Roman Pavlyuchenko's late goal allowed Tottenham to escape from a lacklustre performance with a narrow 3-2 defeat at Swiss side Young Boys in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off on Tuesday.
The result means a 1-0 win in next week's return leg at White Hart Lane will be enough to take Spurs through, but for long patches of the match their Champions League dreams looked in serious jeopardy. Harry Redknapp's team were heavily tipped to reach the competition's group phase for the first time after what was widely seen as a favourable draw, but they were caught cold by three goals inside the first 30 minutes in Bern.
Senad Lulic had already rattled Heurelho Gomes's left-hand post when the ball fell to him following a kind ricochet and he coolly placed a shot into the bottom-right corner to put his side 1-0 up after less than four minutes. The visitors barely had time to gather their senses before Henri Bienvenu powered through the Spurs defence and tucked the ball neatly past Gomes to double the score just after the quarter-hour.
The home fans at the Stade de Suisse could hardly believe their eyes when Xavier Hochstrasser smashed in a third in the 28th minute but Tottenham finally responded minutes before the break, with Sebastien Bassong heading home. Substitute Christian Schneuwly twice spurned chances to extend the hosts' lead in the second half and Vladimir Petkovic's men were made to pay in the 83rd minute when Pavlyuchenko crashed a fine finish into the roof of the net.
"The first half hour wasn't good enough, but we stuck together and sorted it out at half-time," said Spurs centre-back Michael Dawson. "Harry Redknapp wasn't happy at half-time, but we go back to White Hart Lane full of confidence we can still go through."
Ajax take slim advantage
Four-time European champions Ajax's tie with Dynamo Kiev is finely poised after a 1-1 draw in the Ukrainian capital. Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen deftly headed the Dutch giants ahead in the 57th minute after Denys Garmash had been sent off for the hosts following two yellow cards but Dynamo drew level through Oleg Gusev in the 66th minute.
Norwegian champions Rosenberg won 2-1 at home to Scandinavian rivals FC Copenhagen, but Czech side Sparta Prague fell to a surprise 2-0 defeat in the home leg of their encounter with MSK Zilina of Slovakia.
Earlier, Zenit St-Petersburg secured a narrow advantage in their play-off with Auxerre by winning the home leg 1-0. Aleksandr Kerzhakov put the Russian league leaders ahead in the third minute when he converted Danko Lazovic's cross, but Auxerre came close to equalising in the first half when Dennis Oliech rattled the crossbar.
The French side threatened twice through Polish striker Ireneusz Jelen early in the second period, but Luciano Spalletti's men held out to put themselves in the driving seat prior to the return leg on 25 August. "Sometimes we fail to make our dominance count and that's what happened tonight," said Spalletti, the former Roma coach. "But we managed to score and keep a clean sheet. Now we need to score again in France."
There are five more first-leg matches on Wednesday, with Werder Bremen's game at home to 1992 European Cup finalists Sampdoria and Sevilla's visit to competition debutants Braga the stand-out encounters.