennon  (12  Palacios 75)

11  van der Vaart  (10  Keane 49)

15  Crouch 

Unused subs: 
19  Bassong
13  Gallas
21  Kranjcar
  9  Pavlyuchenko

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Werder Bremen

  Tottenham Hotspur
Scorers : -  
Werder Bremen

Almeida 43
Marin 47

Tottenham Hotspur

Pasanen (o.g.)  12
Crouch 18

Cards : -  
Werder Bremen

Borowski (foul)  90  


Tottenham Hotspur  

Huddlestone (foul)  52
Jenas (foul)  66 


Match Report : -  
What you might have settled for before the game does not necessarily mean that the final result is what you are happy with.  Things change and with them, so changes expectation and being 2-0 up away from home in Germany, in the club's first Champions League Group game, your mind starts to drift to the sight of Spurs with three points net to their name in the Group A table, but then a gaffe just before the break and a sloppy bit of defending just after it left Spurs hanging on for a while, before having a couple of late opportunities to steal the game, which finished 2-2.

Spurs entered the game having to re-arrange the side after Luka Modric's injury on Saturday and moving to a 4-4-1-1 formation.  With van der Vaart playing behind Crouch up top, Spurs set up to make sure they did not get out-numbered in midfield.  And for the first 42 minutes it all went to plan.

Spurs took the early advantage in passing the ball better than Bremen and forcing the home team into rushed attempts to find their front two, which failed to come off.  Spurs were moving the ball well, not always in positions of danger, but enjoyed long spells of possession, with Werder not seemingly that bothered about closing us down, giving time and space to get the ball into the goalmouth.  Bale was unlucky to run out of turf as he sprinted onto van der Vaart's pass, hoping to pull the ball back to Crouch on the near post and then Wesley got inside Corluka at the other end and fired a shot on goal, much like Young Boys' first goal, but the shot sailed just wide.

Then, 12 minutes in, it happened.  Tottenham's first goal in the competition proper, with a good move and a fine finish, even if it was from the Finnish Bremen defender.  Assou-Ekotto, who was linking well with Bale on the left, knocked a ball over Fritz's head and set the Welshman on another run, which he took to the line and pulled a ball back just beyond the near post and a Crouch was poised to side-foot home the ball, Pasanen slid in ahead of him and got the touch that took the ball into the back of the net.  Cue rapturous celebrations in the Spurs section, with a few jumping up and down in other parts of the ground too !!

It was a well created goal and putting the ball along the grass when it had been raining for a good while was a good tactic, as the defender probably didn't expect it to come at him that quickly. While Arnautinovic slid a glancing header harmlessly wide, Spurs set about scoring an even better goal.

Rafael van der Vaart put over a left wing free-kick, but it was cleared out centrally to about 35 yards out, where Jermaine Jenas was waiting.  Shaping his body like Gareth Bale did for the volley at Stoke, he swept a pass out to the left, where he found the Dutchman again with a pin-point ball.  van der Vaart looked up, played a cross into the box about 15 yards out and Peter Crouch rose above the hapless Pasanen to plant his header firmly past Wiese, who didn't have a chance to stop it.

2-0 and the Tottenham fans were in a place they didn't expect to be in.  Happy to be there, but there might well have been a bit of pinching of themselves going on.  Not that it wasn't deserved, but a lot of us have been there before and know just what Tottenham are capable of.

Bremen staged a bit of a recovery, with Marin coming in off the left wing to hit a shot at goal, which brought weak shouts for a penalty when it hit Tom Huddlestone on the back of his arm, as he turned away from the ball.  He did have his hands up, but not moving them in a direction forward towards the ball.  With half an hour gone, Spurs had another presentable chance, with Bale taking the ball off Fritz, who he gave a wretched night, then putting another low ball into the box, which Wiese could not hold, but managed to spill just far enough away from Rafael to get anything on it and then Fritz got back to deny Jenas as he ran onto the loose ball.

Five minutes later, Kaboul went away down the right, like he did at Eastlands at the end of last season, putting a ball in that Ledley King could not get a decent contact with and the ball was knocked out to Bale just outside the D on the edge of the box and his shot produced a diving stop from Wiese.  With Spurs holding the balance of play, the Bremen coach decided to try and change things with the ineffective Bargfrede going off to be preplaced by A. Hunt - a player exonerated of racist remarks made to an England player in an Under-21 match, but where there's smoke ... 

