Werder Bremen 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur: Pretenders Better Than Champions Inter Milan?
Tottenham Hotspur's debut in the Champions League was tinged with bittersweet what ifs as Harry Redknapp's team claimed a deserved point with a 2-2 draw at the Weserstadion against Werder Bremen.
Spurs raced into an early two-goal lead after Finnish international Petri Pasenan diverted Gareth Bale's driven cross into his own net as Peter Crouch was poised to pounce. The England striker then added the second following a sublime cross from Rafael van der Vaart.
It was all that Spurs deserved as they dictated the tempo of the match in every area of the pitch. Redknapp chose to go with a 4-4-2 type formation with van der Vaart in a free role as Crouch's partner as Robbie Keane's and Roman Pavlyuchenko geared up for a lot of time being spent on the bench.
The newly-signed Dutchman, for his part, was brilliant yet again. Tottenham's new No. 11, signed from Real Madrid for £8 million on transfer deadline day, made his debut against West Brom at the Hawthorns on Saturday and showed frequent flashes of genius as he carved open Roberto Di Matteo's side time after time.
Such was his good form, despite an obvious lack of match fitness, that Redknapp threw him right in at the deep end tonight as Spurs made their bow in Europe's premier cup competition.
Boasting a statistic from his Real Madrid days that showed he created a goal every 31 minutes when on the pitch, Spurs only had to wait 18 seconds until he controlled Tom Huddlestone's phenomenal volleyed pass before flighting in a perfect cross for Crouch to head back across goal with Tim Wiese stranded as a spectator on the line.
With Bale and Lennon dominating the flanks, and with Huddlestone and surprise inclusion Jermaine Jenas controlling midfield, the first 45 minutes were a perfect example of a perfect game plan.
However, as any Spurs fan will testify, even at 2-0 the game is never safe.
Ledley King was caught badly out of position as the impressive Wesley's cross was met by Hugo Almeida, who headed home on the stroke of half time to give Werder something to play for in the second half.
The 2-1 scoreline became 2-2 just four minutes into the new period as Thomas Schaff's tactics and decisiveness brought his team back into the match.
The ex-Werder Bremen player, now turned manager, changed the whole setup of his side in the 37th minute when he took off the ineffective Bargfrede for Aaron Hunt and within minutes Die Grun Wiessen were competing in midfield and giving Spurs something to think about.
The most important element of the tactical switch was to give the prodigious Marko Marin more space to move into. The freedom the prodigious 21-year-old was afforded by this new formation was exactly the platform he needed to shine and for the next 45 minutes he produced wing wizardry that even the great Stanley Matthews would approve of.
All it took was a slight drop of a shoulder or a deft flick and Vedran Corluka was chasing shadows. If it was fitting that van der Vaart provided the assist for Crouch in the first half then it was more than apt that Marin bagged the equalizer with a fierce drive from the edge of the box that beat Carlo Cudicini on his near post. A cardinal error by the Spurs stand in 'keeper.
From there, both sides had enough chances to grab the lead, and only for good 'keeping and profligate finishing the game could have finished 4-4.
In the end a 2-2 draw was probably about right for this highly entertaining game. Werder will be the happier after fighting back from 2-0 down although Schaff is sure to have some stern words with his midfield and defence tomorrow morning after Spurs opened them up with ease throughout.
While Harry Redknapp may have taken a point gladly before the game he cannot but help feel bitterly disappointed with the way his side caved in and grabbed a draw in the face of victory.
The Champions League will provide a tough learning curve for both of these entertaining sides and given the attacking resources they have at their disposal and Rafael Benitez's defensive habits it would not come as the biggest shock in the world to see Werder and Spurs progress at the detriment of the current European champions.