For the embarrassment that was falling behind 3-0 within 28 minutes, Tottenham Hotspur were able to salvage a manageable result Tuesday in Bern against Young Boys.
The Swiss runners-up staked goals from Senad Lulic, Henri Bienvenu and Xavier Hochstrasser to the shock lead before Harry Redknapp adjusted, bringing-on Tom Huddlestone and moving Gareth Bale to left back, taking-off Benoit Assou-Ekotto in an attempt to plug the gaps in the defense's left-side. Spurs would hold for the rest of the match and get goals from Sebastien Bassong (just before half) and Roman Pavlyuchenko (late) to finish their 3-2 reclamation.
With two away goals, Spurs are in surprisingly good shape for next Wednesday's match at White Hart Lane. Then, all the excuses will be gone. They won't be playing on a plastic pitch. Relative inexperience won't be an issue. They'll be at home. None of these issues should have precluded a result in Bern, but having fought back to within one, Spurs may end-up escaping the playoff round without having to pay for their poor performance.
While many shook their head while watching what was unfolding at the Stade de Suisse, I couldn't help but smile. As a Young Boys club that I'd overlooked started to route Spurs, I was more than happy to be given reason to change my thinking, consider the errors in judgement I made leading up to the match, and accept that the club soccer world can still be a wonderfully unpredictable place, one where a defense-snapping pass from a little-known 22-year-old can force us to remember that there are great players and clubs beyond the the top eight or nine leagues.
Thank you, Moreno Costanzo.
Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia) 1, Auxerre (France) 0
Goals: 3' - Kerzhakov (ZEN)
Zenit manager Luciano Spalletti expressed regret that his team couldn't register a more decisive victory, a justified concern considering the extent to which the Russian leaders dominated the first half. In the second half, Auxerre found their legs, tested Vyacheslav Malafeev multiple times, had Dennis Oliech hit the woodwork, and looked a side capable to eliminating Zenit next week in France. When we looked into it last week, we found a team that wins leg one 1-0 usually goes through, so Aleksandr Kerzhakov's third minute conversion of a Danko Lazovic cross could prove decisive.
Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) 1, Ajax (Netherlands) 1
Goals: 58' Vertonghen (AJA), 66' Gusev (KYV)
You could see the tension leave Oleg Gusev after he scored Dynamo's equalizer, the Ukrainian midfielder salvaging his club's chance to reach another Champions League. Lying on his back near the left sideling, his celebration was more alleviation than elation. Kyiv would not lose at home.
Dynamo had been better for much of the match but looked set to rue not scoring early after Denis Garmash was dismissed in the 56th minute. A converted set piece - Remy de Zeeuw perfectly floating a ball onto the head of Jan Vertonghen - made Dynamo pay, but Gusev's equalizer gives Ukraine's runners-up a chance next week in Amsterdam.
It's amazing what a red card can do in these two-legged ties. Playing with ten men makes Dynamo's 1-1 a could-have-been-worse result. But they still gave up an away goal, were still drawn at home, and as a result they could miss group stage for the first time in five years.
Sparta Prague (Czech Republic) 0, Zilina (Slovakia) 2
Goals: 51' Ceesay (ZIL), 73' Orevac (ZIL)
Forward Momodou Ceesay scored from the middle of the Sparta area just after halftime, and when striker Tomas Oravec converted a corner-kick in the 73rd minute, the Slovak club had a decisive victory to take back to Zilina. Having played without their three key attacking components (suspension), Sparta's left out-on-their-feet in the tie. But - just to complete the analogy - the referee has not called the fight. Now resting in their corner, Sparta still have a chance to come back, though they'll need a dominant final round.
Rosenborg (Norway) 2, FC Copenhagen (Denmark) 1
Goals: 23' Iversen (ROS), 57' Henriksen (ROS), 84' Gronkjaer (COP)
Jesper Gronkjaer's 84th minute goal turned a decisive result into a precarious one for Rosenburg, who would now be eliminated with a 1-0 loss next Wednesday. Such is the power of the away goals rule that a singular event can redefine what had been a one-sided (if just-beginning) tie. Adding to the bad news for Rosenborg, star midfielder Anthony Annan picked-up a yellow card and will miss next Tuesday's return leg with an accumulation suspension. Annan was vital in the build-up to Rosenborg's second goal.