Tottenham 3 Werder Bremen 0
THURSDAY, November 25, 2010 – remember the date because, whatever else happens this season, it is certainly a good day to be a Spurs fan.
Tottenham supporters awoke celebrating a third successive win, as the Lilywhites booked their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a game to spare.
It is a magnificent achievement in the club’s first season among Europe’s elite, and it follows just four days after the derby victory at the Emirates.
Ex-Arsenal captain William Gallas got as big a cheer as any of his team-mates before the match – his heroics in Saturday’s derby have apparently guaranteed him ‘yiddo’ status – and Spurs’ victory came with a rare clean sheet to boot. All is well at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham fans didn’t know what to cheer on Wednesday night, and the gleeful scorn poured upon Bremen’s Champions League credentials were interspersed by equally raucous refrains of ‘we beat the scum 3-2’.
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Tottenham sit top of Group A, ahead of reigning European champions Inter Milan, having scored 15 goals in their five group matches and a two-legged Champions League knockout tie is already booked for February, regardless of what happens in Twente in a fortnight.
That is more than Inter, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and last year’s beaten finalists Bayern Munich. In fact, only Arsenal have matched Spurs’ total, but the Gunners have not yet qualified.
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It doesn’t take a mathematician to deduce that Spurs have averaged three goals per game in Europe’s biggest tournament, having previously netted six times over two legs against Young Boys of Bern.
Spurs are hardly creeping tentatively into the last 16, they are blasting their path through – never more emphatically than last night at the Lane, with their comprehensive 3-0 demolition of Werder Bremen.
“It is fantastic for us to get through, that was a difficult group when it was drawn, although it didn’t look it tonight,” said Harry Redknapp after the game. “I think they lost a little bit of heart.
”Overall I think we’ve done very well. We want to win the group, you want that top spot if you can get it. It looks as though most big teams will finish top of their group so it’s
important if you can finish top.”
There were no heroic comebacks this time, just a cool, calm efficiency. It was almost, dare we say it, German.
To be frank Bremen were dreadful and, despite finishing third in the Bundesliga last season, they have emerged as one of the worst teams in the tournament.
Werder have failed to win a single game in Group A and have now conceded 12 goals – the third-worst defensive record in the competition. They currently sit 12th in Germany.
There was no contest on Wednesday, and Spurs mustered 18 shots on goal, while Bremen offered eight, with three on target. It is difficult to remember any of them, and Heurelho Gomes would probably struggle to recall any too.
There was an overwhelmingly confident atmosphere around the Lane before kick-off, and that was justified in the sixth minute as Younes Kaboul picked up where he had left off at the Emirates - as a Tottenham goalscorer.
A corner was cleared to Alan Hutton, who instantly found Aaron Lennon on the right, and the diminutive winger raced to the by-line before crossing for Kaboul to volley home.
Jermaine Jenas limped off, to be replaced by Wilson Palacios, and although Marko Marin inspired Bremen to some intricate passing and a couple of efforts on goal, the tide was with Tottenham.
Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko both miscued in quick succession from a Gareth Bale cross, and Lennon then escaped down the right before finding the Russian striker, who calmly took a touch but saw his goalbound shot well blocked.
It seemed that Spurs would go into the interval with a narrow lead, but as the fourth official held up a board showing one minute of injury-time, the Lilywhites struck again.
Hutton crossed from the right and Crouch leapt to nod the ball down into the danger area, where Luka Modric cleverly allowed the ball to bounce across him and fool his marker before volleying home.
Redknapp celebrated as if the match had been won, and so it proved. It was all Spurs after the break, and it just became a question of how many they would score.
Bale hit the bar with a sumptuous free kick, Crouch’s header from point-blank range hit a defender on the line and scewed wide of the post, and from the resulting corner Spurs won a penalty – but Bale saw his effort saved by Tim Weiss.
Substitute Jermain Defoe, who replaced Pavlyuchenko, also tested the visiting keeper with a 25-yard effort, and with 14 minutes left the England striker teed up the overlapping Bale, who sent a trademark low drive skimming narrowly across goal.
Spurs deserved a third and it came with 11 minutes remaining as Bale hared to the by-line and chipped into the goalmouth. With Weiss stranded, the ball bounced off the bar but Lennon recovered and darted past his man before crossing for Crouch to convert.
It was polished, it was perfect, and it was all done without Rafael Van der Vaart, whose absence went utterly unnoticed – proof, if it was needed, that Tottenham fully merit their place among the top 16 in Europe.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Gomes, Assou-Ekotto, Gallas (c), Kaboul, Hutton, Bale, Modric, Jenas (Palacios 20), Lennon, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko (Defoe 58).