Thursday 29 June 2017

Crouch separates the men from Young Boys

Tottenham 4
Young Boys 0
(Tottenham win 6-3 on aggregate)

Tottenham's Peter Crouch celebrates his side's third goal during last night's Champions League qualifier. Photo: PA
Tottenham's Peter Crouch celebrates his side's third goal during last night's Champions League qualifier. Photo: PA

Henry Winter

SPURS are on their way to Wembley, they chanted on a magical night at White Hart Lane.

The refrain is a familiar one from fans obsessed with the FA Cup, but this time they were referring to the location of the Champions League final. "We're all going on a European tour,'' they added. One they hope will end along London's North Circular Road.

Far tougher tests lie in wait than Young Boys. In the group stage draw in Monaco later today, Tottenham will be pitted against one of the high rollers of European football, either Inter Milan, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, AC Milan or Lyons. They could also play Real Madrid, who lurk amongst the second seeds.

Reaching the promising land of the midweek group stage meant everything. How appropriate that it was a hat-trick from Peter Crouch, the man with the hat-stand frame, that booked Spurs a seat at the top table of European football. It was Crouch's goal at Eastlands last season that had got them through.

Crouch has played in a Champions League final so his experience will be important. Old heads certainly accounted for Young Boys last night.

Jermain Defoe struck Spurs other goal in the evisceration of the Swiss, although it was cloaked in controversy as he clearly handled en route to goal. The Swiss tears were washed away in the downpour.

Tempest

As a tempest rolled down Tottenham High Road, ripping umbrellas from weak grips, stretching awnings and soaking all hurrying into White Hart Lane, a storm swept into Young Boys inside this famous old ground.

Forty-eight years of waiting, of dreaming of seeing elite European combat back at the Lane, generated a magnificent atmosphere. Spurs fans waved thousands of lilywhite flags but their team never waved a white flag.

Crouch and Defoe, Tom Huddlestone and Gareth Bale were up for this. So were all of Redknapp's players, all of them riding the wave of adrenalin flowing from the stands.

Tottenham supporters were soon singing in the rain, revelling in the sight of their idols playing so irresistibly, racing into a two-goal lead through Crouch and Defoe, the atmosphere hitting fever pitch when Crouch grabbed a second on the hour. Redknapp's juggling of his attacking options was inspired.

Crouch had begun the scoring after five minutes. Aaron Lennon, flying down the right, perhaps realising the number of options England now have on that flank and realising Fabio Capello was watching, set the scene for Crouch's opener, winning a corner off Christoph Spycher, Young Boys' left-back who endured a soul-destroying night.

Bale, again the tormentor of the Swiss, whipped in a corner that Michael Dawson headed back, the ball eventually reaching Bale again.

Xavier Hochstrasser attempted to close the Welshman down but Bale was unstoppable, spotting Crouch's movement and standing the ball up at the far-post. As Ammar Jemal dozed off, Crouch headed from left to right past Marco Wolfli.

Rocked by Tottenham's start, reeling from the hosts' tempo, Young Boys tried desperately to settle, to keep the rampaging Bale at bay. Their set-up looked solid enough, 4-1-4-1, with Moreno Costanzo breaking forward occasionally from central midfield to support the lone frontrunner, Henri Bienvenu.

But the force was with Tottenham. Their passing was slick, the ball skimming across the glistening surface. Their spirit was strong, their team ethic unmistakeable.

Vedran Corluka clipped passes down the inside-right channel for Lennon and Defoe. Lennon kept running at and beyond poor Spycher.

Tom Huddlestone began pinging 40-yarders around. Bale was everywhere.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto demonstrated his eye for the spectacular, unleashing a left-footed drive that seemed destined for the goal until catching Jemal in the stomach, bouncing up and hitting his arm. Defoe and Assou-Ekotto appealed loudly -- they never whisper -- for a penalty but the Young Boys defender knew little about it.

A more obvious handball was seen, although not punished, in the build-up to Tottenham's second. Defoe laid the ball off to Bale, and darted through the middle, knowing the delivery would be swift and accurate.

The ball from Bale duly arrived, although Defoe handled it in working it on to his left foot. His finish brooked no debate, the ball angled brilliantly past Wolfli.

Spurs fans loved it, taunting what resembled a swarm of bees in the away section with a chant of "3-0 and you ****** it up'', a caustic reminder of the first leg. Tottenham's tails were really up. Lennon then set up Defoe, who missed. But they had to be careful as the Swiss threatened briefly on the counter. Bienvenu headed wide from close range as Gomes struggled to meet the cross. The Brazilian had landed awkwardly drilling a long ball down the field and had signalled to the bench to come off. Carlo Cudicini duly arrived at the break.

Spurs made it 3-0 on the night, 5-3 on aggregate when Crouch had the simplest of tasks to head home another excellent Bale corner.

Tottenham were rampant, Lennon really skewering Spycher. One of his crosses was met by the head of Bale and Wolfli saved at the second attempt.

Frustration joined the rain seeping into the Swiss. Alberto Regazzoni smashed into Corluka. Degen clattered Assou-Ekotto.

Spurs took it on the shin-pad. Waves of "Ole'' swirled around the ground, intensifying after Bale was brought down by Senad Lulic, who was eventually dismissed for a second booking, and Crouch calmly drove in the spot kick.

All eyes on Monaco. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport