Jekyll and Hyde Spurs seal first Champions League point
Tottenham Hotspur began their first ever Champions League campaign with a draw against Werder Bremen despite surging into an early two-goal lead courtesy of a Petri Pasanen own goal and an emphatic Peter Crouch header.
Harry Redknapp’s side flattered to deceive in northwest Germany: a sterling performance for 43 minutes in which they produced cultured football and quietened a rain-drenched Weserstadion was diluted by two three-minute lapses either side of the break.
Gareth Bale has shone in 2010 and the Welsh international, blessed with a cultured left foot and energy in abundance, has emerged as one of the most eye-catching talents in the Premier League. At just 21, Bale is staking his claim as the best left winger in Europe – and he played a vital role in Spurs’ first ever Champions League goal.
He streaked past make-shift right-back Torsten Frings and delivered a low, awkward cross. Crouch sensed the chance and lurched towards the ball but was denied by the outstretched foot of Petri Pasanen as the defender inadvertently handed the visitors a 12th minute lead.
Crouch then struck a short spell later as he helped the visitors take a 2-0 advantage. Rafael Van der Vaart, who joined Spurs from Real Madrid following some last minute ‘wheeling and dealing’ from Redknapp, played in an accurate cross for the England striker to head past Tim Wiese.
Bale continued to dominate as another fizzed cross caused confusion amongst the home rear-guard but both Crouch and Jermaine Jenas failed to capitalise.
Redknapp’s team were punished for their lack of a clinical edge just before the interval as Hugo Almeida managed to escape Ledley King and glance a routine header past Carlo Cudicini.
In the pre-match build-up much was made of Bosnian-Serb starlet Marko Marin and in the second half the 21-year-old replaced Bale as the commanding presence on the pitch. The winger helped the home side restore parity just after the break as he burst into the penalty area and slotted an accurate low effort inside the near post.
Most Spurs fans would have settled for a point prior to this tricky opening Group A encounter but the surrendering of a comfortable two-goal advantage with the chance to move ahead of reigning champions Inter Milan, who were held to 2-2 draw with FC Twente, understandably disappointed Redknapp.
“We’d have taken a point before we came but being 2-0 up and in complete control, as we were, obviously it’s disappointing not to have won,” said the Spurs manager. “We came here for an away game in a very difficult place to come and play.”
But Redknapp was delighted with his side’s performance before the break: “That first half was as good as you could wish to see from us. Barcelona might be better than that, but that was as good as Tottenham can do. If we play like that every game, we won’t go too far wrong.”