Champions League – Spurs bow out with heads held high

BackPageFootball’s Ger McCarthy reviews Tottenham Hotspur’s exit from this season’s Champions League at the hands of a professional performance from Real Madrid following a disappointing quarter final second leg at White Hart Lane.

Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg,
White Harte Lane, London,
Tottenham Hotspur 0 Real Madrid 1
(Real won 5-0 on aggregate)

Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur side bowed out of the 2011 Champions League following a disappointing 1-0 loss at home to Real Madrid following a tame quarter final second leg at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night. Ronaldo scored the only goal of the game early in the second half courtesy of a horrendous goalkeeping error from Gomes to complete a 5-0 aggregate win for Jose Mourinho’s side.

Madrid were compact, confident and professional from the opening minute and good value for their win. Spurs had legitimate shouts for at least two penalties but were playing catch up once they fell behind to Ronaldo’s lucky opener. Up next for Madrid is an El Classico clash with bitter rivals Barcelona while Spurs also have a derby on the horizon with Arsenal set to visit the Lane next week.

So the curtain has come down on Tottenham’s Champions League odyssey for 2011 and the Premier League club can look back with pride on their campaign which included notable victories over AC and Inter Milan. Real Madrid march on to the semi-finals and have the ability under Jose Mourinho to cause a shock with victory over Barcelona.

Match Review

First Half
A wonderful atmosphere inside a heaving White Hart Lane saw Real Madrid begin at a high tempo forcing Tottenham on the back foot in the early exchanges. Ozil wasted a glorious opportunity to open the scoring as early as the third minute when Adebayor setup the German international only for the Madrid midfielder to shoot tamely at Gomes. Gareth Bale enjoyed a terrific start and showed Sergio Ramos a clean pair of heels in the fifth minute by cutting in from the left wing and bringing the best out of Casillas with a low shot. Modric was hacked down in the ensuing goalmouth scramble but the referee waved away the North London club’s appeals for a spot-kick.

Spurs pressed high up the pitch for much of the opening ten minutes but a poor final ball from Aaron Lennon and Vedran Corluka ruined some confident approach play from the hosts. Madrid’s Alonso and Ozil began to get to grips in midfield and prevented the likes of Modric and Huddlestone from generating attacks in the centre of the park with some timely tackles. Bale remained the home side’s most potent attacking weapon and another electric break saw the Welsh international burst past two defenders only for his pull-back to be hacked clear. Tottenham continued to push for an opener and Khedira’s foul on Pavlyuchenko twenty five yards from goal resulted in the first caution of the night. Bale fired the resulting free-kick straight into the wall and Madrid recovered as the quarter hour mark passed without a goal.

Mourinho’s side threatened fleetingly with Ronaldo and Ozil seeing long range efforts fly well wide. Two goal hero from the first leg, Adebayor, cut a frustrated figure and was isolated up front, unable to influence the tie. There was a brief lull in proceedings following Tottenham’s high octane start which permitted Madrid to comfortably boss possession while their opponents chased shadows for a time. Tottenham created their best chance of the first half after twenty six minutes when a sublime through ball from Van der Vaart released Lennon whose pull-back found the in-rushing Pavlyuchenko. The Russian couldn’t keep his shot down however firing high and wide from just inside the box. Another Spurs penalty appeal fell on deaf ears as the referee waved away claims for another spot-kick following a clumsy challenge on Pavlyuchenko.

The tackles were flying in from both sides as a tense quarter-final remained 0-0 despite the best efforts of the home side. Ronaldo showed brief flashes of brilliance on the right wing and one determined run earned Madrid a corner. Gomes flapped at the ensuing in-swinger which Spurs managed to clear but a second corner immediately afterwards saw Tottenham’s Brazilian goalkeeper go full stretch to deny a looping Ronaldo header. Spurs had the ball in the net in the 38th minute but Bale’s effort was correctly ruled out for offside. Carvalho was yellow carded for a wild lunge on Huddlestone shortly afterwards which meant the former Chelsea player would miss the upcoming semi-final first leg. Van der Vaart’s vicious free-kick brought the best out of Casillas minutes before the interval but Madrid remained comfortable with the cushion of a 4-0 aggregate lead.

A quick Real Madrid counter-attack right on half time had Tottenham’s defence scrambling to prevent Ronaldo’s goal bound shot from troubling Gomes. The opening forty five minutes concluded scoreless with Madrid content to keep a lively Spurs attack scoreless and maintain the four goal first leg advantage.

Second Half
Any hopes Tottenham had of causing a surprise home win were dashed in the 50th minute when a previously anonymous Ronaldo left fly from 25 yards. The mercurial winger’s effort was a speculative one to say the least but Spurs’ net-minder Gomes inexplicably allowed the shot to squirm from his gloves and over the line for the opening goal of the second leg. It was a horrendous error from a goalkeeper prone to such gaffs and instantly deflated the atmosphere from the ground. Tottenham struggled to bounce back from that disappointing concession and Real closed down any space in the final third of the pitch preventing the hosts from mounting a comeback.

Harry Redknapp’s side were lifted by some inspiring Gareth Bale runs and should have equalised in the 58th minute but Roman Pavlyuchenko directed a free header over the crossbar when the Russian striker should have done better. The introduction of Jermain Defoe for Aaron Lennon saw the Tottenham substitute force Iker Casillas into a tremendous save as the Premier League side looked to salvage something from the second leg. Madrid showed the strength and depth of their squad by bringing on Kaka for Ronaldo after 65 minutes. The Brazilian midfielder made an instant impact forcing his fellow countryman Gomes to tip a swerving shot around the post.

Tottenham had little choice but to commit further numbers forward in search of a goal in the closing stages. Real were content to sit deep, defending their penalty area before looking to Kaka and Ozil on the counter-attack. Defoe hit the Madrid upright from the by-line following a corner but it was the last punch of a floored boxer as Madrid eased through the remainder of the quarter final.

Match Statistics (courtesy of Opta Sports)

Tottenham Hotspur
• 3 – Tottenham have kept just three clean sheets in their last 17 European games at White Hart Lane. Lax.
• 69 – Tottenham made 69 passes in the attacking third in the first half, 27 more than they did in the entire first leg (42). Improvement

• 5 – Tottenham have now conceded at least once in all five of their European home games v Spanish sides. Bulldozed

Real Madrid
• 40 – Emmanuel Adebayor made twice as many touches as Roman Pavlyuchenko (20) in the first half of tonight’s game. Visitor

• 4 – Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 4 goals in his last 3 competitive games against Tottenham. Flap

• 73 – Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 73 goals in 80 competitive games with Real Madrid. Ratio

Ger McCarthy

Author Details

Ger McCarthy
Ger McCarthy

Author of the book entitled 'Off Centre Circle'. Champions League correspondent for Back Page Football, contributor to the Hold The Back Page football podcast, also a contributor to the Irish Examiner Newspaper, SetantaSports Satellite TV Sports Network, NewsTalk National Radio station, Shoot! Magazine and Dangerhere websites.

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