Expect that, anyone? A few weeks back, soon after the draw for this tie was made, a Spurs supporter posted on the BBC 606 online chatroom the following words: â€œWeâ€™re as good as through already.â€
Whoever and wherever that guy is now, I hope he feels suitably embarrassed. His words kept coming back to me, as I sat enduring Alan Smithâ€™s dreary monotone on Sky Sports, describing with barely concealed satisfaction how Spurs were subsiding before all of our eyes.
â€œWeâ€™re as good as through already….â€. It was an interesting mental concept to toy with after Young Boysâ€™ third unanswered goal ripped into the back of Heurelho Gomesâ€™s net just 28 minutes into the game. It looked as distant and unobtainable as a hot date with Scarlett Johansson.
So what happened here then? There was the plastic pitch of course. I donâ€™t know how much of a difference that really made, but having just heard Harry talking about it, it sounds like we were defeated by it before we even started. We were thinking about the pitch, not the opposition it seems.
There was match fitness. Young Boys have already played more than half a dozen competitive games this season, while this was our second. Youâ€™d have to think that had something to do with the vast gulf in sharpness between the two sides in that opening 30 minutes. In fact, almost half of our team were playing their first game of the season. We almost re-defined the phrase â€œslow out of the blocksâ€.
Mostly though there was unbelievable ineptitude all over the pitch. Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong looked flat footed, and horribly slow; the midfield struggled to grab any kind of foothold as the Swiss hassled them and played snappy passes around them; Defoe was starved of the ball while Pavlyuchenko wasted it every time he found it at his feet.
One can only wonder at how many tea cups owe their continuing structural integrity to Bassongâ€™s headed goal after 42 minutes which made it 3-1; Redknapp would surely have trashed the lot at half time otherwise. Maybe he did anyway. But from the brink of disaster, from awful contemplation of a cricket score being racked up against us, we had some sort of lifeline.
There was some controlled possession to usher in the second half, making sitting watching a little less uncomfortable. Even so, Young Boys continued to confound with strong defending and imaginative passing. Worrying moments still came, and the fall of the ball still favoured the home team most often.
Harry had been forced to make all of his changes as early as the 66th minute, Modric and Defoe both succumbing to worrying groin problems. The pitch again? As we tried to press, Young Boys scented the opportunity for a killer fourth goal, and so nearly got it on three occasions â€“ once when Wilson Palacios suicidally put Gomes in trouble.
Then out of nowhere a superb Tottenham goal in the 83rd minute. Corluka played a ball towards Pavlyuchenko, who dummied and curved his run in behind; Robbie Keane saw the move, saw the ball, played it to perfection, and the Russian was in, though the angle was a little acute and getting more so. He struck a hard and true shot, and all that Young Boysâ€™ keeper Marco Wolfli knew about it was the high-pitched whistling sound it made as it arrowed past him and into the corner of the goal at his near post.
3-2, a miracle! I started smartening myself up in case the delectable Ms Johansson called. Iâ€™m still waiting for that call, but with the home leg to come next week, and suddenly a 1-0 win being enough to get through, youâ€™d have to think that weâ€™re as good as through alr……….no no, no way, Iâ€™m not going to even think it, let alone say it.
By Andy Knaggs
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