Spurs suffered at the back.
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"I have thought about the Astroturf and it could just kill Ledley completely, it could ruin his knee," said Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp before their crucial Champions League qualifier against Young Boys. After 28 minutes, and three goals, Redknapp may have been forgiven for wanting to kill his entire defence in the absence of their talismanic captain.
Ponderous, slow and non-responsive before the introduction of Tom Huddlestone for the abysmal Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Spurs looked overawed by the occasion. The plastic pitch would not have helped, as such a surface does take some time to get used to, but a lack of concentration at the back - especially between the two centre-halves - seemed to put the game beyond them before it had really even started.
If there was an element of luck about the way the ball found Senad Lulic for the first goal, the ball-watching by all four of Tottenham’s defenders for the second was inexcusable. One player very rarely requires four markers and while Tape Doubai’s deflected shot had somewhat fortuitously opened the door for the opener, his throughball to Henri Bienvenu saw another failure of Spurs’ defence highlighted - a lack of pace - once the space had been created.
Michael Dawson was left stranded and exposed by the Young Boys’ striker, whose shot into the bottom corner was despatched as calmly as his crucial winner against Fenerbahce in the previous round. But one can’t help feeling that some better organisation by a leader such as King would have seen the danger snuffed out earlier.
Dawson was not the only one caught out, as 15 minutes later the lively Moreno Costanzo spotted a gap for a simple angled throughball to Xavier Hochstrasser, who should have been tracked by Sebastien Bassong. The Cameroon international’s loss of concentration proved crucial as the Swiss side went three up, although he did redeem himself to an extent by claiming an away goal before Roman Pavlyuchenko gave Spurs hope with another late on.
Redknapp has already made it clear that he is eyeing new faces in defence, with former Arsenal captain William Gallas an interesting (if not especially popular) option. For all of their attacking talent, Spurs will find that the Champions League is an unforgiving mistress when it comes to defensive errors and a cool head to replace King in his all-too-frequent spells on the sidelines would certainly be welcome. As would a decent left-back.
While the result looked on course to match Celtic’s unexpected 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Slovakian Champions Artmedia Bratislava in 2005-06 in the first half, the two away goals has given them hope and a 1-0 win would get them through in the return leg at White Hart Lane. Redknapp will hope his crocked skipper will be ready to face the Swiss next week to calm the nerves.