TALK about a game of two halves.
Tottenham looked to have made a dream start to their Champions League debut by racing into a two-goal lead inside 18 minutes, only to be pegged back in the following half-hour by a Werder Bremen side who took an age to get going but had enough chances to win in the second half.
But Spurs will rue the missed chances that could have made it so different after an outstanding first-half display that promises to make their European adventure an exciting journey.
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp admitted the opening 43 minutes before Bremen pulled a goal back was as good as it gets for Tottenham.
“It was a perfect 43 minutes, and we should have been three or four up, which would have been a fair reflection of the game.
“The first half was as good as it gets from us. Barcelona might be able to play better than that, but that is the best Tottenham can do. We played like I wanted us to play and were much better than them. But then we gave them a lifeline and they had something to hold on to. But I can’t be angry – maybe frustrated.”
Spurs were better from the start, with Redknapp putting Jermaine Jenas in a five-man midfield containing Rafael van der Vaart. With Peter Crouch restored to attack after his hat-trick against Young Boys of Berne in the qualifying round, and Gareth Bale marauding down the left, Spurs were dangerous going forward.
They took the lead in the 12th minute. Benoit Assou-Ekotto hit a perfect pass for Bale to scamper after, and the Welsh flyer easily outstripped right-back Clemens Fritz to deliver a low cross from the left. With Crouch waiting to convert from close range, Finnish defender Petri Pasanen got to the ball first but only succeeded in diverting it into his own net.
The noisy Tottenham fans in the Weserstadion were delighted, and six minutes later they were ecstatic. Jenas struck a free-kick deep into the Bremen penalty area, and when it was headed back to him, he hit a perfectly-volleyed pass out to Van der Vaart on the left wing. The Dutchman’s cross went straight to the lurking Crouch, who planted a powerful header into the corner of Wiese’s goal.
It could and should have been more before half-time as Spurs breaking raids were too much for Bremen.
Bale burst through but was denied by Wiese, who saw the loose ball just miss the onrushing Crouch. The keeper then made an excellent save to push away a piledriver from Bale.
But Bremen had showed signs of danger, particularly from the impressive attacking midfielders Marko Marin and Wesley, the Brazilian playmaker.
Jenas had to make a sliding tackle to stop Wesley getting through as Bremen broke quickly. But the Brazilian was not to be denied too long, and with only two minutes of the first-half remaining, he curled a deep cross into the Tottenham penalty area. Hugo Almeida, the Portuguese striker sent a glancing header past Carlo Cudicini.
Bremen got their tails up and although Spurs hung on until half-time, the respite did not last long.
Marin tried his luck early in the second half with a dipping shot that Cudicini did well to tip over the bar. But in the 47th minute, the German midfielder made no mistake as he jinked in from the left and hit a low shot inside Cudicini’s near post.
Spurs were rocked, and Redknapp reacted by replacing Van der Vaart with Robbie Keane. But Spurs were now sluggish and disjointed.
Bremen threatened to score again, and Almeida raced between King and Younes Kaboul, only to hook the ball over the bar from close range.
In the 66th minute, Spurs were given a let-off when Marin had the ball at his feet 15 yards from goal, but shot into the side netting, and then again they escaped when Aaron Hunt shot over the bar while in a good position.
The Bremen substitute also had a powerful shot brilliantly stopped by Cudicini in the closing stages, after Crouch had missed a chance to score a late winner, clipping his shot wide of the far post from close range.
Subs for Bremen: Hunt for Bangfreda (37), Borowski for Hugo Almeida (76).
Subs for Tottenham: Keane for Van der Vaart (49), Palacios for Lennon (75).
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