Real Madrid 4-0 Tottenham: Spurs fall apart

April 5, 2011

The theoretical starting line-ups...

The early loss of a goal – and then a player – put Tottenham in a terrible situation they couldn’t recover from.

Jose Mourinho named his expected line-up. Emmanuel Adebayor played in the absence of Karim Benzema, who was injured, and Gonzalo Higuain, who was fit enough only for the bench.

Harry Redknapp named his expected starting line-up initially, but was then force to change his side when Aaron Lennon became ill before the game. Jermaine Jenas replaced him.

Real lined up as they usually do, in a 4-2-3-1, but Spurs used Gareth Bale on the right, with Luka Modric tucked in on the left and Jenas alongside Sandro in the centre. The away side struggled to get hold of the ball early on.


Spurs were quickly behind when Adebayor nodded in from a corner. There was seemingly some confusion about marking responsibilities  - Adebayor was being picked up by Jenas, but this was surely a late switch, as there’s no way Lennon would have been picking up the Togo striker. Either way, it was 1-0.

The game was changed significantly by the dismissal of Crouch, for two silly, unnecessary lunges at Real defenders. Crouch was the man Real particularly feared – see the preview – and this obviously made Spurs’ task much more difficult. Bale moved to the left, with Jenas out to the right and Modric in the middle.

Real pressing

It was expected that Real would sit back and invite pressure, but instead they pressed high up the pitch and denied Spurs time on the ball. This was a particular problem when Real had a man advantage, of course, as Modric and Jenas, in particular, were unable to cope with being put under such sustained pressure. There was one moment where Modric got the ball and was confronted immediately by three Real players, which summed up the home side’s approach.

...and how the sides actually matched up after Crouch's red card

The only attacking route Spurs had was to get the ball to Bale. He did a decent job down the left – he caused Sergio Ramos some problems and shot into the sidenetting after a long diagonal pass, but Real’s advantage at the back meant they were able to double up on him, and Bale generally received the ball a long way from goal.

Tottenham defence

Tottenham actually did well without the ball in the first half. They kept their shape nicely, defended narrow and forced Real wide – and the last-ditch defending, particularly from Michael Dawson, was heroic at times. Real were patient and worked the ball from side to side – Xabi Alonso was the main who imposed this calm, intelligent passing style on the side, alternating passes to the left and the right, forcing Spurs to work harder.

There was a lack of penetration from Real, however. Their best attacking force in the first half was Marcelo, primarily because he was the only player who had space to break into (Ramos was concerned with Bale on the other side, so was more reserved). Mesut Ozil wandered to the flanks to create 2 v 1s, which meant Real didn’t have a central playmaker to create, but meant they sent plenty of crosses in, which Spurs were happy enough to deal with.

Second half

Redknapp chose to bring on Jermain Defoe for the second half. Although in hindsight it barely helped Spurs, this was probably the right move – Rafael van der Vaart had contributed nothing, and with Real playing so high up the pitch, Defoe’s pace was probably the best bet of getting up the pitch and creating chances. Roman Pavlyuchenko would have offered more of a hold-up presence, but with Spurs increasingly tired and not being able to work the ball forward up to a front man accurately anyway, Defoe ‘running the channels’ was a decent move.

Cristiano Ronaldo's shots

Spurs continued to defend well in open play – the second goal they conceded was also an Adebayor header after a (short) corner. The third came after Spurs conceded possession in midfield cheaply, but Real’s pressing caused that, and Angel Di Maria’s shot was unstoppable.

By the final twenty minutes the game had ceased to be a contest. Spurs couldn’t get the ball up the pitch, Real were intent on scoring as many goals as possible but were wasteful in the final third, and really there was little tactical battle to speak of. Cristiano Ronaldo added the final goal with – amazingly – his 14th shot of the evening.


Spurs found it impossible to recover from a terrible opening to the game. The concession of the first two goals from set-pieces is peculiar when they’d defended so well in open play.

Real had a fairly easy task at 1-0 and one man up, but credit should go to their players for their patience in possession.

Chalkboard from TotalFootball iPhone app

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