Werder Bremen fight back after Crouch’s head start for Spurs
Werder Bremen 2 Tottenham 2
SPURS gave their travelling support another rollercoaster night on the continent as the Champions League adventure continued at breakneck pace with a gripping draw in Germany.
If Tottenham’s comeback in the 3-2 play-off defeat against Young Boys in Bern was a “great defeat”, according to Harry Redknapp, then this was probably the opposite.
The Lilywhites return from Bremen with the point that they were aiming for, having been on the back foot at 2-2 for most of the second half and after surviving a number of scares.
However, their achievement is stained with regret after their initial failure to capitalise on a two-goal lead, as Tottenham missed out on an away win which would have given them an invaluable foothold in Group A.
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“We’d have taken a point before we came but being 2-0 up and in complete control, as we were, obviously it’s disappointing not to have won,” said Redknapp.
With four teams chasing the magic 10-point mark which tends to guarantee progression to the knock-out stages, victory in Germany would have been a massive boost to Spurs’ hopes with five games and all three home matches left to play.
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They return from Germany wondering ‘what if?’, and the Lilywhites and their supporters can only hope that they are not left with the same question at the end of the group stage.
Injuries meant that Carlo Cudicini continued to deputise for Heurelho Gomes in goal, Younes Kaboul partnered Ledley King in central defence and Jermaine Jenas stood in for the injured Luka Modric in midfield.
Spurs lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Rafael van der Vaart playing off Peter Crouch, and the visitors made the perfect start with two goals in the opening 20 minutes.
Gareth Bale’s low cross was diverted into the net by Bremen’s Petri Pasanen after 12 minutes, and six minutes later Tottenham doubled their lead in style as Jenas volleyed a luscious ball out to Van der Vaart, whose looping left-wing cross was converted by the head of Peter Crouch.
The Lilywhites’ Champions League dream was well and truly alive, but they were the masters of their own downfall two minutes before the break as Benoit Assou-Ekotto sliced the ball out for a throw-in before Hugo Almeida headed home from close range to give the hosts a vital foothold back in the game.
It took just two minutes for the hosts to restore parity after the interval as the lively Marko Marin sent a 20-yard strike skidding past Cudicini, and Spurs were further hampered as the injured Van der Vaart was withdrawn, replaced by Robbie Keane.
The Irishman proved to be frustratingly ineffective in the second period, while Aaron Lennon was quiet throughout and was eventually replaced by Wilson Palacios.
Tottenham survived a series of shots across their bows in the second half and Bremen looked far more likely to grab the win, but Spurs rallied in the final stages and created two golden opportunities to emerge victorious.
Keane and Crouch were both unable to convert as Bale’s glorious low cross sped across the mouth of the goal, and Crouch chipped beyond goalkeeper and post after being played through one on one by Palacios with three minutes to go.
Moments later Cudicini was forced into action at the other end and, soon after, the referee ended a contest which had swung back and forth like a pendulum – an image which rather sums up Spurs’ Champions League campaign so far.