By Callum McCarthy,
Tottenham Hotspur came into their first Champions League home fixture in 42 years desperately searching for form.
Two frustrating performances against Arsenal and West Ham had left the White Hart Lane faithful bereft of things to cheer about over the past week, but with White Hart Lane decked out in Champions League decor, a sense of optimism filled the hearts and lungs of the Spurs faithful.
As for FC Twente, they made the trip to North London unbeaten in all competitions so far this season, holding Inter Milan to a 2-2 draw at home and going 7 games without a loss in the Eredivisie.
They made a good start, too, rudely preventing their hosts from setting the pace and rocking the Spurs defence on several occasions in the first quarter of an hour.
Theo Janssen’s free kick from out wide almost crept inside Gomes’ back post before Costa Rican international Bryan Ruiz was denied superbly by the Brazilian goalkeeper — clawing away Ruiz’ attempted chip as his body fell the wrong way.
Shortly after, Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone was incredibly lucky to remain on the pitch after tangling with Marc Janko. Being dragged down from behind, Huddlestone reacted with frustration, elbowing Janko twice in the face as the two fell to the floor.
Twente’s misfortune continued — Peter Crouch gently wrestled to the floor in the area by Twente captain Peter Wisgerhof.
FC Twente keeper Nikolay Mihailov left Rafael Van Der Vaart waiting at the penalty spot for a whole two minutes before he returned to his goal, and it seemed to work — Van Der Vaart’s penalty saved superbly by the Bulgarian.
After the break, the game exploded into utter absurdity.
Just a minute into the second half and Van Der Vaart had put Spurs ahead with a rasping volley from 15 yards out — the product of another sublime Crouch knockdown.
1-0 Spurs, and the assault continued.
Just two minutes later, Gareth Bale — moved back to left midfield after a disappointing showing at left back on Saturday — turned Rosales inside out and forced the right-back into a clumsy challenge in the area. This one was nailed on.
Another penalty brought another man to the spot — Roman Pavlyuchenko chosen to step up and break Mihailov’s voodoo, which he did with aplomb, sending the keeper the wrong way.
2-0 Spurs, and the chaos continued.
Calamitous defending from Spurs led to Nacer Chadli poking the ball beyond Gomes to pull one back for Twente, before Rafael Van Der Vaart clattered the former offender Rosales. Already on a booking, Van Der Vaart was sent off for his over-eager play — a real shame considering the Dutchman’s sublime performance.
As if this half of football could get any more bizarre, Twente would concede another contentious penalty, as a Pavlyuchenko shot struck the elbow of a Twente player on the edge of the box. Another harsh penalty against the Dutchmen, and another cool penalty from Pavyluchenko.
3-1 Spurs, and a late Gareth Bale strike made it 4 for the Lilywhites.
In a game governed by poor decision after poor decision, FC Twente will feel hard done by. Two contentious penalties given against them and a blatant elbow missed will stick in their memory, but for Spurs, this was a triumph, no matter what the circumstances. A win on the board in Group A crucial thanks to two tough fixtures in a row against Inter Milan.
A trip to the San Siro awaits Tottenham, as FC Twente invite Werder Bremen to Enschede for a chance to put themselves back in the mix at the top of Group A.