Real Madrid 4 Tottenham 0: It has taken Tottenham Hotspur decades of waiting for the chance to establish themselves among Europe’s elite. Last night it took them 16 mad minutes to all but ensure that they will no longer be at the party come the conclusion of this tie in seven days’ time.
They were already one goal down when Peter Crouch lunged in on Real Madrid’s Brazilian left-back Marcelo to earn his second yellow card of the game and give the remaining 10 men an insurmountable task.
Crouch will take the rap for this defeat and what is surely the end of Spurs’ Champions League adventure, but those who rush to bury him should remember that it was his goal at Manchester City 11 months ago that got them here in the first place.
Without him, Harry Redknapp’s whole game plan was shot to bits. His team kept Madrid restricted to the one goal for almost an hour until Emmanuel Adebayor popped up with his second headed of the game on 57 minutes.
Yes, him. The man Spurs fans detest even more than their old rivals Arsenal. For all the joy that Spurs have had in the Champions League this season, the great nights against Inter and AC Milan, this was a horrible evening for them in just about every respect.
They have defied the odds before in this competition, most notably against Inter at home, but it is virtually impossible to imagine them doing the same against a Jose Mourinho team.
The Madrid manager urged his team forward to punish the 10 men opposition and when Angel Di Maria and then Cristiano Ronaldo added to the scoreline, the scale of the task awaiting Spurs at White Hart Lane next Wednesday became too big.
Between the warm-up and the teams coming out for the match, Aaron Lennon was withdrawn from the game and replaced with Jermaine Jenas. Lennon has been suffering from flu all week. His absence made Spurs lopsided. Redknapp’s plans to deal with Ronaldo, Marcelo and Di Maria were thrown up in the air. It was a wretched way to start.
Madrid piled forward from the start. It was a classic Mourinho, all-out full-court press and Spurs looked stretched at best. Ronaldo had already had two shots at goal within the first three minutes. In the fifth minute, Mesut Ozil sent
a corner over from the right wing, Adebayor got away from Jenas and stooped to head the ball through the crowd.
About a minute later, Crouch had a decent near-post header from Rafael Van der Vaart’s corner that went just wide. A few minutes later he was booked for catching Sergio Ramos late. Crouch was pumped and unusually for him, he was in a mood that could best be described as reckless. Throw in a card-happy German referee and you had the recipe for a Spurs disaster.
He lunged in on Marcelo on 16 minutes and gave the referee an easy decision. This red card will stay with Crouch for the rest of his life.
Down to 10 men Spurs reorganised and went in with the score still only at the single goal. Gareth Bale finally got going in the latter stages of the half. He drew a foul from Pepe that earned the Portuguese defender a booking that rules him out of the second leg. Ramos deserved a yellow for another Bale challenge but escaped.
Spurs could not complain — they got lucky too. Michael Dawson charged down a shot from Di Maria and the ball looked to have struck his hand.
Redknapp replaced Van der Vaart with Jermain Defoe at half-time, the logic being that his Dutchman does not really work without Crouch.
In the first-half, Madrid had not closed out the game and the tie, with a couple more goals when playing against 10 demoralised opponents. Mourinho’s body language suggested he regarded this as a great opportunity to do so. Once again they came out with a vengeance.
This time it was a short corner from Ronaldo on the left to Marcelo in an advanced position. His cross into the area, found William Gallas woefully out of position and as a consequence, Adebayor had the time and space to direct his header well out of the reach of the Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
Di Maria’s goal — which put the tie firmly in Madrid’s hands — was simply superb.
He ran down the right channel making Benoît Assou-Ekotto back up all the way before crashing a shot into the far corner. Ronaldo added the fourth from the same side from a cross from Kaka, on as a substitute.
For Spurs, it will take the most monumental of comebacks now.