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ROMAN STOPS A CRASH IN BERNE; CHAMPS LGE: 1ST LEG YOUNG BOYS 3 TOTTENHAM 2: Late comeback saves Spurs.

Byline: DARREN LEWIS

DON'T BE fooled by the scoreline.

Spurs were saved from Champions League oblivion by late goals in each half from Sebastien Bassong and Roman Pavlyuchenko.

But questions will be asked about the north Londoners' attitude, their appetite, their quality and Harry Redknapp's decision to play a 4-4-2 formation away from home that was torn apart by Young Boys of Berne.

The Spurs boss set his stall out pre-match, insisting he would go in search of the win that would help the club to put one foot into the group stages.

And yet his men conceded three after just half an hour. And it could have been worse. Much, much worse.

So much so that chairman Daniel Levy surely had the prayer mat out at that point with the pounds 20million jackpot of the group stages steadily going up in smoke.

So much so that even the most ardent Spurs fan must have doubted whether the club had any right to be pushing for a place in the main draw when they couldn't even cope with the side seventh in Switzerland's 10-team league.

The tie was only rescued by Redknapp's decision to drag off left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto 10 minutes from the break and replace him with midfielder Tom Huddlestone, who, alongside Wilson Palacios, finally give his back four protection.

Before that, Assou-Ekotto was hamstrung by a harsh decision by referee Frank De Bleeckere to yellow card him after four minutes. Bassong was poor and Michael Dawson looked a shadow of the quality central defender he normally is.

After just three minutes midfielder Senad Lulic drilled a low shot against the base of Heurelho Gomes' right-hand post.

He then went one better a minute later. Striker Henri Bienvenu's attempt from 25 yards hit team-mate Ammar Jemal but fell kindly for Lulic who slotted past Gomes from eight yards.

Jermain Defoe flashed a snapshot over the Young Boys' bar from the edge of their box in response. But Pavlyuchenko, having an awful game, gave the ball away just inside the home side's half.

Young Boys broke in stunning fashion with Thierry Doubai nicking it forward to Bienvenu and the marksman leaving Dawson for dead to before slotting home.

So much for the high-fives and premature celebrations when the north Londoners were paired with the team supposedly the weakest of their possible opponents.

The truth was Spurs turned up expecting to win last night and too many of the players in whom Redknapp put his trust let him down badly.

Everton were the last English side to concede two goals in a Champions League qualifier. They lost 2-1 against Villarreal back in August 2005 and went on to crash out 4-1 on aggregate.

Incredibly, last night, there was even worse to come.

Attacking midfielder Moreno Costanzo played a through-ball that zipped far too easily past Bassong. In came Xavier Hochstrasser from the right to smash the ball past Gomes.

Spurs were standing on the brink of an unmitigated disaster on a night that should have sparked a return to the glory days.

Young Boys' shock win over Fenerbahce in the last round has since been put into stark perspective by the Swiss team's domestic form, winning one out of five.

Their best defender, Argentine Emiliano Dudar, is out while forward Seydou Doumbia - who shot the club to second in the Swiss League with 50 goals in 64 matches last season - is at CSKA Moscow. Yet Young Boys were playing Spurs off the park. Bassong's headed goal from Gareth Bale's corner, four minutes from the break, gave the vistors a chink of light. And in the second half Spurs were much better.

But still they were poor at the back. It could have been worse had Bienvenu not missed with a free header 20 minutes from time. And second-half sub Christian Schneuwly blasted over the bar with the goal at his mercy twice.

Pavlyuchenko's 83rd-minute strike papered over some massive cracks to give the scoreline a positive spin. But Spurs have got to do better at White Hart Lane next week.

Their Champions League lives depend on it.

YOUNG BOYS: Wolfli 7, Sutter 8, Spycher 8, Affolter 7, Jemal 7, Lulic 9, Tape Doubai 8, Degen 7, Hochstrasser 8, Costanzo 7 (Schneuwly 65, 5), Bienvenu 8. TOTTENHAM: Gomes 5, Corluka 5, Dawson 4, Bassong 3, Assou-Ekotto 4 (Huddlestone 35, 6), Palacios, 5, Modric 5 (Kranjcar 45, 5), Bale 6, Pavlyuchenko 6, Defoe 5 (Keane 66).

REFEREE: Frank De Bleeckere

CAPTION(S):

DO IT MY WAYHarry Redknapp shakes up his team after their awful start s LIFELINE Pavlyuchenko is congratulated on his goal by Robbie Keane and Giovanni Di Santos HEAD BOY Bassong gives Tottenham hope just before the break by heading his side's opener
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 18, 2010
Words:792
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