He missed a penalty, scored a goal and got sent off. Rafael van der Vaart compressed enough personal drama into a 16-minute period last night than some manage in a whole season.
It was one of those splendidly chaotic Champions League nights – a rarity in the group stages – and it revolved around one Dutchman with a point to prove and a Norwegian referee who gave Spurs three penalties. Terje Hauge was right to send off Van der Vaart but it was a dreadful decision to award Spurs their third penalty which allowed them to restore their two-goal lead when they were at their weakest.
The first Champions League night at White Hart Lane was many things but it was certainly not a disappointment. Spurs' destiny in this group may well be decided in the double-header coming up with Internazionale, the reigning champions, starting at San Siro on 20 October and the evidence is that Spurs are one of the few teams in this competition who are prepared to take risks.
Harry Redknapp was eager to cut through all the controversy and the penalty decisions last night to remind everyone that the result alone proved he got it right. The implication was that he could have played it cagey and tried to pick off the Dutch champions but instead he pushed Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko up tight on the two Twente centre-backs and took the game to them with a familiar intensity.
Redknapp was rewarded with a sparkling performance from Van der Vaart who, in the 63 minutes that he lasted on the pitch, played like a man who feels he has to earn his reputation in England. And when Van der Vaart departed, so Gareth Bale, scorer of Spurs' fourth, stepped up to take his place with another performance that marks him out as an exceptional talent.
In between Redknapp had reason to give thanks to Pavlyuchenko who, having stepped aside to allow Van der Vaart to take the first penalty, resumed duties for the next two and dispatched them masterfully. Van der Vaart may have cranked up the atmosphere in White Hart Lane but it was Pavlyuchenko's composure that calmed them when, down to 10 men, they looked at their most vulnerable.
Amid all this there was one more point of controversy when Tom Huddlestone caught the Twente striker Marc Janko with an elbow flush to the Austrian's jaw. The Englishman was being fouled at the time and was trying to free himself but it was one of those moments when he was fortunate that a punitive referee did not see the severity of the blow. He might well have been dismissed.
The team that Steve McClaren turned into Dutch champions last season are not an easy side to play against. They very nearly scored on 12 minutes when the Costa Rican winger Bryan Ruiz stole the ball away from Sebastien Bassong and only just had his shot saved by Heurelho Gomes. In Douglas, a 22-year old Brazilian centre-back, they have a very talented player who was nonetheless culpable for Bale's goal.
Like Spurs, Twente are Champions League novices although they have nothing like the resources that are at the disposal of the English club. Redknapp left Aaron Lennon on the bench last night, the result of his poor start to the season. With Van der Vaart starting on the right but drifting inside, Spurs have an unpredictable quality but it also leaves them exposed.
One of Van der Vaart's many qualities is that he understands exactly what is required to get the best out of a striker like Crouch with crosses that are early and high. He hit one on 36 minutes to the back post that Crouch was favourite to get to first until Peter Wisgerhof wrestled him to the ground. It was not the first major decision that Hauge gave on what looked like the advice of one of his two goalline assistants.
There was an awkward build-up to the penalty during which the Bulgarian goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov was booked. When Van der Vaart did finally take the kick, Mihaylov was far off his line but he still did well to glove it on to the post. It was embarrassing for Van der Vaart who also had a shot just before the break palmed over by Mihaylov.
Redknapp said at half-time he re-allocated penalty-taking to Pavlyuchenko, although why he allowed Van der Vaart to usurp him in the first place was not explained. Within two minutes Van der Vaart had scored. Huddlestone struck a long ball to the back post, Crouch knocked it down and the Dutchman had time for a touch before he volleyed it in.
Having, in Redknapp's words "run the full-back the other way all night", Bale won the second penalty when he was tripped by Robert Rosales in the area. Not much argument about penalty No 2 which Pavlyuchenko buried with the minimum of fuss.
Two goals ahead against a team playing away in the Champions League for the first time you might thought that this would be plain sailing from then on in. But Spurs made it difficult. It started with Twente's goal – an unfortunate defensive collapse during which Spurs allowed Twente three shots on their goal, the third of which from substitute Nacer Chadli found the net.
Having already been booked for a foul on the left-back Nicky Kuiper, just after the hour Van der Vaart challenged for a header he was never going to win just in front of the benches. Eyes on the ball, with a slightly mad glint to them, he nonetheless caught Rosales round the midriff and thoroughly earned his second yellow card.
It was then, with the score at 2-1 and Spurs down to 10 men that they first looked vulnerable. Hauge changed that. A shot from Pavlyuchenko was adjudged to have been handled by Wisgerhof even though he was turning away from the ball and raising his arm to protect his face. Hauge first ignored it and then, presumably after communication over the headset, doubled back and pointed to the spot.
Pavlyuchenko's confidence was unshakeable by then. He deceived Mihaylov beautifully from the penalty spot for Spurs' third goal. Bale seized on Douglas' bad header to run onto the ball and beat Mihaylov at his near post. The game was won by Spurs, albeit with a little help from the friendly Norwegian.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Hutton, King, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto-Ekotto; Van der Vaart, Huddlestone, Modric (Lennon, 82), Bale; Crouch (Jenas, 66), Pavlyuchenko (Keane, 89). Substitutes not used Cudicini (gk), Palacios, Kranjcar, Corluka.
FC Twente (4-2-1-3): Mihailov; Rosales, Wisgerhof, Douglas, Kuiper; Janssen, Brama; Landzaat (De Jong, 69); Ruiz, Janko, Bajrami (Chadli, 28). Substitutes not used Boschker (gk), Bengtsson, Parker, Vujicevic, Schimpelsberger.
Man of the match Pavlyuchenko.
Referee T Hauge (Norway).
Match rating 8/10.
Internazionale 4-0 Werder Bremen
Wesley Sneijder's goal and Samuel Eto's hat-trick ensured the holders' victory.
Results so far: FC Twente 2 Internazionale 2,Werder Bremen 2 Tottenham 2, Internazionale 4 Werder Bremen 0, Tottenham 4 FC Twente 1.
Tottenham's remaining fixtures 20 Oct Internazionale (a); 2 Nov Internazionale (h); 24 Nov Werder Bremen (h); 7 Dec FC Twente (a).
Good save from Ruiz, otherwise little to do other than pick the ball out of the net. 7/10
The Scot was adventurous down the right, though his crossing was nothing like as good as Bale's. 6
Was keener than King to push forward but needed to keep a careful watch on the dangerous Janko. 6
The captain relied on his reading of the game to see him through. Don't expect to see him on Saturday. 7
Up against a tricky customer in Ruiz. Distribution sometimes not what it should have been. 6
Rafael van der Vaart
Involved in just about everything from missed penalty to first goal and two deserved bookings. 6
Was fortunate to escape with a clear elbow to Janko's face. A couple of brave blocks later. 6
Finds it harder to run the game when Van der Vaart is trying to do the same thing. 6
Terrific bursts down the left, one of which earned the second penalty. Fully deserved late goal. 9
Had threatened with a couple of good 20 yarders before stepping up to slot in two cool penalties. 7
Was inches away from tempting crosses. Won some good headers and the first penalty. 7