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Apr 5, 2011

Spurs offer fate a helping hand

As relentless ill-fortune and a healthy spoonful of self-inflicted wounds combined to undermine Tottenham's dreams, the underdogs who have lit up Europe's premier competition were left to contemplate the most desperate defeat imaginable.

Real Madrid 4-0 Tottenham

Two goals from ex-Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor, a stunning third from Angel Di Maria and a late clincher from Cristiano Ronaldo gave Jose Mourinho's men a first leg advantage that will be impossible for a shell-shocked Tottenham to recover from at their White Hart Lane home, yet it was not so much scale of their demise that will leave the magnificent travelling hoards with gaping wounds to lick.

For the visiting underdogs to have any chance of success in this tie, they needed their attacking foursome of Peter Crouch, Rafael van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale to turn on the style that has taken Redknapp's unlikely lads to this most glamorous of Champions League stages.

However, by half-time, three of that threatening quartet had already been taken out of the action, while the limping Bale was hardly likely to rescue Redknapp from his misery as the tide had long turned against the Londoners.

The trio suffered less than desirable fates. Lennon failed to take to the field after the warm-up as he complained of a stomach bug, while the ineffective Van der Vaart was removed by Redknapp at the break after his under-par first half effort. That is before we get to the villain of this Tottenham piece, the irresponsible striker whose red card made this difficult task impossible for his side.

Already booked after an unnecessary tackle on Sergio Ramos after seven minutes, Crouch's second needless lunge on Marcelo 15 minutes later gave German referee Felix Brych little option other than to brandish a red card and with that, Tottenham's fate was sealed.

A consoling pat on his shoulder from Mourinho as he marched disconsolately past the Real Madrid manager was little consolation to Crouch, with the players his insanity had hurt so much left to fight a battle they were never likely to win without Crouch, whose physical presence was so important to Spurs.

Getting to half-time only a goal behind was a decent effort, but fatigue was always likely to be an issue after they offered Real Madrid a head-start of both a man and a goal on home soil. Redknapp was forced to concede his side were left with no realistic chance to succeed as the striker who has played such a key role in their European adventure abandoned the Tottenham ship at a moment when it was already rocking in perilous fashion.

"Losing Lennon and going down to ten men meant we had an uphill task, an impossible task," Redknapp said. "I felt we did well with ten men for the first half, but we just didn't have enough to keep it going. We had no chance, to be honest. Mourinho told me we had an impossible task after we went down to ten men and he was right.

"I was disappointed with Crouchy. To go down to ten men so early in the game made it so difficult for us and I haven't bothered speaking to him yet. We will look at it, but he should never have taken a chance of getting another yellow card."

Di Maria's third goal was arguably the highlight of an efficient Real Madrid performance, yet such was the tide of woe flowing against ten-man Tottenham in this game that it was hard to assess the true quality of the display served up by Mourinho's men, though the two-time Champions League winning coach had every right to be happy with his lot.

"The reason we won 4-0 is because we played 11 men against ten because in this situation you can only defend," Mourinho said, conducting a typically charismatic press briefing answering questions in English and Spanish. "Tottenham are a team that are better attacking, but they could do nothing when they only had ten men. We did our job and kept up our intensity, so we fully deserved this score, but I feel some sympathy for Harry and Spurs. The referee made the right decision to send off Crouch, but the match could have been completely different without this moment.

"I love football, I like true matches and this is why I said it was a little sad for the match to turn out like this. At this level, mission impossible happens when you only have ten men. They could not do anything, but we have to take advantage of this situation and this is what we did. We have to be professional in London, but we are in a fantastic position."

So many pieces of an elaborate jigsaw needed to fall into place if Tottenham's Champions League heroics were to continue as they moved up a level to take on one of the game's true giants and, while the reality may have been they were never likely to have what it takes to tame Real Madrid, they would have wanted to go down in a more palatable manner than this.

The football fates, it seems, decided that Tottenham's Champions League odyssey would end here.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togo striker stung Tottenham with two well-taken goals. His Arsenal connections made his display all the more painful for the visitors.

REAL MADRID VERDICT: Jose Mourinho's men did what they needed to do against wounded opponents who disintegrated before them. The true test of their Champions League credentials will come against Barcelona.

TOTTENHAM VERDICT: Battered, bruised and beaten, Tottenham's Champions League adventure ended in grizzly fashion. They could take nothing from this night of pain.

SPURS HEROICS: Tottenham's magnificent supporters emerged from this chastening experience with their reputation enhanced as they sang their way through every minute of their side's demise. Those joyous supporters deserve more nights like this, whether it is next season or in the near future.

LENNON MYSTERY: Spurs boss Harry Redknapp refused to criticise Aaron Lennon for his last-gasp withdrawal from this game, but he seemed disturbed by his refusal to take to the field: "He had a look in his eye that suggested he didn't want to play and that's what he told me. He said he might only last five minutes so what could I do?"

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