UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
GROUP A (Match 1)
TUESDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER, 2010
SV WERDER BREMEN 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2)
Pasanen (o.g), 12
Referee:- Mr. M. Busacca
Assistants:- Mr. M. Arnet & Mr. F. Buragina
Fourth Official:- Mr. D. Wermelinger,
Additional assistants:- Mr. S. Keveer & Mr. C. Bertolini
(All officials from Switzerland)
Werder Bremen (4-3-1-2):- Wiese; Fritz, Prodl, Pasanen, Silvestre; Bargfrede (sub Hunt, 37), Frings (Capt.), Wesley (sub Borowski, 67); Marin; Almeida (sub Wagner, 79), Arnautovic
Subs not used:- Mielitz; Boenisch; Jensen; Husejinovic
Booked:- Borowski (foul on Ekotto)
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Cudicini; Corluka, Kaboul, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon (sub Palacios, 76), Huddlestone, Jenas, Bale; Van Der Vaart (sub Keane, 49); Crouch
Subs not used:- Pletikosa; Gallas, Bassong; Kranjcar; Pavlyuchenko
Booked:- Huddlestone, Jenas
Sound start to Champions League campaign.
Spurs actually made an excellent start in the Weserstadion, Bremen last night, taking a fantastic two goal lead after just 18 minutes, to put their thousands of ardent followers in the stadium into ecstasy. Had they held that lead, then Spurs’ first Champions League game would have been magical, but despite conceding goals either side of the interval, the draw was still a result we would have taken going into the game, and all four teams in the group are on one point, including favourites Inter Milan, who came back to secure another 2-2 draw at FC Twente. It looks like being an enthralling group!
Despite the hope offered by the presence of Luka Modric in the travelling party, the little magician did not make the 18, but Harry Redknapp tweaked the side with the return of skipper Ledley King partnering the excellent Younes Kaboul in the middle of the defence. Mr Cool, “Charlie” Corluka held his spot and Benoit Assou-Ekotto filled the left back slot. Across the midfield we saw Lennon, Huddlestone, Jenas and Bale, with Rafael Van Der Vaart behind Crouch. Jermaine Jenas had ousted Palacios from the midfield berth and had an excellent game. When Spurs were playing their best football, Jenas demonstrated the ability to receive, control, and pass the ball in an instant, despite being pressurised by the pressing Bremen green and white shirts. In fact this swift passing style was very much the reason for Spurs’ early domination and success. Perhaps this style is physically debilitating, as Spurs did seem to tire again as the game wore on.
Bale was excellent as he usually is when played where he should be – in the attacking left side midfield role. Van Der Vaart continued to show his class, and for as long as we can keep him, will be a great asset to Spurs. Mysteriously he was substituted early in the second half, apparently because of a calf strain, but we should expect to see him on Saturday, I suspect.
The potential star of the match was Bremen’s excellent German International Marko Marin. Marin was born in Bosnia, but did feature for Germany in the World Cup. Marin is their Modric, or Van Der Vaart if you prefer. He was played behind the front two, and had the freedom to operate across the park. Overall, I think he had more joy out of Corluka’s flank, rather than that of Ekotto. Marin scored the equaliser with a wicked shot that had a late curve to beat Carlo Cudicini, who once again made two or three vital saves. On chances, Werder Bremen might have secured all three points, but Spurs had chance to steal the game late on, when Crouch shot wide across goal, when he should have scored.
It was great to be in a European Stadium and to see our team, led out by Ledley King to the Champions League theme. There is no doubt that this is a special brand of football, and I really hope Spurs can maintain this level beyond this season. The weather in Germany was soggy and it had rained virtually all day, but the pitch looked fine – just well watered!
The Spurs crowd was in full voice early doors, whilst the home atmosphere was subdued, as Spurs had a bright start with a cross by Lennon only half-cleared to Huddlestone, who tried a shot that went wide. At the other end, Marin showed his potential with a floated cross shot that Cudicini held. Ekotto sent Bale away with a typically good ball down the line, and Bale got to the bye line, sending in a low cross that was cut out at the near post. The clever Brazilian midfielder Wesley found space for a shot but put it wide.
Spurs got what appeared to those of us present as an excellent Crouch finish, after a repeat of the Ekotto-Bale combination. However, it turned out that Pasanen actually turned in Bale’s cross, with Crouch close on his heels. Pasanen ensured he would have nightmares later as he was out – jumped by Crouch for Spurs second goal after 18 minutes. Jenas had sent Van Der Vaart away with an excellent volleyed pass, and VDV’s cross was headed home powerfully by Crouch, who was once again the Champions League hero for Spurs, and their fans!
Spurs stayed in the ascendency for a while, and Bale went away on yet another bursting run, finishing with a shot that Wiese parried. Crouch was following up, but the ball was cleared. Five minutes later Kaboul crossed and Bale hit a thunderbolt of a shot that the keeper managed to save.
The Bremen coach made an early substitution of Bargfrede – being replaced by Aaron Hunt. Whilst the home crowd and their team suddenly seemed to remember that they were indeed the home outfit, and were getting back into the game, Spurs had stayed in control, until an unfortunate error by Ekotto who skewed a cross-field pass to concede an attacking throw for Bremen. Wesley crossed before Spurs had organised themselves and Almeida got between the defence to head past Cudicini. Bremen celebrate home goals with a ship’s fog-horn, and the home fans were now enthused.
Obviously the goal just before the break was a great psychological blow, and Bremen came out fighting. Cudicini made a great early save from Hunt’s shot, after Kaboul had only half-cleared the ball, but within three minutes of the break, Bremen were level through the magic of Marko Marin. He twisted and turned outside the Spurs box, taunting Corluka into conceding just enough space for the midfielder to unleash a powerful low shot that curved late and beat Cudicini’s dive just inside his right post. Now it was game on, and when Robbie Keane replaced Van Der Vaart, Spurs reverted to 4-4-2, but didn’t often manage to regain control of their situation, as the home side built up the pressure.
Almeida won a physical battle and got between both Kaboul and Ledley King to hit a shot just wide. Ledley had probably “done just enough” to ensure the shot went out of play. Marin had another chance after 66 minutes, as he made space and hit a low shot into the side netting. Huddlestone and Jenas took bookings as they tried to stem the tide. Aaron Lennon had not been making much headway and was replaced by Wilson Palacios, and Spurs were trying to consolidate and threaten on the occasional break. This they did when Palacios sent a ball across to Bale who got to the line again, and hit a cross that was somehow cleared by the defence, before it could find Spurs feet. Crouch then had a great chance as Palacios threaded a ball to him, but he managed to chip his shot across the keeper and the goal. He could and should have been an even bigger hero!
Spur had scrambled the ball clear after some Bremen pressure, but Cudicini had to make another excellent low save when Hunt hit a testing shot.
Honours remained even then, and the draw was a fair result and really creditable start for Spurs, whose next Champions League game is at White Hart Lane on September 29th against FC Twente.
They even let us out of the stadium on time, and as far as I know there was no rancour between the two sets of fans, and in fact the various bars I visited during the day and evening were very friendly and hospitable. The Spurs Odyssey European Tour 2010-11 has now officially started. Long may it continue!
Champions League Group A - 14.09.10
P W D L F-A GD PTS
1.Inter Milan 1 0 1 0 2-2 0 1
2.Spurs 1 0 1 0 2-2 0 1
3.SV Werder Bremen 1 0 1 0 2-2 0 1
4.Fc Twente 1 0 1 0 2-2 0 1