Tottenham’s first venture into Europe’s Premier competition in 48 years got off to a less than auspicious start as they lost 3-2 to Switzerland’s Young Boys of Bern. With the stakes being high Tottenham sent a near full strength squad with Ledley King being the main absentee as there were fears that the plastic pitch could aggravate his knee. However after 30 minutes Spurs dream of reaching the group stages looked to be in tatters as they went 3-0 down and to be fair looked a distant second best.
However some shrewd tactical changes and inspired substitutions allowed Tottenham to claw their way back into the game and one of those substitutes Robbie Keane was instrumental in giving them a lifeline when his skillful pass set up Pavlyuchenko who angled a thunderous shot past Young Boys keeper Marco Wolfli.This 83rd minute goal was enough to make Spurs favourites to progress.
In an entertaining match watched by a sizable crowd of 31,275 Young Boys who surprisingly knocked out Fenerbache in the previous round were ahead after 4 minutes thanks to Lulic and Bienvenu hit the second after 13 minutes. Things then looked all over for Spurs when Xavier Hochstrasser added the 3rd after 28 minutes, However soon after Harry Redknapp brought on Tom Huddlestone, andthis seemed to steady the ship and just before half time French Defender Sebastien Bassong pulled a goal back to give Tottenham hope for the second half.
Young Boys did have their chances in the second half but spurs did start to take control as the game wore on and their second goal should ensure they manage to progress when the two meet again on the 25th August at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham’s first ever game in the Champions League will be played on a plastic pitch tonight when they travel to Switzerland to take on Young Boys of Bern. Spurs are taking this qualifier seriously and are sending a strong squad, although Ledley King’s knee will not be risked on a plastic pitch and midfielder Jermaine Jenas is being rested as he has a minor Calf injury.
Young Boys will be no push over, having already knocked Turkish side Fenerbache out in the previous round, and the £10 million in prize money up for grabs just for reaching the group stages is enough to make any team take things seriously. Young Boys only lost once at home in the league last season and their win over Champions League regulars Fenerbache will have instilled a lot of confidence in them.
If Tottenham can come away from Bern with a draw, preferably having scored then they should progress giving England a strong presence in the group stages again this year.
The draw for the knock out round of the champions league has been rather kind to British hopefuls Tottenham Hotspur who have been paired with Swiss side Young Boys of Bern in what should be one of the easier ties to predict.
The draw has thrown up some tasty looking games with Dutch giant Ajax getting a really tough draw against Dynamo Kiev and German side Werder Bremen drawing the fast improving Italians Sampdoria.
The full draw is below:
Young Boys v Tottenham
Dynamo Kiev v Ajax
Werder Bremen v Sampdoria
Braga v Sevilla
Rosenborg v FC Copenhagen
Sparta Prague v MSK Zilina
Zenit St Petersburg v Auxerre
Basle v FC Sheriff Tiraspol
Partizan Belgrade v Anderlecht
Red Bull Salzburg v Hapoel Tel-Aviv
Tottenham Hotspurs who will be playing in their 1st ever champions league this season have been seeded for the final knockout stage and so will avoid the big guns remaining in the qualifiers. Although there are no easy ties at this stage of the competition Spurs will be hoping to dodge Dynamo Kiev or Sampdoria and get one of the weaker teams like Young Boys of Bern who somehow scraped through against Turkish side Fenerbache in the last round. The draw is taking place latter today.
In a night of few surprises the main headlines were reserved for the early demise of Glasgow Celtic and Turkish side Fenerbahce, both of whom would have expected to progress prior to the competitions start.
Celtic who had a mountain to climb after an embarrassing performance in Portugal at least put on a slightly better performance against Braga, however their opponents came with a solid game plan and at times Celtic were forced into hitting hopeful long balls up the field. The 2-1 win at least salvaged some pride and they will now drop into the Europa League knock out round where they could meet some stiff opposition.
Fenerbahce were expected to come through easily enough against Swiss side Young Boys of Bern who were lucky to escape the home leg with a 2-2 draw. However a goal from Cameroon born striker Henri Bienvenu a few minutes before half time was enough to take them through. Fenerbahce were reduced to 10 men in the second half and they will also now play in the Europa League Knockouts.
