WRITING as a Tottenham fan who damn near shat himself last night: We waited almost 50 years for this? Still, I know events at the Stade de Suisse provided much comedy value, for Arsenal fans in particular. You’re welcome. We aim to please.
As Spurs were 3-0 down within 30 minutes and facing a nightmare scenario, to escape from the evil Wankdorf Stadium with a couple of away goals – tucked into a fat brown envelope, in the Redknapp fashion – was a huge relief.
Arry was right to call this a ‘great defeat’, even though his team played like donkeys – Roman Pavlyuchenko, for example, was terrible for 80 minutes before he woke up and scored a triffic and vital goal. Michael Dawson was way off the pace (slower than John Terry, if such a thing is imaginable), Bassong looked outclassed… I could go on. Only the introduction of the Zen-like Tom Huddlestone seemed to settle Spurs.
I think it’s fair to say most of Tottenham’s players – and most of their fans, including me – underestimated BSC, and without using it as an excuse, the artificial pitch did also play a part. As much as it will inevitably sound like sour grapes, I agree with Redknapp when he said afterward that ‘I don’t think Astroturf should be used in a competition like this'; I don’t think it should be used at all, except in more Siberian parts of Russia and other icy hellholes. Not because it gives a big advantage to the teams that play on it all the time, but because in this era of ultra-athletic players, the surface puts huge stresses on ankles and especially knees – Redknapp admitted that several of his players, including Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon, didn’t feel comfortable on the Astroturf.
Still, what to make of Arry’s decision to play a rather cavalier 4-4-2 away in Europe? It might work at home in the Prem, but for a match like this it seemed rather naive. I hope he has learned his lesson: horses for courses.
Tottenham are still favourites to progress, though it won’t be easy. They are a better team than BSC – on grass, at least – and those two away goals should serve them well.
(The commemorative DVD is coming soon to a bargain bin near you, of course.)
Photo gallery (click to view XL high-res images):