Following Peter Crouchís first leg impression of Paul Gascoigne, the
very same man was in the stands to watch on as Heurelho Gomes did
another Spurs old boy impression, as he let a 20 yard shot from Ronaldo
slip through his fingers a la Ray Clemence v Barcelona in 1983 and with
it any faint glimmer of a shred of a chance that we might get something
out of the game. And thus went our Champions League campaign in an
To be honest, the way
that Real started the match showed they meant business. Closing Spurs
down, holding onto possession of the ball with smooth passing and
attacking intent there was little chance for Tottenham to get into the
game early on. Spurs had to wait for 25 minutes for a shot on target
and although there had been shouts for three penalties in a first half
when Spurs looked for a breakthrough to give them an opportunity to
pressurise the visiting Madrid side.
Firstly, Gareth Bale ripped past Arbeloa
and was upended, but the Italian referee decided he had dived (but
didnít book him, then Luka Modric was bundled over by Xavi Alonso in
what looked like a stonewall pen, but once more, play was waved on. On
the third occasion, Roman Pavlyuchenko got to a low near post cross by
Bale and was knocked over by Albiol, who didn't seem to make much
contact with the ball.
It was hard to tell from the other side
of the halfway line in the East Lower, but the Modric one looked the
Ironically, Casillas was only tested when
we slung crosses into the box and he looked decidedly uncomfortable;
trying to punch away, but often doing so less effectively than Gomes
does. He also didnít seem to want to hold on to low shots, preferring
to palm them out, but luckily for him, not to a Spurs player. That also
served him well with his kicking, which didnít get much off the floor or
go too far, but avoided finding a white shirt.
Spurs had to work hard and with Tom
Huddlestone's passing a little off target following his lay-off, it was
tough to hold onto the ball, especially with Lennon's every turn past a
Real defender met with a body check and with Bale being doubled up on as
soon as it looked like he might get the ball. It was a typical
Mourinho side's performance. Digging in when they needed to and
trying to hit on the break. But Real have the comfort on the ball
that perhaps some of his previous side's lacked.
When Spurs finally got Lennon away and past
his marker on the right, he pulled the ball back low to Pavlyuchenko on
the near post, about 10 yards out and the Russian striker got right
under his shot and the ball sailed way over the bar. Pav did
better just before half-time, with a low drive that Casillas palmed away
unconvincingly. The only other chances that came Tottenham's way
were one Bale long throw that fell at Hud's feet at the near post and he
wanted to back-heel it in, but the close attention of a defender made
him turn and put his shot into the side netting and the other a
disallowed goal by Bale from a well-worked move. Roman dug out a
dinked ball into the middle of the penalty area from a fairly straight
position and Modric rose to head it back into the path of Gareth Bale,
who hit a crisp volley that flew past the keeper and hit the net, only
for Modric to be flagged offside eight minutes before half time.
In between, Gomes had to be quick on his
feet to stretch and reach a Sergio Ramos header from a corner taken by
Ozil and palm it out near the angle of post and bar, with the ball
unfortunately dropping to Adebayor, but he could only thrash it into the
side-netting from close range.
As the first half had seen Ronaldo
rolling around in agony after Benoit Assou-Ekotto had won an aerial duel
with him, but had also stuck his foot into the former Manchester United
man's sizeable backside, the second half also featured the prima donna
within five minutes of it's kick-off. Taking the ball from a
team-mate and outside the box, he took aim and hit a shot at goal as he
had done so often in this tie. It is not hard to see how he has
scored 41 times this season, as he must have had a million shots at this
rate. Anyway, it looked like he had fired another dud and Gomes
took the ball at head height ... or so we thought, until we saw him let
the ball pass through his hands and it drop agonisingly behind him into
At 0-4 down from the first leg, it wasn't
perhaps the most crucial error he might have made, but the fact that we
had reached 50 minutes without scoring ourselves was the major factor in
no comeback being even whispered about. No goals in three
Champions League games followed our league record of not being able to
hit the net with regularity this season.
Pav had a free header from VDV's corner
that landed on the top of the net, when perhaps he should have got over
it a bit more and hit the target and within a couple of minutes of
Jermain Defoe entering the play as a 60th minute substitute, he hit a
typical no-back-lift shot that had Casillas diving full length to push
away to his right.
With 25 minutes left to play, it looked
as though this game was up, with substitute Kaka playing a deft pass
through the middle of the Tottenham defence for Khedira to run onto, but
as he bore down on Gomes, Assou-Ekotto did enough to put him off and the
ball ran on to the keeper, as the German midfielder hit the turf.
Moments later, Real's Brazilian midfielder also brought a good low
diving save from Gomes, as his curling shot must have been seen late by
the goalie and he managed to get down to his left to get enough of a
hand on it to take it wide.
Then Spurs almost got level when a deep
corner from van der Vaart went beyond the flapping Casillas and Defoe
was beyond the far post, but got a header on it that hit the outside of
the post and bounced out.
The last chance for Tottenham came in the
87th minute, with Corluka linking with Sandro down the right, with the
midfielder dragging a low ball back to van der Vaart just outside the
box. The Dutchman shifted the ball to make space for himself and
lose the defender in front of him, to curl a shot that went over the
keeper, but also went over the bar and hit the top of the netting on the
way through. Another opportunity passed without fully testing
When Granero put a late free-kick in more
or less the same place, the game came to a close, with both teams
greeting each other and swapping shirts, before the Spurs team got a
very warm round of applause for their efforts in the club's maiden
Champions League campaign.
There have been highs and lows and some
moments we will never forget, but perhaps we should, in time forget
them, as long as the club continues the momentum built up to maintain a
push for this sort of football season after season. No club has a
given right to expect it and the efforts of last season showed this team
is capable of playing at this level, really only looking out of place
when down to 10 men at the Bernabeu.
But over the two legs we met a team the
likes of which we have never encountered before. A side who stroke
the ball about and don't belt the ball at team-mates. A team who
work hard to close the opposition down and are not afraid to show a
typically cynical Continental side to their game. A team who have
the utmost belief in what they are doing is right and will see them
through. Spurs are still finding it a bit of a surprise they have
got to where they are now.
Some of the Tottenham players showed they
can live with the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo and Ozil. Others were not
quite up to the task for a variety of reasons and those positions are
the ones that Harry will look to strengthen for next season.
Whether he has the participation in the Champions League to sell it to
new signings will depend on the outcome of our final seven games.
The side should take heart from this performance and while Real were
four up before they had even kicked off, the team looked like they
wanted it and Spurs matched them in most areas of the play, but the
technique of their play is totally anathema to us and one we will not be
able to replicate, because the Premier League style will not allow it.
We hear so much about the next level, but
I am not sure what that will be for Spurs. Would it be regular top
four contenders or developing a style that would make it more difficult
for other English (and continental) sides to play against ? The
latter may have to wait, but the former should give the players the
hunger to get back to playing the likes of Real, AC and Inter Milan