TOTTENHAM manager Harry Redknapp gleefully embraced a “great defeat” after his side surged back into contention following the most cataclysmic of starts in Bern.
Spurs’ hopes of progressing to the Champions League group stage – and pocketing a £20m windfall – looked extinct after Young Boys raced into a 3-0 lead inside 28 minutes.
But Sebastien Bassong began the comeback with a bullet header just before half-time, and Roman Pavlyuchenko rifled a second with seven minutes remaining.
It means Tottenham will go into next Wednesday’s second leg at White Hart Lane as favourites to progress to the Champions League proper for the very first time.
“That was a great defeat in the end, if there is such a thing as a great defeat,” said Redknapp, who admitted his side struggled on the artificial pitch at the Stade de Suisse.
“At 3-0 we were out of it. They got after us, we didn’t look happy on the surface, we couldn’t get hold of the ball, it kept bouncing away from us and we didn’t look confident in our play and we were in desperate trouble.
“Full credit to the lads. We come back to 3-1 and then a great goal from Pav to put us right back in the tie, and the tie is evenly balanced now. We need to win at home and it gives us a great chance.”
Spurs also lost Jermain Defoe to a groin injury but the evening might have been worse still. Young Boys had chances to add to their tally and almost scored a fourth just seconds before Pavlyuchenko’s strike, substitute Christian Schneuwly firing narrowly over.
Tottenham’s pre-match excitement at returning to Europe’s top club competition after half a century was punctured within two minutes when Senad Lulic capitalised on a lucky ricochet to strike a low shot across and beyond Heurelho Gomes.
The visitors’ night got worse just 11 minutes later when Henri Bienvenu left Michael Dawson for dead and slotted the second. By the time Xavier Hochstrasser scampered onto a fine through-ball and despatched a third, Redknapp was turning puce.
But Spurs snatched hope when Bassong met Gareth Bale’s outswinging corner with gusto. And, after chances at both ends, Pavlyuchenko thrust them firmly back into the tie with a rapier finish that beat Warco Wolfli at his near post.