By Callum McCarthy
Much was made in the English press of Tottenham Hotspur’s predicament coming into their crucial Champions League qualifying tie against Young Boys on Wednesday evening. Broadsheets and tabloids alike questioned their pedigree in such a competition, citing inexperience, complacency and every other contradicting descriptive noun as reasons for their 3-2 loss in Bern last Tuesday.
As for Young Boys, their stock had improved significantly. Written off before the first leg, the Swiss outfit managed to dismantle Spurs in the space of 45 minutes at home, and had it not been for an impressive second-half comeback, Spurs would have had all but one nail in their European coffin.
For the hasty reporters who enjoy a good bandwagon, tonight served as a valuable lesson.
Two headers and a penalty from Peter Crouch (photo) sat alongside a left foot firecracker from Jermain Defoe, as Spurs strolled to a comfortable 4-0 victory.
After the nightmare opening of the first leg, it would need an early goal to settle the nerves, and Peter Crouch duly delivered. After Gareth Bale’s corner was turned away at the first attempt, the young Welshman got his second delivery spot on, jinking past Hochstrasser before looping a cross to the back post. Crouch, unmarked, nodded it across Wolfli.
4 minutes gone, 1-0, and White Hart Lane wanted more
Spurs pressed on. Aaron Lennon went close; Assou-Ekotto crushed Young Boys defender Jamal’s ribs with a long range drive; and then, after sustained pressure and a little luck, Spurs got their second in the 32nd minute.
After a defensive mess that looked more akin to a bunch of eight year olds having a kick-about, Tottenham stole possession. A neat give and go gave Jermain Defoe just one last defender to turn. He did — despite controlling the ball with his arm — and punished the ball in off the post with his left foot from 18 yards out. Young Boys protested, Defoe looked guilty, but this mattered not.
2-0 Spurs, and mouths were slowly being drawn away from fingernails.
As the half played out, Spurs were in cruise control. Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale pulled the strings from the touchline, terrorising self-confessed Spurs fan and Young Boys right back, Scott Sutter. Sutter had said before the game it would be a dream to play for Tottenham, and unfortunately, it’ll probably stay that way — Bale gave him the runaround for all 90 minutes.
The second half saw a change of goalkeeper for Spurs, after a frankly hilarious first half exchange between ever amusing Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes and manager Harry Redknapp. Gomes had signalled to the bench for a substitution, but his manager had other ideas, leaving him on to play the remainder of the half with what seemed like a rapidly worsening case of gout, considering Gomes’ limp. Carlo Cudicini replaced him at the half, making his first appearance since a serious motorcycle accident back in November that almost robbed him of his career.
He was in action early, denying Bienvenu after Michael Dawson gifted him an opportunity.
From that moment on though, Tottenham looked untouchable. A delightful dink from Gareth Bale almost gave Defoe his second, before Crouch struck once more — Bale’s whipped corner finding Crouch unmarked yet again for the lanky hitman to head home once more on the hour.
3-0, and White Hart Lane is a disco — thousands of North Londoners now dancing in the stands.
Young Boys knew that a win was now beyond them, and a stream of bookings and rash tackles followed, before Senad Lucic was given a second yellow for bringing Bale down in the box in the 77th minute. Sentiment overruled effort, as Crouch stepped up and stroked it into the bottom corner, holding three fingers up to a delighted crowd.
4-0, game over, cigars out.
Tottenham lacked the normal flourish that has become their trademark of late, but a strong, professional performance is just what the doctor ordered after two shaky showings in a row. Goalscorer Jermain Defoe will now have the groin surgery that was previously scheduled, but hopes that playmaker Luka Modric could return on Saturday are up, after narrowly being ruled out for this game through injury.
Tottenham face Wigan in the Premier League on Saturday.