Fresh tactics pay off as Defoe fires Spurs to first European victory
Europa League: Tottenham 3 Maribor 1
Jermain Defoe hit a hat-trick to secure Tottenham’s first victory in the Europa League this season – and overtake Teddy Sheringham in the club’s all-time top scorer chart.
Andre Villas-Boas decided to change his formation following the 1-0 home defeat against Wigan on Saturday, switching to 4-4-2 and handing Emmanuel Adebayor his first start of the season alongside Defoe – and it paid dividends.
Aided in no small part by the irresistible Gareth Bale, Defoe hit his first treble for Spurs since February 2010 - ironically on the day that he had been omitted Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the upcoming friendly against Sweden.
More significantly, the Lilywhites banked a much-needed victory in the Europa League, taking them above Maribor and into second place in Group J.
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Villas-Boas had recalled Hugo Lloris was recalled in goal, while Michael Dawson, Kyle Naughton and Tom Carroll also came into the starting XI.
Spurs were utterly dominant from the start, working the ball out to the wings quickly and using their pace on the wings to good effect.
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Adebayor and Defoe showed early signs of rekindling their relationship, with the big man knocking the ball to his diminutive strike partner, who turned and scuffed a snapshot side of goal.
However, it was Bale who began to steal the show, flying past his man time and again and delivering a steady stream of deadly deliveries.
It was no surprise that the Welshman created the deserved breakthrough in the 21st minute, receiving Tom Carroll’s quickly-taken free-kick and crossing for Defoe, who finished past Jasmin Handanovic to score his 124th Spurs goal and go level with Sheringham in the club’s record books.
It was nearly 2-0 in the 32nd minute as Bale found Adebayor, who turned his man and chipped the ball over the keeper – but the Togo international was adjudged to be offside.
However, the Lilywhites got a big scare six minutes from the interval as Maribor captain Tavares got outside Carroll and sent in a low cross.
Lloris dived to intercept the ball but palmed it straight to Goran Rajcevic, who was presented with an open goal but headed over the bar.
It was a real let-off, but Maribor equalised moments later anyway as Tottenham shot themselves in the foot.
Lloris chipped the ball out to Naughton, who played the ball back to his goalkeeper. It was an exceedingly foolish backpass given that the Frenchman was under pressure from Robert Beric, but he got there first – only to take an unnecessary touch, lose the ball and allow Beric to tap into the empty net.
The two sides went into the break on level terms, and White Hart Lane witnessed an emotional period during the interval as Fabrice Muamba appeared on the pitch, eight months after suffering a cardiac arrest on the very same turf.
The 24-year-old received a standing ovation and wiped tears from his eyes as he left the field, before thanking the club and its fans for their prayers.
The Lilywhites faithful had something else to cheer moments after the restart as Tottenham regained the lead, with the impressive 20-year-old Carroll freeing Defoe, who sent a low, left-footed strike into the bottom corner to go eighth in Tottenham’s goalscoring chart.
Lloris had another moment to forget as he raced from his line to punch at a free-kick but missed the ball, watching gratefully as it was headed over the bar.
But, at the other end, Adebayor had a golden opportunity to make it 3-1 in the 56th minute as Bale’s chipped ball over the top left him with a clear volley at goal, but he hooked the ball wastefully wide of the target.
There was little to concern Tottenham in the ensuing 15 minutes – but their command of the game began to give away to cockiness, and Naughton had to be alert to make a last-ditch tackle to deny Agim Ibraimi in the box.
That sparked the Lilywhites back into life, and Adebayor by Hananovic, who saved at his near post.
The third goal arrived shortly afterwards in the 77th minute as the irrepressible Bale hared onto Adebayor’s ball over the top and delivered the perfect low cross for Defoe, who converted his third goal of the evening.
That was the cue for Villas-Boas to withdraw his stars, and Defoe, Bale and Lennon made way in the closing stages as the hosts began to look ahead to Sunday’s clash with Manchester City at the Etihad.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton, Lennon (Falque 90), Huddlestone, Carroll, Bale (Mason 85), Adebayor, Defoe (Dempsey 81).