Tottenham Awaits Champions League Fate After Clinching Group Stage Debut
Peter Crouch’s hat trick secured Tottenham Hotspur’s first appearance in the Champions League group stage, where it could be pooled with last year’s winner Inter Milan and record nine-time champion Real Madrid.
Crouch’s three goals at White Hart Lane in north London last night lifted the English Premier League team to a 4-0 win over Young Boys, giving it a 6-3 victory over the two-game playoff following last week’s 3-2 loss in Switzerland.
Spurs take their place among European soccer’s elite for the first time since the 1961-62 season, when they reached the semifinals of the competition then known as the European Cup. The 32 qualifiers will be split into eight groups today.
“For the team and the fans we’ve got the opportunity now to play the best teams in the world,” Crouch told reporters in comments broadcast by the BBC. “You never know how good you are until you play against the best. We’ve got enough about us to go on a good run.”
Four-time winner Ajax, Auxerre, FC Copenhagen and Zilina completed the lineup last night by advancing from their two- match qualifying playoffs with home victories.
The draw is scheduled for 6 p.m. local time at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum. Tournament organizer UEFA said each group will contain one club from each of the four seeding pots, though two teams from the same country can’t be pooled together.
Group Stage Debuts
Tottenham and MSK Zilina will be joined by Braga, Hapoel- Tel Aviv, Bursaspor and FC Twente as group-stage newcomers. Three-time champion Manchester United will be in the draw for a record 16th time in 19 editions.
The first round of games will be played on Sept. 14 and 15.
Tottenham got the final six goals of its playoff against Young Boys after going 3-0 down in Bern nine days ago.
“It was important we didn’t waste the opportunity,” Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp told the BBC. “We nearly did. We had a difficult day in Switzerland but we got out of it and finished the job.”
England striker Crouch, whose goal against Manchester City last season sent Spurs into the Champions League playoffs via a top-four finish in England’s Premier League, opened the scoring last night with a fifth-minute header.
Jermain Defoe doubled the lead after 32 minutes with a shot from about 12 yards (11 meters).
Crouch added his second in the 61st minute and completed the scoring with a penalty kick 12 minutes from the end after Senad Lulic was sent off for a second yellow card for taking down Gareth Bale.
“If we’d have gone out with a whimper in a two-legged affair it would have been disappointing,” Crouch added. “I genuinely believe we’ve got enough ability. I don’t think anyone will relish coming to this ground.”
Ajax ended its five-year exile from the group stage by beating Dynamo Kiev 2-1 in Amsterdam. Luis Suarez and Mounir El Hamdaoui scored as the Dutch club won 3-2 over two games.
Auxerre advanced with a 2-1 total following a 2-0 win against Zenit St. Petersburg, Zilina defeated Sparta Prague 1-0 for a 3-0 series win and Copenhagen beat Rosenborg 1-0 to advance on away goals after the teams finished tied 2-2.
Braga, Werder Bremen, Basel, Partizan Belgrade and Hapoel Tel-Aviv advanced two days ago. The 10 playoff winners join the 22 automatic qualifiers, which also include Chelsea, AC Milan and Bayern Munich.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGE DRAW SEEDING POTS: =============================================== Pot One: Inter Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Lyon.
Pot Two: Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Valencia, Marseille, Panathinaikos.
Pot Three: Tottenham Hotspur, Rangers, Ajax, Schalke, Basel, Braga, FC Copenhagen, Spartak Moscow.
Pot Four: Hapoel Tel-Aviv, FC Twente, Rubin Kazan, Auxerre, CFR Cluj, Partizan Belgrade, MSK Zilina, Bursaspor.