The beautiful and tranquil setting of Bern, an artificial pitch allowing for the consistently even and speedy role of a football in perfect tune with that “oh so quick pace that besets the English Premier League”. Even an opposition with a name so droll it left you wondering if you once pitted your wits against them as an 11 year old on a Saturday morning.
In short, the perfect way for any team to begin life in Champions League football. That is of course unless you like to where all white on a European night, hail from the north of England’s capital city and have strived beyond incomparable recognition in hope of this moment for the last 48 years.
Surely not even the most ardent Spurs fan ever believed Tuesday nights encounter would be a blissful and unproblematic evening against Young Boys in the centre of Switzerland. Furnishing their supporters with the credence that they could build on last season’s fourth place finish with an energetic and proficient performance against the Richie Rich of English football on Saturday, Spurs rapidly withdrew their credentials in 30 horrifying minutes in the Stade de Suisse.
Indeed the weekends hard fought 0-0 against Manchester City quickly bore into insignificance for every animated Spurs fan as the threat of destroying last season’s labors became a startling reality. A full 38 games undone in half an hour – remarkable, even by Spurs standards. It should be said however that Harry Redknapp’s men are made of a slightly stronger substance then that so regularly showcased over the past 20 years.
They wouldn’t have earned the right to be a Champions League qualifier if not, and they were capable in this match of finding some resolution through goals from Sebastian Bassong and Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Tottenham had gone behind after just five minutes when Bosnian Senad Lulic pounced on a fortuitous ricochet inside the box to side foot past Heurelho Gomes from the left hand side of the area, eight yards from goal. They had been advised of Young Boy’s intentions after just two minutes when Lulic had cut inside Giovanni Dos Santos and fired a low shot against Gomes’ right post.
Surprisingly it was the speed and frenetic consistency of Young Boys attacking movement that had Spurs perplexed and appearing sluggish, thus it was soon 2-0. Pavlyuchenko not for the last time carelessly gave the ball away, consequently allowing Thierry Doubai to serge through the heart of the Tottenham midfield before feeding Henri Bienvenu who burned past Michael Dawson before clinically side footing past the despairing Gomes.
Xavier Hochstrasser then put the hosts 3-0 as he crept in behind Bassong to collect a fine pass from Moreno Costanzo before firing into the back of the net. By this stage Redknapp was apoplectic on the sidelines resembling an Italian who had just found his new Ferrari Enzo clamped after attending Sunday Mass.
His belated move on 36 minutes was to take off Benoit Assou Ekotto and bring on Tom Huddlestone in the hope of gaining better control in midfield. Bassong’s headed goal from a Gareth Bale corner came crucially three minutes before half time, which must have served as some means of a sedative to the already raging Redknapp.
Further changes in the second half saw Niko Kranjcar come on for his Croatian teammate Luka Modric and Robbie Keane replace the out of sorts Jermain Defoe. And it was Keane who linked up nicely with the otherwise disappointing Pavlyuchenko, coolly playing in the Russian who superbly blazed the ball into the roof of the net from an acute angle giving Tottenham the tonic of a second away goal.
Given the way the team from North London played last season, this performance was as illogical and confusing as Redknapp’s post match analysis in which he stated he wouldn’t hold responsible the plastic pitch, before blaming nothing but. In departing, the Spurs entourage left the Stade de Suisse visibly relieved of the outcome and comforted by the prospect of a second leg on home soil.
Though it is clear for all now, they have been warned. A replication of last night’s shambles and the venue will be as futile as the idea that Tottenham could ever breeze through a game of such magnitude.