The change didn't make an immediate effect, as Spurs were still keeping Werder pegged back with a couple of corners causing the defence problems and then van der Vaart pinging a shot from distance, but it was always too high to trouble the keeper.  And then, out of nothing, Spurs handed Bremen a goal two minutes before the interval.  With no pressure, the ball bounced on the middle of the 18 yard line and Assou-Ekotto ran onto it and skied it and sliced it with his wrong foot, with the ball going out nearer to Tottenham's goal on the Bremen left hand touchline.  A quick throw saw Spurs sleeping and a ball from Wesley was too high for King and as Almeida ran in, Assou-Ekotto appeared to drop off the striker to leave him the easy task of glancing a header past Cudicini, who had stayed at home on his line.  Maybe the keeper could have come for it, but it would have been a risky move; maybe King could have taken a better position to attack the ball, but it was a quick re-start and Spurs were not set to deal with it.  Maybe Assou-Ekotto could have challenged, but, even better, he could have avoided panicking into giving away a dangerous situation in the first place.

Going in at 1-2 rather than 0-2 made a big difference to the half-time team-talks in both dressing rooms, I imagine.  Harry had to try and rein in his anger at the way the goal had been conceded and concentrate on the way the side had taken to the game from the off.  For Werder Bremen, the words on offer were easier than they might have been, with the emphasis on getting after Tottenham more and not allowing us to play the ball around.  The harassing of the Spurs players could only get better and so could Werder's play.

It didn't take long to prove that fact, with Mario Marin soon taking the initiative, as he darted here and there Modric-like and showed a great ability on the ball.  The first chance came when Arnautovic put a ball into the box and Kaboul go tit out, but only as far as Hunt, who tried to curl it past Cudicini, but the Italian threw up a strong wrist to take the ball over the bar with a very good stop from close range.  The respite was short, as Marin picked up a clearance on the left and came inside, leaving two players behind him and as Kaboul and Corluka backed off, he pulled back his right foot, putting his shot inches inside Carlo's right hand post as Spurs looked on.  It was a gutting moment, as the game seemed to be swinging inexorably in Bremen's favour.

Both goals had been avoidable and Spurs will have to learn quickly that what they might get away with in the Premier League will not escape the opponents in the Champions League.  Robbie Keane made an entrance with van der Vaart struggling with a calf injury.  The Irishman made little impact as the ball failed to stick up front and kept coming back towards the Spurs goal.  Later in the game, he did make a couple of telling contributions, but at this stage, neither he nor Crouch could provide any respite to the attacking from the home team

Ten minutes later the break, a long ball down the middle caught out Kaboul and King, giving Almeida a shooting opportunity, but he failed to keep it low enough to worry Cudicni and then just before the hour a Messi-like piece of skill in the box saw Marin turn Corluka all ends up to get past him tight to the dead-ball line and then hit a shot that went up in the air off Kaboul's block and Cudicini had to grab the ball in the air before the little Bremen midfielder fouled him.  And it was Marin taking Almeida's pass in the 67th minute to hit a quickly taken shot that had Cudicini scrambling across goal before being relieved to see the shot slip narrowly wide to his right.

A number of substitutions were made with most shoring up the midfield to keep hold of what the teams had, but in the last ten minutes, Spurs got a second wind and put pressure on the Werder defence to try and win the match.  Bale broke away on the left, giving Fritz a view of his heels before sliding a low ball across the six yard box with Pasanen getting a touch to take the ball away from Keane at the near post and to leave it going behind Crouch on the far post.  When Crouch did get in on goal in the 87th minute, courtesy of a slick Palacios pass through the square German defence, the tall striker over-did his intended dink over the keeper and put it wide with the goal gaping.

It wasn't all Tottenham's way in the closing stages, with Hunt hitting a powerful shot after being supplied by Marin, but Cudicini got enough behind the ball to keep it out as the clock ticked down.

The final whistle was a bit of an anti-climax after so much incident in the game, but in the final analysis, I guess both teams might have settled for a draw and with Internazionale being held to a 2-2 draw at Twente, the group is still all square with all to play for. 

So, a lesson learned ?  Hopefully, and it is one that could equally be applied to the Premier League in finishing games off or, at least, holding onto what you have.  

stanford rivers


Fan Reaction : -









Other scores in Champions League Group A :
Twente Enschede (HOL) 2 Internazionale (ITA) 2 Tuesday


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