Sport Champions League

Saturday 16 December 2017

Spurs lapses let Werder off hook

Werder Bremen 2
Tottenham 2

Peter Crouch celebrates scoring Tottenham's second goal. Photo: Getty Images
Peter Crouch celebrates scoring Tottenham's second goal. Photo: Getty Images

Jason Burt

THERE is a fairytale by the Brothers Grimm based in Bremen and last night it appeared set to be the location for another little piece of fantasy -- this time with a north London plotline.

Spurs, in their first Champions League encounter, took the kind of early advantage that threatened to take a grip on a group that also contains Inter Milan and FC Twente. But they were brought back to reality as the Germans rallied to a draw.

That eponymous fairytale is about a group of musicians but after such sweet music, Spurs struck a few discordant notes.

The script had a twist and that twist will have taught them that they have to quickly learn to close out contests if they are to survive at this level. They would have taken a point before the game but will rue the discarding of two more as fatigue bit.

Nevertheless if all of Spurs' campaign is as positive as this it will be some ride.

Spurs started at a pace and with purpose and when Benoît Assou-Ekotto -- not for the first time -- picked out Gareth Bale's run along the left flank, the midfielder outstripped Torsten Frings and crossed low, with Peter Crouch hurtling towards the near post. The ball connected, however, with outstretched boot of Bremen's Petri Pasanen, part of a makeshift defence, and he turned it into his own net. What a finish. By the Finn.

But Crouch wasn't to be denied. Just six minutes later he was picked out, ridiculously unmarked by the hapless Pasanen (hence to be renamed By-pasanen surely), by Rafael van der Vaart and he gleefully steered his header from 12 yards out past a static Tim Wiese in the Bremen goal to cap a period of dominance from Spurs.

The pace and strength of Bale was a constant outlet for Spurs with Van der Vaart providing an energetic, intelligent link between midfield and Crouch, oiling the wheels.

There were more goals to be had. Once more Bale broke away, Bremen defenders struggling to keep up and his centre-cum-shot almost found Crouch but was turned away by Wiese. As Jermaine Jenas shaped to slam the ball in, it was scrambled clear. Soon after and Wiese blocked superbly from Bale's drive after Bremen failed to deal with Kaboul's whipped- in cross.

Yet for all that dominance, that flowing football, the relentless Bale, Spurs were undone just before half-time by the most routine of crosses hoisted deep into their area. It found Hugo Almeida unattended as he stole away from Ledley King and he simply eased his header past Carlo Cudicini to make it 2-1 and change the landscape of the contest.

Soon after the restart that ground slipped dramatically for Spurs. Bremen poured forward again and, this time, Marko Marin wriggled free with Vedran Corluka foolishly backing off, to fire a shot that beat Cudicini to equalise. An injured van der Vaart was replaced by Robbie Keane who failed to make an impact.

By now, Marin was running the game as Redknapp had feared he might. Bremen were now in control with the Spurs defence unsteady, but the visitors held on and almost snatched victory when Crouch just missed Bale's teasing cross. A point will do them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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