Bale finally errs, but Spurs make no mistake to reach the last 16
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Werder Bremen 0
Thursday 25 November 2010
His penalty miss in the second half was the first scrap of evidence in a long time that Gareth Bale does indeed possess the occasional human frailty but it was just about the only bit of mercy he showed Werder Bremen last night.
Bale has exemplified Tottenham's no-holds-barred approach to Champions League football this season and it was no different last night – but Bale was not the only one. Harry Redknapp's team have sailed into the knockout round of the Champions League and, now they reach the business end of the competition, no one could deny that Spurs look the part.
There is something very appealing about the way Spurs have approached the challenge and last night even without the injured Rafael van der Vaart there was the usual drama. There was the familiar breathless attacking football, another missed penalty and a willingness to keep going forward when other teams might have sat back.
Bale left to a standing ovation but the same might have been accorded to Luka Modric, the scorer of Spurs' second goal, or Aaron Lennon. Including their qualifying games against Young Boys, Spurs have scored 21 goals in seven Champions League matches and while they have shown naivety at times, no team will relish facing them in the next round.
Should Spurs beat FC Twente on 7 December, they will finish top of group A and ahead of the reigning champions Internazionale, which is no mean achievement for a new entry in the competition. Of course this Spurs squad did not come cheap but they have proved themselves capable of raising the usual tired, predictable course of English clubs in the group stages to a level of excitement absent in recent years.
A victory in the next round, providing misfortune does not land them with one of the biggest beasts in the draw, is becoming an expectation at White Hart Lane – a stadium where expectations naturally rise very quickly.
Amid some eye-catching performances from Spurs, it was William Gallas, captain again last night, whom Redknapp picked out for special praise. The Spurs manager likes to draw attention to the qualities of his most controversial signing because it vindicates him in the eyes of those Spurs fans who did not want a former Arsenal captain. But not many are complaining now.
Whether Redknapp goes all out to beat Twente next month will be a difficult call given that his side will play Chelsea in the Premier League five days later. Redknapp said last night that he wants to win the game to make sure his team avoid the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the next round but he has tinkered in the past.
Redknapp said: "We will try to win the group if we can. We have got people coming off the bench like Niko [Kranjcar] who can really play. If everyone's fit we have a good squad. Michael Dawson comes back into training [tomorrow], Robbie Keane's back, [Jermain] Defoe's back – so it will make us stronger.
"We give teams problems with the way we've played. As I have said many times, we are an open team and when we are open we are at our most dangerous. We've enjoyed it so far so hopefully we can get a result at Twente and win the group. I think it's a big advantage to try to finish top.
"My first aim was to get through that knockout stage and we nearly came unstuck on the synthetic pitch [against Young Boys]. If we can get through the next round that will be a great achievement. We've got players here – Gareth Bale, Luka Modric – who could play in almost any team.
"I thought William Gallas was fantastic again. When he defended one-on-one there was an occasion in the second half when the boy [Marko] Marin ran at goal and I thought 'We've got trouble here'. William just shuffled him down the line, held him up and took the ball. I know it was a long time ago but I remember Bobby [Moore] doing that to Jairzinho [in the 1970 World Cup]."
The worst job for any opposing player at White Hart Lane is having to mark Bale and last night it fell to Clemens Fritz, a one-time Germany international and a decent player. Fritz is certainly no mug although that is probably how he felt after the third time Bale went past him.
Spurs' human cannonball first beat Fritz in the fifth minute. He won a corner that was half-cleared and found its way out to Lennon on the right who delivered a nicely judged cross that Younes Kaboul struck on the volley for his second goal in five days.
Spurs dominated the first half but had to wait to injury time for their second goal. Peter Crouch knocked down Alan Hutton's cross to Modric who, instead of hitting the ball first time, took a touch which completely deceived Sebastian Prodl and allowed Modric to pick his spot with the volley.
When Prodl tripped Modric in the box on 53 minutes there was some debate about who would be taking it. Roman Pavlyuchenko missed a penalty against Blackburn Rovers. Van der Vaart, absent yesterday, did the same against FC Twente. Step forward Bale. He hit it low to the left of Tim Wiese who did well to push it away. It was the first time White Hart Lane's golden boy had put a foot wrong all night.
Pavlyuchenko threw his gloves away when he was substituted later – ostensibly a protest that Bale had taken the penalty – although Redknapp later claimed that the Russian did not want the spot-kick. Bale seemed unaffected by the experience.
It was Bale's cross from the left that bounced off the top of Wiese's bar and stayed in play for Lennon to retrieve on 80 minutes. He slipped the ball through the legs of Dominik Schmidt and crossed for Crouch to clip it in at the near post. The biggest compliment you could pay Spurs is that they look like they have been a Champions League side for years, although the biggest tests are to come.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Gomes; Hutton, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas (Palacios, 20), Modric, Bale (Kranjcar, 81); Crouch, Pavlyuchenko (Defoe, 57). Substitutes not used Cudicini (gk), Keane, Bassong, Corluka.
Werder Bremen (4-4-1-1): Wiese; Fritz, Mertesacker, Prodl, Schmidt; Kroos (Ayik, 55), Jensen (Pasanen, 86), Bargfrede, Marin; Hunt (Thy, 80); Wagner. Substitutes not used Mielitz (gk), Husejinovic, Andersen, Testroet.
Referee O Benquerenca (Portugal).
Man of the match Modric
Match rating 8/10
Results so far Twente 2-2 Inter, Bremen 2-2 Tottenham; Tottenham 4-1 Twente, Inter 4-0 Bremen; Inter 4-3 Tottenham, Twente 1-1 Bremen; Tottenham 3-1 Inter, Bremen 0-2 Twente, Tottenham 3-0 Bremen , Inter 1-0 Twente.
Remaining fixtures 7 Dec Twente v Tottenham, Bremen v Inter
Internazionale 1-0 Twente
Esteban Cambiasso struck in the 55th minute to ease the pressure on Inter coach Rafa Benitez, and ensure that the European champions progress to the knockout stages.
Back after suspension following his sending off at the San Siro, the goalkeeper had almost nothing to do all evening except fielding back-passes. 6
A potential liability against Marko Marin, he had one of his best games. Several fine passes included one to Crouch that led to second goal. 8
Kept the captain's armband and was a reassuring presence on the few occasions that Bremen went forward with any threat. Are Arsenal missing him? 7
The hero of the Emirates did it again with a sweet volleyed finish to follow Saturday's winning header. Helped Gallas subdue weak German attack. 7
Had little trouble with the young debutant Kroos but still produced a mixed performance. Did not always use the ball as well as he might have done. 6
Disappointing at the weekend when he was substituted at half-time, was back to something like his old self. Set up first and third goals. 8
Increasingly influential after taking down Crouch's flick beautifully for goal at perfect time. Became the dominant figure in middle area of the pitch. 8
Lasted only 18 minutes before being forced off, having started well. Prepared to push forward despite starting as deepest midfield man. 6
Forewarned, Bremen often doubled up on him, without managing to counteract his runs down the left. Only weak penalty spoilt his night. 8
Disappointing first half even with support alongside him from Crouch. Missed two chances and no surprise when Defoe replaced him. 5
Won applause for deft pieces of control as well as expected headers and sixth European goal of the season. Looks better in tandem with Defoe. 7
Wilson Palacios Brought added vigour to the midfield as replacement for Jenas. 6
Jermain Defoe Close to a goal on his debut in the Champions League proper. 7
Niko Kranjcar Disappointed not to be getting more starts. n/a
Not used Carlo Cudicini, Robbie Keane, Sébastien Bassong, Vedran Corluka
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