Sport Champions League

Monday 27 March 2017

Real class rules as Spurs fail to produce a miracle

Tottenham 0
Real Madrid 1
(Madrid win 5-0 on agg)

Madrid's goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo is upended under pressure from Tottenham's Vedran Corluka and Michael Dawson (R).
Madrid's goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo is upended under pressure from Tottenham's Vedran Corluka and Michael Dawson (R).

Henry Winter

Having been hit for four in Spain, Tottenham Hotspur did not really have a second leg to stand on -- and so it proved. Willed on relentlessly by their fans, Harry Redknapp's men gave everything but still fell short. Real Madrid were always in control.

Even in defeat, players of the quality of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Michael Dawson enhanced their reputations. Sadly for Spurs, contrasts lay elsewhere: Madrid had the World Cup-winning Iker Casillas as their last line of defence, while Heurelho Gomes gifted Cristiano Ronaldo the softest of goals five minutes into the second half. Spurs fans sang "we're going to win 6-1", but it was their swansong.

They lacked a cutting edge. In attack, Madrid had the hard-working Emmanuel Adebayor while Spurs had Roman Pavlyuchenko, who wasted his two good chances.

Taste

How they missed the suspended Peter Crouch, who must now help them get back into next season's competition. Spurs certainly have developed a taste for it.

And so ended a wonderful debut run in the Champions League, an odyssey that began with defeat at Young Boys Berne before taking in such epic sounds as 'taxi for Maicon' and the unforgettable sight of a San Siro scoreboard reading 'AC Milan 0, Tottenham Hotspur 1'.

An eight-month voyage into the unknown turned into a journey of discovery for Spurs. They have emerged stronger, their self-belief intensified. They have seen Bale come of age, becoming one of Europe's most coveted talents.

Driven on by Bale and Modric, Spurs went for Madrid. Trailing 4-0, facing mission impossible, there was no self-pity, simply a desire to challenge Madrid's obvious superiority.

Bale quickly embarked on some electric runs down the left. He even fell under a challenge from Xabi Alonso and appealed for a penalty when he appeared to have tripped himself. Alonso, rightly, was irate.

But Alonso was fortunate not to concede a penalty when catching Modric.

The little Croatian was outstanding, running time and again at the distinguished visitors. Mourinho had paid Spurs the compliment of fielding his front-line stars, barring Angel di Maria, and Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil showed some typically exceptional technique in the early stages. Mourinho fielded four players on bookings, a surprise.

When Ricardo Carvalho felled Tom Huddlestone, he was ruled out of the first leg of the semi-final against Barcelona.

For all the quality against them, Spurs still believed, still pushed forward relentlessly. Rafael van der Vaart appears to have left his best form back in those illuminating pre-Christmas months. Operating in the hole, he was a shadow of his earlier brio. Modric was comfortably better.

With Crouch out, Pavlyuchenko enjoyed a rare start. This was the Russian's big chance to convince Redknapp he was worth persevering with.

But he only flickered throughout the first half. Cutting in from the left, the Russian was brought down 25 yards out by Sami Khedira. Bale lined up the free-kick but Madrid's wall did its job.

Still Modric continued to weave his way upfield, ghosting away from Marcelo and Alonso beautifully at one point. Still Spurs pieced together some decent attacks, particularly when directed down the flanks, but still they lacked the finishing touch.

Aaron Lennon was well enough to start, and was soon racing at and occasionally past Alvaro Arbeloa. The England winger then fashioned a marvellous chance, scampering down the inside-right channel and cutting the ball back to Pavlyuchenko.

The Lane stood in anticipation, willing the Russian to find the target, but he ballooned the shot over. It was an awful miss. He yelled in frustration, his mood then not helped when he was challenged by Raul Albiol, but Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli waved play on.

Threatened

Madrid briefly threatened a goal, Ronaldo speeding past Benoit Assou-Ekotto, but Dawson blocked.

Nine minutes from the break, Ozil curled over a corner which was met brilliantly by Sergio Ramos. His header was dropping in at the far post until Gomes clawed the ball away.

Having resisted this squall, Spurs finished the half strongly. Huddlestone turned and teased the ball left-footed to Assou-Ekotto, who swiftly teed up Pavlyuchenko.

The No 9's radar was more accurate this time, but his shot was still simple for Casillas to deal with.

Recovery had always been fanciful, and any dreams of the greatest escape ended for good within five minutes of the restart.

Madrid had been late out for the second half, earning a rebuke from Rizzoli, who pointed at his watch and then the 'Respect' badge on his shirt.

Real's tardiness drew plenty of boos but the Spurs fans soon fell silent at the concession of the softest of goals.

Ronaldo collected possession 25 yards out and let fly, the ball dipping towards Gomes.

The Brazilian keeper utterly failed to deal with the ball, letting it bounce off him and continue goalwards. Excruciating.

The ball actually appeared embarrassed, slowing as it neared the line. Gomes threw himself back but in vain and Ronaldo had his goal, his 38th in 46 games.

Spurs refused to go quietly. Their fans expected effort until the last. Van der Vaart twisted this way and that before lifting in a cross that Pavlyuchenko headed over. Then Jermain Defoe, who had replaced Lennon, forced a rare save from Casillas. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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