On Thursday evening, Tottenham Hotspur strolled into Tynecastle in Edinburgh and put in a five-star performance. I said last night that I’d be disappointed if Spurs weren’t in control of the game by the halftime whistle, and Rafael van der Vaart took the tie by the scruff of the neck in the fifth minute. Five different players scored to put in a result Spurs fans will be talking about for some time to come.
Today’s match against Heart of Midlothian Football Club was a brilliant example of what Spurs can do when they are on their game. Rafa’s goal was a real poacher’s effort, just taking advantage of what was presented to him by some lucky bounces. 8 minutes later Jermain Defoe put the finish on a brilliant play spearheaded by Aaron Lennon’s darting running and pinpoint passing. Spurs completely dominated the first half and penetrated Hearts at will. 21 year old central midfielder Jake Livermore capped a fantastic start to the season with a goal in the 28th minute. With short quick passes reminiscent of Manchester United’s build up for their second goal in the Community Shield, Livermore played a give and go and beat the backline to smash home his first competitive goal for Spurs.
Last season’s European competition saw Spurs trail by three after thirty minutes, only to come back and win the aggregate against Young Boys. This season, Tottenham were leading after thirty but came out sluggish in the second half. Aggravatingly common second half play saw Spurs play with their eyes closed for the first ten minutes of the half. Gomes was his same unconvincing self in goal, jumping out and flailing around in the general direction of crosses and corners coming into the box. Spurs were lucky not to concede but hit Hearts against the run of play with the introduction of Tommy Huddlestone. Apparently the injury to Huddlestone is not real because he replaced van der vaart halfway through the second half. Just minutes after stepping on the field, Huddlestone played a sublime part over the top for Bale to run onto. Welsh Jesus took it past the goalkeeper in stride and then finished from close range. Hearts applied some sporadic pressure, mostly in hard crunching tackles, until Jermain Defoe ran the opposition on a counter attack and set up the ball for Lennon to tap in for five.
Kyle Walker looked strong today and definitely looks to challenge Corluka for the starting spot at right back. Benoit Assou-Ekotto embarrassed Hearts right winger with his one and only move, faking outside and carrying the ball inside. Kaboul and Dawson looked as good a defensive pairing as we could have hoped with King and Gallas out hurt. Krancjar was a little disappointing for me, but he doesn’t play a quick darting game like van der Vaart, Livermore, Bale and Lennon do. Both wingers were impressive and Bale looked to get forward and interchange with players whenever possible. Livermore had a great game and I hope to see more of the youngster. Rafa was probably the best player on the field today before coming out for Huddlestone who looked close to full fitness. Bale subbed out for Andros Townsend late in the second half who worked well to get to the byline and get his crosses off but failed to find anybody in the box. Pavlyuchunko came on for Defoe and he pressured Hearts’ backline but never got into his rhythm. I’ve always thought Pav plays best as a deep lying forward which necessitates another striker to play off of.
I was a little disheartened (PUN) that Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Souleymane Coulibaly did not get to see action. I expect them to see time, if not start in the return leg when Spurs will defend their 5 away goal lead.
All in all, today’s match was a great showing for Spurs and a fantastic start to the season. Not to inflate the result too much, Scotland has a terrible league with a rapidly shrinking UEFA coefficient. Here’s hoping some of the momentum from today’s Europa League victory can carry over to the Premier League match against injury struck Manchester United.