Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Stupidity of Crouch made Real Madrid's job simple

It was fun while it lasted for Tottenham. They may have another game to play in the Champions League this season, but their exciting adventure is over, with the dream becoming a nightmare as Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid hammered them 4-0 at the Bernabeu last night.

Even if Harry Redknapp could field Pat Jennings, Dave Mackay, Danny Blanchflower, Steve Perryman, Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles, Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker, Jimmy Greaves and Jurgen Klinsmann alongside Gareth Bale at White Hart Lane next week, it would be impossible to turn the tie with Real around.

The second leg of the quarter-final at White Hart Lane will be a formality for Mourinho's men, as they relentlessly drive on to a mouth-watering last four clash against bitter rivals Barcelona.

For Spurs, it will be an opportunity to go down fighting, and for their fans to say thanks for a memorable campaign, in which the giants of Milan succumbed to Harry's heroes.

I suspect those same supporters will be wondering when they will be back at European football's top table.

Soon, hopefully, because Spurs bring much to the party, though they are in fifth place in the Premier League at present.

If they stay there, they'll be in the Europa League.

That's like having spent a year jamming with The Beatles only to be told that your next gig is as support act to Boyzone!

Not sure how that will go down with Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, who will be tempted in the summer by big moves to big clubs, playing in the big European competition.

Let's just say Tottenham need a big finish in the Premier League to make it into the top four. And Peter Crouch needs to deliver some of the biggest performances of his life to make up for his stupidity last night.

Already under pressure and trailing to an early Emmanuel Adebayor headed goal — which Tottenham should have prevented — Crouch lost control of his senses and got sent off with just 15 minutes on the clock.

The England striker, who scored the only goal of the tie against AC Milan in the last round, made not one but two of the silliest challenges you will ever see, earning him two bookings and a red card.

Sure, he was hyped up by the magnitude of the contest, but that was no excuse for his reckless and pointless tackles.

Before his dismissal, Spurs had a mountain to climb — Ben Nevis. It became Everest as he walked off down the tunnel.

Try as they might, especially captain Michael Dawson in defence, the visitors were never going to scale that, even though they did exceptionally well to enter the break just the one goal behind. With the brilliant Xabi Alonso prompting, probing and passing all over the pitch it was only a matter of time before Real were going to add to their lead.

Once when Jose Mourinho was managing Chelsea he complained that Spurs had parked a bus at Stamford Bridge to earn a scoreless draw.

They would have needed an ocean liner at the Bernabeu to stem the tide.

Former Arsenal striker Adebayor scored his second — that's 10 goals in 10 games for him against Spurs — Angel di Maria slammed home a beauty with Cristiano Ronaldo supplying the final strike with a little help from that accident waiting to happen, Heurelho Gomes.

Had Bale grabbed an away goal when it was only 1-0, things may have been different, but the Welshman, on his return from injury, looked rusty when a chance came his way. It was one of the few opportunities for outnumbered Tottenham, who in the end were simply outclassed.

Mourinho marches on and given his record in the Champions League, he could go all the way again.

Tottenham's ambition for the rest of the season is not so grand. They'll settle for doing enough to play in the competition again next season.

Belfast Telegraph

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