Tottenham tear Swiss to shreds in pursuit of historic triumph
Tottenham Hotspur 4 Young Boys 0 (Tottenham win 6-3 on aggregate)
Until last night it was Danny Blanchflower who scored the last European Cup goal at White Hart Lane against Benfica in April 1962. Now Tottenham Hotspur can at last stop gazing at that sepia past and concentrate on a season among the elite of European football.
Champions League football proper has arrived in N17, making Spurs the first club outside that old cabal once known as "the big four" to make it to the group stages since Newcastle in 2002. This being Spurs they gave everyone a scare in the first leg last week but last night they brushed aside the opposition like veterans of this competition.
It was Peter Crouch who sent them through with a hat-trick, the only Spurs outfield player last night to have played in the Champions League before. For reasons best known to himself, Fabio Capello chose to drop Crouch from his previous squad having ignored him for most of the World Cup. But Crouch scores goals – he always has – a quality that is currently lacking in many of England's key strikers.
With 13 goals in 16 Champions League games, Crouch is an old hand at this level. He may have encountered a little difficulty in his private life of late – you might have read some of the modest coverage it has commanded – and last night will have been a sweet return for him to what he does best. "Show me someone who hasn't made a mistake and I'll show you a liar," was Redknapp's considered view of the situation.
You wonder how Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, will regard his club's position as he catches his flight to Monaco for the group stages draw today. Redknapp was eager to tell everyone that he cared little whether Spurs signed another player before the end of the window and it would not be like Levy to gamble the family silver on a whim.
There was one major stroke of luck for Redknapp's team when the erratic French referee Laurent Duhamel inexplicably failed to spot the fact that the goalscorer Jermain Defoe had controlled the ball with his arm. The goal after the half hour killed off Young Boys, who finished the game with 10 men, and gave Spurs the room to breathe.
It will be fascinating to see how this Spurs team cope in Europe, not least because they will be seeded in pot three today which means that there will be at least two clubs in their group of four who will be more experienced in the Champions League. The worst case scenario is that they find themselves in a group with Internazionale and Real Madrid.
As usual, Gareth Bale was exceptional, creating every single goal including winning the penalty for Crouch's third. Not far behind him was Tom Huddlestone who has matured into a fine midfielder who must surely be in Capello's next England squad when it is announced on Sunday. The best argument for England not picking Mikel Arteta – after the fact he is Spanish – was Huddlestone who Capello was there to watch last night.
Tottenham lost Heurelho Gomes to injury at half-time which meant that Carlo Cudicini played his first game since the serious motorcycle accident in November that curtailed his career. Defoe played longer than he expected and the operation on his groin potentially scheduled for Tuesday now looks as if it may not be needed after all.
A handy passing team, Young Boys offered no real threat to Spurs in attack. It was Crouch who sprung their offside line in the fifth minute, waiting at the back post for Bale to hit a cross which Crouch headed into the far corner. Defoe's goal, his first in 500 minutes of football, came from an exchange with Bale and the handball was so blatant the defender even stood off him to appeal.
Goal No 3 was headed in simply by Crouch direct from Bale's inswinging corner from the right on the hour. Later, with Defoe off the pitch, Crouch was given the honour of burying the penalty that the brilliant Bale won when Senad Lulic tripped him on 77 minutes. It was Lulic's second booking and he was sent off.
The uneasy partnership between Redknapp and Levy will be tested over a season in which Spurs are now required to make a serious fist of the Premier League and the Champions League. Redknapp's claim that he was more likely to go home for "a mug of tea and a bacon sandwich" than talk to his chairman about transfers seemed to be said through gritted teeth.
For the rest of us it will be intriguing to watch a predominantly English team – along with their Welsh winger – fare under an English manager in the big European competition. Redknapp was uncharacteristically adversarial after the game on the subject of English managers and his perception that he and his English peers are looked down upon. After a career of almost 30 years in management he finally has his chance.
That wretched Champions League anthem will ring out at White Hart Lane at least three times this season. It has taken them one arduous season, that decisive game against Manchester City in May and two legs of an anxious play-off this month to earn their place. But really they have been waiting almost five decades for this. Not bad for a team that Redknapp inherited less than two ago with only two points from eight games in the league, as he is fond of reminding us.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2) Gomes (Cuducini, h-t); Corluka, King, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Palacios, Bale (Kranjcar, 81); Crouch, Defoe (Pavlyuchenko, 61). Substitutes not used Kaboul, Jenas, Keane, Dos Santos.
Young Boys (4-2-3-1): Wolfi; Sutter (Regazzoni, 60), Affolter, Jemal, Spycher; Hochstrasser, Doubai (C Schneuwly, 82); Degen, Costanzo, Lulic; Bienvenu. Substitutes not used Burki (gk), M Schneuwly, de Pierro, Raimondi, Mayuka.
Referee L Duhamel (France).
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