Tuesday 12 December 2017

Harry's game just the ticket as Spurs turn on the style

Tottenham 4
FC Twente 1

Henry Winter

NOW that's entertainment. Even with 10 men, even with Twente far from makeweights in a thrilling Champions League Group A tie, Tottenham Hotspur showed what this club and Harry Redknapp are all about: attacking football, from first to last, whatever the numerical disadvantage, whatever the weather.

"Champions League -- we're having a laugh,'' chanted the Spurs fans, singing in the rain, even ending an epic second half with chants of "ole''.

All the talk of the group stages being boring was washed away in a downpour from the sky and a flood of goals. Uefa should thank Redknapp and Tottenham for reminding everyone that it's about the glory, about goals.

Rafael van der Vaart began the scoring, Roman Pavluychenko converted two penalties and Gareth Bale applied the coup de grace. The fact that two of Spurs' goals arrived when Van der Vaart had been dismissed for two bookable challenges reflected Redknapp's positive principles. Shut up shop? No chance.

Redknapp had promised to attack and he was true to his word, starting with two up top, Pavlyuchenko and Peter Crouch -- Republic of Ireland captain Robbie keane was on the bench -- supported by a highly creative midfield of Van der Vaart, Luka Modric, Tom Huddlestone and Gareth Bale. Van der Vaart began an eventful evening on the right but roamed inside, linking neatly with Modric, also inviting Alan Hutton to charge down the flank.

Spurs made good headway down the wings, Bale inevitably to the fore. Such was the Welshman's desire to keep one ball in, he slid painfully into the hoardings. He rose gingerly, rubbing his left knee, before resuming his forays.

Yet it was Van der Vaart who was Tottenham's best outlet in the first half, always looking for the ball, screaming for a return pass after releasing Hutton.

The Twente fans had a special greeting for their compatriot, targeting Van der Vaart with a chant in perfect Anglo-Saxon of "you're s**t and you know you are".

Van der Vaart almost silenced them midway through the half, letting fly with his right foot and bringing a diving save from Nikolay Mihaylov, the son of Boris.

Such was Spurs' commitment to attack that their left-back, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, popped up on the right wing while Redknapp's centre-halves, Ledley King and Sebastien Bassong, embarked on dribbles upfield. But still Van der Vaart, so fired up he was soon booked for a late challenge, resembled Spurs' best chance of a breakthrough, almost scoring after 36 minutes following a move of speed and precision.

Bassong had pushed up, nudging the ball left to Bale, who hoisted a cross to the far post. Crouch headed it back across to Van der Vaart, whose response was electric, flicking the ball up and then ending it spiralling in an overhead kick well held by Mihaylov.

Then came the first half's main incident. Van der Vaart swung in a cross to the far post, where Crouch and Twente's captain, Peter Wisgerhof, were grappling like a couple of amateur wrestlers. Crouch began falling and Terje Hauge pointed to the spot. Mihaylov left his line early, narrowing the angle, and saving.

Looking to hit on the break, Twente troubled Spurs. When Huddlestone was caught in possession, Bryan Ruiz was off and running, sprinting through the centre, eluding Bassong. Only Gomes' quick thinking and fast reflexes denied the Costa Rican, the Brazilian darting out and stretching out a defiant hand.

Marc Janko similarly went close and the Austrian was also frustrated that Huddlestone had not been dismissed for flinging a right arm back in his face.


Stirred up by Redknapp at the break, Spurs were lethal in the second half, quickly seizing a two-goal lead. Huddlestone's ball was weighted perfectly for Crouch to nod down to Van der Vaart.

Making amends for his earlier profligacy, Van der Vaart controlled the ball with his chest before delivering an unstoppable shot past Mihaylov.

Like the local buses, home goals came in quick succession. Roberto Rosales was spooked into a rash lunge on Bale. Pavlyuchenko took responsibility for the penalty this time, thumping his kick past Mihaylov.

Spurs appeared in control, but Twente had other ideas, soon making it 2-1 following hesitancy in the home box. Nacer Chadli reacted fastest to the loose ball, ramming it past Gomes.

Twente sensed a chance, particularly when Van der Vaart flew into another rash challenge, this time on Rosales, and was dismissed. The force seemed with Twente but Spurs had other ideas, refusing simply to sit and frustrate, instead continuing to look for a third goal. Pavlyuchenko unleashed a 25-yard shot that struck the arms of Wout Brama, who was turning his back and was unfortunate to be punished with a penalty.

Hauge initially waved play on. The assistant referee signalled a spot-kick, Hauge concurred, and Pavlyuchenko converted.

Redknapp sent on Aaron Lennon, removing the tireless Modric. Still Spurs attacked, Bale placing a fourth past Mihaylov. Next stop San Siro. Without Van der Vaart, but with ambition. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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