The most entertaining match of the night saw Ajax progress thanks to away goals following an exciting 3-3 draw at PAOK Saloniki where Uruguayan World Cup Star Luis Suarez again grabbed a goal. Ajax will have to play a lot better than this if they are to make much of an impression inthe group stages, assuming they get through the knockouts.
After their disaster in Portugal last week things looked pretty black for Celtic, however their encouraging Emirates Cup performances may just have given them a glimmer of hope going into tonight’s game. So can they realistically overturn a 3-o deficit?
In a word No, Braga are too good a team to let a three goal lead slip and they will probably shut up shop and hope to snatch an away goal on the break. However Celtic should at least give their fans something to cheer about and they are capable of winning the game but not by a wide enough margin. Sorry hoops fans it looks like a short lived European Champions campaign again this season. Still this might improve their chances in the SPL.
As for Braga – well no one will fancy meeting them in the knockout game and they could prove to be a handful in the group stages should they get there.
Welsh champions The New Saints (TNS) lost 3-0 in their second leg tie against Belgian Giants Anderlect last night, but can still be proud of their seasons achievements.
The tie was effectively over after the first leg which TNS lost 3-1 and when Tom de Sutter grabbed the opening goal and in the second half Belgian U-21 international Romelu Lukaku came on as substitute and scored their other two goals.
To their credit Anderlect fans turned out in numbers to watch the game so giving the Welsh side a night to remember, playing in front of a 21,000 crowd. Its a shame that their own fans didn’t give the club the support it deserved in the home leg where the attendance was disappointing.
So TNS will now drop into the Europa League Playoff matches and here they have the chance of drawing the likes of Manchester City, Aston Villa,or Porto. If they do get a plum draw I hope the people of Wales are a bit less lethargic and The New Saints get the bumper home crowd their superb efforts deserve.
Despite Losing 3-2 to Arsenal in the Emirates Cup Celtic have shown sufficient improvement in this much maligned tournament to indicate that the Champions League tie against Braga might not be over just yet.
Celtic looked a different team in this weekends games and this adds support to the call for the Scottish Premier league to start earlier so allowing their clubs, who are typically involved in the qualifying games to have a better chance. Many of their early stage rivals have competitive games under their belts and this is starting to show as the once relatively successful Scottish Clubs are now floundering.
An earlier start could also allow a short winter break, something of great benefit given the typically worse weather conditions the Country suffers. Hopefully some action will be taken before 2011-12 season as Scotland are in real danger of losing the second Champions League place if their poor results continue.
Everything that is bad about Scottish football was on show as Celtic crashed to a devastating defeat against Portuguese side Braga last night. Celtic didn’t register a single shot on goal and were tactically inept playing Georgios Samaras as the lone striker in stifling heat. In fact the tactical aim appeared to be lets get a draw, a fact emphasised when Charlie Mulgrew picked up a booking for time wasting after only 4 minutes!
Overall Celtic looked like a bunch strangers and they will have to improve massively if they are going to progress.
The game its self was not good and the 12,295 crowd watched a game littered with fouls – most coming from Celtic, who also collected 4 yellow cards. Chances were few an far between but the best of what was created came from Braga who’s first goal came from the spot following a hand ball from Ki Sung-Yeung. In the second half Braga continued to look the more threatening but their second goal was almost entirely down to some shocking defending from new signing Charlie Mulgrew, who looked half asleep as Brazilian Alan skinned him down the wing before crossing for Echiejile who had an easy chance. Celtics night of horrors was completed when a poorly formed wall allowed Matheus to drive in the third with a nicely taken free kick.
Now Celtic will need a near miracle to progress, but will take some heart from Braga not being good travelers last season, and the fact they surely cant play that badly again.
Celtics dismal European away form looks likely to continue as they trail in 1-0 down against Braga in the Champions League 3rd Qualifying round. I would like to say they will come back in the second half, but they are not playing well and if anything Braga look likely to add to their lead. Still with only 3 European away wins since 2001 this shouldn’t come as a major surprise to hoops fans. For the record the Braga goal came from a penalty by Osorio Alan following a hand ball by Sung-Yong Ki.
I fear the tie could end up being beyond Celtic if they play like this in the second half.