UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE PLAY-OFF (1ST LEG)
THURSDAY 18TH AUGUST, 2011
HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 5 (3)
Van der Vaart, 5
Referee:- Mr. P. Tagliavento
Assistants:- Mr. M. Grilli & Mr. G. Dobosz
Fourth Official:- Mr. C. Russo
(All officials from Italy)
Hearts (4-3-2-1):- Kello; Hamill, Webster, Zaliukas (Captain), Grainger; Stevenson, Black, Mrowiec (sub Obua, 82); Driver (sub Elliott, 65), Templeton; Sutton (sub Skacel, 74)
Subs not used:- McDonald; Jonsson; McGowan, Novikovas
Booked:- Templeton (foul on Walker), Grainger (kicking ball at Walker after said foul)
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Kaboul, Ekotto; Lennon, Livermore, Kranjcar, Bale (sub Townsend, 70); Van der Vaart (sub Huddlestone, 59); Defoe (sub Pavlyuchenko, 79)
Subs not used:- Friedel, Cudicini; Bassong, Corluka
The “Spursian” Gulf
A supposedly weakened Spurs side thrashed Hearts on their Tynecastle turf last night to demonstrate with ease the gulf in class between the two sides and between Premier league and Scottish Football. It was Spurs’ biggest away win in Europe since they beat Drogheda United 6-0 in September 1983. A reasonable lead in the first leg would have been satisfactory, but this Spurs performance was superb, and featured bright performances from Kyle Walker at right back, Jake Livermore in central midfield, and substitute Andros Townsend on the left wing. Spurs were missing many star names, but welcomed back Rafa van der Vaart, who set Spurs on their way within 5 minutes, and gave a master-class for so much of the game. Next week’s second leg is a formality, and Spurs path to the Europa League Group stages is assured.
Not for the first time, Harry Redknapp was apparently unable to amass sufficient resources for the bench, and we had two goalkeepers in reserve, in the shape of Brad Friedel and Carlos Cudicini. The near full house was raucous at the start (fired by the announcer), but would soon be quelled by a superb Spurs performance which showed the strength in depth of a squad that we yet hope to see re-inforced by the end of August. Livermore gave a great box to box performance. Kranjcar played with aplomb beside him, and Spurs were hardly bothered at the back until the start of the second half. Kyle Walker played a restrained role at right back, but on the occasions he did get forward, he showed his usual pace and attacking skill which has already marked him out as a promising club and even International player this season.
The Spurs contingent in the stands was strong, and whether by design or accident, an early rendition of “If you know your history” helped to wind up the home fans! Van der Vaart sent Bale away down the line with an early great ball, and Bale’s hard, low cross caused some consternation in defence, but could not be met by a white shirt. Next up Bale was served by Ekotto, and sent over another good cross. Van der Vaart and Kranjcar exchanged passes before Rafa hit a right foot shot a yard or so wide of the post. Van der Vaart gave Spurs the lead in only the fifth minute. His intended exchange with Defoe didn’t quite come off but the ball still fell for the Dutchman, who happily slotted home past goalkeeper Kello. Hearts’ spirits dipped on and off the pitch, and the players were simply over-whelmed by a continuing Spurs onslaught.
As early as the 13th minute Aaron Lennon had switched with Bale, who was often appearing in the centre. Lennon crossed well from the left and Van der Vaart was in the mix as Defoe had an easy finish to put Spurs two up. Two minutes later and Ekotto provided the ball for Bale, whose low cross passed out of play beyond the far post. Great play from Livermore, Defoe, and Van der Vaart led to a Bale shot just over the bar after 19 minutes.
Spurs were out of sight in the 28th minute, and it was new boy Jake Livermore who celebrated his first competitive goal for the first team. Livermore had made a good run into the right side of the box, received the ball and took a nice touch, before shooting hard and low into the net for a great finish. Spurs were out of sight and they were not letting up either. Kranjcar fed Defoe, whose shot was blocked for a corner.
After 31 minutes, Spurs offered good football in a great move from the back and from left to right. Kaboul had won the ball near the corner flag, cleared to Kranjcar, who passed to Bale. The ball was switched to Lennon, now back on the right, whose cross was hit against the bar. Jermain had however been flagged offside. Kranjcar and Livermore were looking more than comfortable in the middle, but they weren’t having to do much defending! Kaboul fired a shot over the bar from a 37th minute corner, before Hearts finally had a meaningful chance with a shot by Stevenson passing wide.
At half-time we were treated with the presence of two great Spurs legends, both of whom have affiliations with Hearts. They were Dave Mackay and Alfie Conn, who tried their best to say it was not all over for their former team. I hope to see both next week at White Hart Lane. Alfie no longer has long flowing locks, but white hair to compete with any older person!
Hearts did come out for the second half with some fight and the crowd urged them on, nearly getting a result after a sequence of corners, from which Dawson made an important block, Driver fired wide, and Gomes saved from Hamill. The pressure was such that Younes Kaboul took the first booking of the match. Hearts had another attack after a poor ball by Van der Vaart, when Walker made a good saving tackle. Rafa was then replaced by Tom Huddlestone, who looked lively working from central midfield but using the angles towards both flanks. After a Lennon cross, Huddlestone exchanged with Defoe, before hitting a shot just over the bar.
Gareth Bale had a run across the area from the left side and did have room for a shot, which he declined, and the Spurs attack fizzled out. Within a minute though, Bale latched onto the Hearts’ defence failure to deal with a Huddlestone ball, leaving Bale in the clear, and an easy finish for 4-0. A series of substitutions followed, including the replacement of Bale by Townsend, and also the departure of former Spurs Junior John Sutton, who had made no impact against the class of Dawson and Kaboul.
Perhaps the best goal of the game came when Spurs broke out of their own half, with Townsend sending Defoe away down the left side with a fine pass. Defoe crossed and Aaron Lennon was presented with a chance for the fifth and final goal in front of the travelling support. It wasn’t the first time that Kyle Walker had ventured forward, but with five minutes remaining, he threatened and Templeton brought him down unfairly, with Grainger kicking the free ball at Walker as he lay on the ground. Both Hearts players were booked. Kello got down to Kranjcar’s free kick.
It was a fantastic start to Spurs’ season. We face a far tougher prospect on Monday night at Old Trafford for our first league game, and we will need some of our absentees present. The Luka Modric saga goes on, and rumours abound that Spurs have sealed the signing of Lassana Diarra. I still hope that Modric will feature at Old Trafford.
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