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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Juande Ramos' tilt at a third successive UEFA Cup ended in heartbreak at The Philips Stadium when Pascal Chimbonda dragged his spot-kick wide of the goal and sent PSV Eindhoven through by the narrowest of margins. Despite 210 minutes of football, these weary gladiators had to be separated by a cruel penalty shoot-out that Tottenham should have had sewn up before it went to sudden death.

Chimbonda was quoted in a British tabloid in January saying that he didn't care about cups or European competition, he only cared about money, but the veracity of these words was called into question as he sank to the ground in despair. His team-mates did their best to comfort him, but he was inconsolable with shame. Apparently, there really is more to life than money.

Ramos could not have asked any more from his players who had worked themselves to the brink of exhaustion in an effort to find a way through the massed ranks of PSV defenders. Dimitar Berbatov thought that he had turned the tie with a ferocious volley from just inside the box, but the Dutch side held on grimly until the spot-kicks.

Their victory must be credited to the eccentric Brazilian goalkeeper Gomes. The big South American put in a Jekyll and Hyde display of staggering polarity. At times he was like David James two days after the release of a really good Playstation game; frazzled, distracted and useless. Then, moments later, he would soar through the air, defying physics to thwart Tottenham. He almost reached Jamie O'Hara's penalty, but he made no mistake with Jermaine Jenas' tentative effort.

Ramos' decision to leave Aaron Lennon out of the starting line-up caused some consternation. The Spanish boss has made his name relying on a solid 4-4-2 and quick wingers, and it seemed strange that he would choose this moment to experiment with a diamond formation. In came Tom Huddlestone and, stripped of their width, Spurs struggled to make chances. Ramos, to his credit, wasted no time in setting things right, boldly bringing Darren Bent on at the break and then Lennon, eventually, for the injured Ledley King. They began to pepper the PSV goal with chances

In the end, it's difficult to see what more Tottenham could have done to win this tie. The damage, unfortunately, was done at White Hart Lane in the first leg when they seemed lethargic and shapeless. PSV Eindhoven were a more organised side than the League Cup winners, but in terms of quality, there was actually little to separate them. Jefferson Farfan was a danger again and Salcido had a fine game at the back, but Spurs had just as much class in their ranks and will wonder what might have been.

Ramos' biggest challenge now is lifting his players for the final two months of the season when there is nothing to play for. A place in next year's competition is already secured through the Wembley triumph, so it's really just a case of fulfilling fixtures. Will he take the opportunity to experiment with line-ups, or will he somehow motivate the players to continue as if there is still a prize awaiting them? Their abject start to the season means that their Premiership status still isn't quite certain, so picking up two wins would be a good place to start. In order to do that, however, Ramos must first pick up their spirits and, after this defeat, that's going to be easier said than done.