In Pictures: Roman Pavlyuchenko keeps Tottenham Hotspur's Champions League dream alive after defeat to Young Boys
Young Boys Berne 3 Tottenham Hotspur 2: In their first match in Europe's elite club competition for almost 50 years, Tottenham Hotspur last night risked losing riches undreamt of in those days because of a calamitous defensive performance.
It took a late goal by Roman Pavlyuchenko to offer real hope for the second leg of the play-off at White Hart Lane next Wednesday in which £20m or more is at stake just for reaching the Champions League group stage.
Whether or not the artificial pitch was to blame, Spurs were all over the place for half an hour, in which Young Boys made it all look like childs' play, scoring through Senad Lulic, Xavier Hochstrasser and Henri Bienvenu. Sebastien Bassong, one of four changes from Saturday's goalless draw with Manchester City, was among the worst offenders, but just before half-time he headed in Gareth Bale's corner.
With two substitutes on, Spurs, who are attempting to give London a third representative in the group stages with Chelsea and Arsenal, improved in the second half but they have still given themselves far more to do than they would have wanted.
While it was well known that Ledley King's knee would not stand up to two games in four days, let alone one on an artificial pitch — Bassong replaced him as expected — Winston Palacios and Giovani dos Santos came in for Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon, who both had slight niggles, and Peter Crouch made way for Pavlyuchenko, who is familiar with a similar surface in Moscow.
Harry Redknapp had insisted the pitch would suit Tottenham's passing game but there was little sign of that during a first half-hour in which the home side first hit the post and then scored three times.
For Young Boys, although they had played Real Madrid in the competition in 1986, the tie was a momentous one, being described locally as the club's biggest since a semi-final against Reims as long ago as 1959. Despite a home defeat by lowly Neuchatel Xamax on Saturday, they made only one change, bringing the 22-year-old Hochstrasser into midfield, and looked more like the team that won away to Fenerbahce than the one struggling in the Swiss League.
Only two minutes had elapsed when the Bosnian midfielder Lulic cut in from the left and struck Heurelho Gomes's right-hand post. One minute later, Benoit Assou-Ekotto was booked for holding back David Degen and almost immediately Spurs fell behind. Thierry Doubai's shot struck Ammar Jemal and fell perfectly for Lulic to score with a low shot across the goalkeeper.
Giovani forced a save from Young Boys' goalkeeper Marco Woelfli and Jermain Defoe shot over the bar but, within nine more minutes, there was a second goal.
Michael Dawson was caught horribly flat-footed as the Cameroon striker Bienvenu gave him two yards start before darting through the middle and finishing neatly. It grew worse. Tails up, the Swiss side cantered forward again and this time Bassong was the spectator as Hochstrasser nipped past him onto Doubai's pass for another good finish.
Redknapp reacted by sending on Huddlestone for Assou-Ekotto and moving Gareth Bale to left-back. Although that restricted the young Welshman's attacking possibilities, he still took the corners that Spurs began to force and from one of them, three minutes before half-time, Bassong redeemed himself with a towering header that Scott Sutter, the north Londoner playing at right-back for Young Boys, could only help in.
Spurs made a second change at the interval, which may have been enforced, as Luka Modric appeared to have been holding his groin. Niko Kranjcar deputised wide on the left as his team began the half brightly, encouraged by the goal and, presumably, some sharp words from Redknapp.
They pushed Young Boys back for some time, causing a degree of anxiety in the home defence and a packed crowd. Vedran Corluka and Huddlestone put over dangerous crosses and Bale, outstanding on Saturday, produced an even better one that Pavlyuchnko was not quite sharp enough to reach. The Russian also hesitated as Kranjcar supplied him close to goal and the chance was lost. He was then joined by Robbie Keane in the pairing that finished the Manchester City game.
Another goal to either side in the last 20 minutes was going to alter the complexion of the tie dramatically in favour of whoever scored it. Young Boys were close with two shots over the bar from substitute Christian Schneuwly, the first after after Dawson, England's newest centre-half, was outpaced again but with eight minutes left Pavlyuchenko scored high at the near post from Robbie Keane's pass.