Take that, Champions League. Cagey away teams? Ten men behind the ball? Sheer gubbins, cried the merry men of White Hart Lane. We did it the Tottenham way, and while some will probably berate ‘Arry for not adopting a more conservative approach, particularly when two goals ahead, I revelled almost drunkenly in our insistence upon flying forward at every given opportunity. Some – nay, many – will lambast our approach as naive, but I was chuffed to my core to witness a Tottenham side deciding against sitting upon an early lead, and instead looking to stretch further and further ahead, playing some absolutely coruscating one-touch football in the process. Our lot looked more psyched than they have done since – well, since the last Champions League game, and were ruddy well worth a two-gola first half lead.
Point of note: we were actually cruising until we actually conceded. Our advantage was by no means reduced because of capitulation to opposition pressure – in fact Carlo Cudicini barely needed to break sweat, beyond thumping the odd back-pass upfield. Trouble only reared its head when Benny Assou-Ekotto delivered a clearance so wild, needless and bizarrely backward that it prompted the chap sitting next to me to proclaim that it was part of a betting scam. From a situation of no danger whatsoever we conceded a throw, from which Bremen scored, and about 43 minutes of cracking first half work was instantly undone. Curses.
Van der Vaart: AANP Favourite
But what cracking first half work it was. Blinking heck. In our first ever official Champions League game Rafael van der Vaart demonstrated all his top-level nous, and played like a man possessed, without any of the rabid insanity. All composed passing and intelligent vision, the mildly cross-eyed Dutch genius coolly bossed the game. And we absolutely rocked. Aaron Lennon was again strangely subdued, despite going eyeball-to-eyeball with the deeply old and slow Mikael Silvestre, but everyone else with an attacking bent handily brought along their A-game.
Par example: it always pains me to say it, but – in the first half at least – Jermaine Jenas was mightily impressive. In fact, I even made a note of the first time I noticed him play a backwards pass: 62 mins, 51 seconds. Until then he buzzed with positive intent and first-time distribution, and his volley to create the second goal was particularly impressive. The Hudd provided a good deep-lying outlet; Kaboul played with aggressive intent at the back; everything was chugging along just tickety-boo. The concession of goals and removal of VDV ruined things, but the first half provided plenty of cause for encouragement, and had me musing that the additions of Modders, Gomes, Daws and Defoe would turn us into a cracking little CL outfit.
Elsewhere On The Pitch…
The AANP theory on Peter Crouch is that the novelty has worn off domestically, so that every Premiership defence feels relatively at ease in formulating a plan to deal with him; but continental opposition, either at club or country level, are inclined to defecate in their shorts at the sight of him, all pointy and long, stumbling towards them like a gargantuan grasshopper. Whatever the reason, Bremen struggled to get to grips with the blighter and he led the line jolly well, holding it up, laying it off as appropriate and taking his goal well. (Didn’t stop me cursing his entire family when he messed up that late chance though.)
I have begun to speculate that everything positive that occurs in the universe is prompted by Gareth Bale, and this near-faultless notion was corroborated by his performance, with the cross for the first goal demonstrating the value of whipping a cross into a dangerous area, rather than trying to pick out a particular chum. Aaron Lennon take note. By contrast, too many bad things happen when BAE gets hold of the ball, and he and Corluka look too much like the weak links in our line-up.
The goals either side of the interval damn well knocked the wind from our sails, and the absence of Mr VDV certainly did not aid matters, as the ball morphed from cuddly pet cherished by all to hot potato feared by every man and his dog, but in the final analysis a point away from home is no mean feat in the Champions League. I don’t doubt that many will demand the rolling of heads, and insist that a more conservative approach is required on European away days, but around these parts the cockles are warmed by the sight of a Tottenham team gamely taking every opportunity to attack, and pinging the ball around in confident one-touch style. I considered that in the first half, even though the away team, we did the right thing in taking the game to Bremen, and had we made it to half-time with a clean sheet we might have returned with three points rather than one. I for one would be a mite disappointed if we abandoned this attack-minded philosophy in favour of defending for a nil-nil, counter-attacking style from first minute to last – but to each their own.