Yes, we started off playing incredibly crap. Yes, they took full advantage and yes, they looked much fitter and sharper. However, you can’t tell me that the result would have been the same if the match was played on grass.
The modern artificial pitch looks a lot more realistic that the one that Luton used to play on and the ball no longer bounces 10ft into the air when it hits the deck, but it is still discernibly different to a normal pitch. We just weren’t able to keep possession as we adjusted to the surface, with our players showing a lack of control akin to Wayne Rooney at the World Cup.
Young Boys were naturally extremely comfortable and knew exactly how to pass the ball on the surface. They hit the post in the opening minutes, before scoring three in quick succession against our flat-footed defence.
Kudos goes out to Harry for reacting to the onslaught quickly and bringing on Huddlestone for BAE in the 35th minute. That move gave us more numbers in the centre with Modric tucking in from the left and the Hudd himself dictating play.
We slowly began to force our way back into control of the game and grabbed a lifeline through Bassong’s bullet header from a corner. Things continued to improve in the second half, as we grabbed plenty of possession in our search for a second goal.
By throwing men forward we did leave ourselves exposed at the back and Young Boys came perilously close to making it 4-1 on a number of occasions on the break. One gilt-edged chance was created by our own Wilson Palacios, whose sloppy pass put one of their players clean through on goal, only for Gomes to fortunately deflect it out of danger.
Palacios’ passing in general was shocking last night. You would blame the pitch, but for the fact that his distribution gradually declined as the season went on last term. If he wants to be a regular starter in our side, he needs to sort this out and fast.
Another one who couldn’t put a foot right (until he actually did) was Roman Pavlyuchenko. Has there ever been a more frustrating player? If he was just useless I could understand him. Spurs have had plenty of useless players over the years. Instead he alternates between abject haplessness and looking extremely talented.
His thunderbolt of a shot within the last ten minutes made it 3-2 on the night and put us right back in the game. It was a great goal from a player who had a lousy match and he may well have been substituted, had Modric and Defoe not both limped off.
Whether or not the pitch has anything to do with those injures, I don’t know. It probably doesn’t help though and Redknapp admitted to basing his team selection on the fact that he felt certain players were likely to get injured on the surface.
On the beautiful grass of White Hart Lane, I would expect us to win. Having been 3-0 down, to pull back a couple of away goals without reply was a brilliant result and showed character. Even a 2-1 win at home will see us through.
Harry has mentioned that artificial pitches shouldn’t be allowed for Champions League games and he’s absolutely right. The home team always has a big advantage, but that advantage becomes huge with most of the travelling team haven’t ever played on a competitive match on a plastic pitch.
Let’s thank our lucky stars that things didn’t turn out as badly as they could have and that we have a great chance now to progress. After all, as the match commentator said last night: “Young Boys don’t do clean sheets”.