Friday 31 March 2017

Young Boys 3 Lucky Boys 2

Young Boys' David Degen battles it out with Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Young Boys' David Degen battles it out with Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

young boys 3 tottenham 2 Jason Burt

IT HAD looked like boys against Boys. Having waited 48 years for another tilt at Europe's premier cup competition, Tottenham were almost swept out of it inside 30 minutes last night.

Unable to cope with the likes of Henri Bienvenu, it was just about 'au revoir' with three goals -- including one from the powerful Cameroonian striker -- before Spurs clawed themselves back into it.

A fierce drive from Roman Pavlyuchenko after 83 minutes turned the contest upside down. Now, incredibly, Spurs will be firm favourites.

"That was a great defeat in the end, if there is such a thing as a great defeat," said relieved Spurs manager Harry Redknapp.

"At 3-0 we were out of it. We were in desperate trouble, so full credit to the lads, we've come back. Now we need to win at home and it gives us a great chance."

Not proceeding is unthinkable and the scars would take time to heal. If they are knocked out, it could traumatise a season rich in promises and potentially rich in riches.

They should still do it. Spurs have form in such matters. After all, the boys of 1962 were 4-0 down in their first tie -- away to Gornik Zabrze -- before losing 4-2 and then winning 8-1 at home.

Torrid

Amid the flares and flags it was the most torrid of starts for Spurs. An entrance to the Champions League?

Within the first half an hour, it looked like a startling push towards the exit.

Young Boys started as explosively as those flares, striking the post in the second minute, scoring barely 120 seconds later. Both efforts came from the left boot of Senad Lulic.

The Bosnian winger left Heurelho Gomes stranded with a low shot that thumped off the frame of the goal and squirted away, after David Degan had worked the ball down the right.

Then, and with the panicking Benoit Assou-Ekotto already cautioned, Thierry Doubai's shot crashed off his team-mate Ammar Jemal and broke to Lulic, who calmly dragged his shot across Gomes and into the net.

Spurs panicked. After Giovani dos Santos, a surprise starter, wasted an opportunity to strike back, shooting straight at goalkeeper Marco Wolfli when through on goal, Michael Dawson slipped, catastrophically, and Bienvenu tore past him onto Doubai's flick-on to beat Gomes with another low shot.

Spurs seemed unable to cope as the Swiss broke at pace. Maybe the artificial pitch, heavily watered beforehand, was a contributory factor.

And it got worse. Sebastien Bassong, a liability, was easily beaten by Moreno Costanzo's through ball, allowing Xavier Hochstrasser to simply hammer his shot high into the goal. Less than half an hour played -- 3-0.

Something had to be done. On came Tom Huddlestone -- just after Jemal's free-kick had narrowly cleared the crossbar -- with Redknapp matching up formations. It provided a dividend.

For all of the Swiss's attacking vibrancy they were also deeply vulnerable in defence and from Gareth Bale's corner Sebastien Bassong -- woeful until then -- headed home. A lifeline. And a game-changer. Suddenly they appeared capable and, moments later, Jermain Defoe headed wide.

Unsurprisingly, Spurs came out early for the second half, with Niko Kranjcar another change to replace the injured Luka Modric.

That was some blow also but the pattern of supremacy appeared set with Spurs pushing on and YB retreating. It meant they were looking to strike on the break and appeared capable of inflicting that damage.

It was a balancing act for Spurs. Another goal for them and it was a tie transformed and, following the successful change in formation, with Pavlyuchenko dropping off, they appeared far more in control, far calmer.

Only a fine block from Jemal prevented the Russian, now a greater threat, from getting his shot away after Kranjcar's pass. Moments later and he should have scored, reaching Bale's whipped-in cross but ballooning over.

The tie was on a knife-edge and that sense started to have an influence also, although Spurs were dealt another setback when Defoe hobbled off.

It meant Robbie Keane, who Redknapp is keen to sell, was introduced. But it was Young Boys who then went close with Bienvenu heading close from a free-kick.

Another warning. And another with substitute Christian Schneuwly slicing over after Dawson was again embarrassed by pace. He should have scored.

Pavlyuchenko forced a tip over from Wolfli but then Gomes had to rush from goal to clear up Wilson Palacios' suicidal square-pass before Schneuwly volleyed wastefully over.

YB paid a heavy price. Pavlyuchenko cleverly dummied Vedran Corluka's pass, strode onto Keane's return pass and thrashed his shot into the top corner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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