Perhaps it was the pre-match strains of a song synonymous with knockout football, Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be), that inspired the players of BSC Young Boys and Tottenham Hotspur FC to conjure a classic cup tie in their UEFA Champions League qualifying play-off first leg in Berne on Tuesday.
Whatever prompted the topsy-turvy encounter that followed, it finished 3-2 to Young Boys yet with Tottenham arguably the happier of the sides. After the English club recovered from falling three goals behind inside 28 minutes at the Stade de Suisse, their Croatian international midfielders Niko Kranjčar and Luka Modrić conveyed the twin feelings of relief and optimism in the Tottenham camp.
"We were taken by surprise," Kranjčar, who had watched from the bench as Spurs shipped first-half goals to Senad Lulić, Henri Bienvenu and Xavier Hochstrasser, told UEFA.com. "No one expected them to get out of the blocks so fast and scoring as quickly as they did put us on the back foot – before we knew it they were three ahead. We were sitting on the bench saying: 'What's happening?'"
What eventually transpired was that Sébastien Bassong headed a 42nd-minute goal that revived the visitors. Kranjčar continued: "We scored before half-time which gave us a stepping stone to go forward, and at the break the manager told us to stay calm, start playing to our qualities and start demanding the ball and not let them have it as much."
Modrić, who was substituted at the interval by his compatriot, said the north London outfit had been rightly punished during a dismal opening half-hour for Harry Redknapp's men: "We didn't defend properly and gave them so much space. Because of that we conceded the three goals. That was the main problem."
Yet in an echo of Tottenham's single previous campaign in the European Champion Clubs' Cup, Roman Pavlyuchenko's 83rd–minute strike made sure they refashioned their chances with two away goals. Back in the preliminary round of the 1961/62 elite competition, Spurs had trailed Poland's Górnik Zabrze 4-0 in the away first leg before pulling it back to 4-2 and winning the return match 8-1.
Kranjčar hopes that is a sign of things to come at White Hart Lane. "It is really important to get into the group stage," said the left-footer. "You don't compete all year to fall before the group stage, so it is really important to get there and then to go even further. It is massive for us. In football you always keep your head up and look forward. There were some harsh words at half-time but we knew we still had 135 minutes left in the tie. We were lucky to get back into it but we would have taken scoring two away goals."
The Premier League side were certainly fortunate that Young Boys substitute Marco Schneuwly squandered two gilt-edged opportunities prior to Pavluychenko's emphatic effort. That combination of events had Modrić positive that Tottenham "will be the favourites" next Wednesday. Kranjčar was a little more circumspect, concluding: "After what happened it would be a mistake to say the hard part is done. I think the hard part is coming for us. Of course it is good to score two goals away from home but we are still behind in the tie."
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