Tottenham 3 Maribor 1
Middle ground, discovered and conquered. Although it remains to be seen if we plant a flag and set up camp or move onto more familiar territory. Andre Villas-Boas, with new hair cut and new formation. On paper, a more traditional 442 with both Defoe and Adebayor in the starting line-up. In actuality, it was not too dissimilar to the usual 451 variant but with key differences. Adebayor's inclusion gave us a more refined shape and purpose. The link up play he provided for midfield to attack was imperative to the flow and fluidity of our movement. It rejuvenated us. Sure, with two forwards you can argue it's still a 442 even if one of the forwards is deep-lying and not too dissimilar to the role Dempsey has in the side. Adebayor sacrificing time up front, taking markers with him and freeing Defoe's predatory instincts. Call it what you want on paper, but out on the pitch it worked wonders.
Villas-Boas sat emotionless on the bench as he watched his animated players finally spark into life. Okay, so the opposition was hardly of Premier League standard, but considering how we've failed to boss a full 90 minutes at home this season, it was a much needed display of graft and craft.
This was a far more cultured side. More exciting, more offensive. Bale was the very essence of swashbuckle down the flanks terrorising defenders. More flair than the 70s. And one moment of genius control in amongst all the running. His crosses were delicious. They were akin to Mila Kunis flashing her knickers at me, such was the come and get me enticement. However, it was also akin to Mila flashing her knickers and me responding with 'in a minute'. Nobody was getting on the end of them. And I doubt I'll ever get on the end of Mila. But unlike that particular fantasy, our dreams did come true. Eventually.
As the game progressed, our intent to hurt Maribor was more than apparent. The desire was practically a guarantee that we would, for certain, make a break through. And we did.
1-0 Bale's cross with pace from the left was magnificently touched on by Defoe. Power to provide and finesse to finish.
What followed was a little bit textbooky Tottenham. Tempo dropped a touch, Maribor with more possession and a gift of a goal was presented to them. Lloris with a decent distributed ball out, which only managed to find it's way back to him again in unexpected circumstance. Woeful ball from Naughton and casual footwork from the Frenchmen saw the equaliser scored. Oops. A moment to forget for the both of them. Not too worry, the second half saw no such errors. Lloris at times a little tentative, nervous which might suggest that the bench he usually frequents is beginning to take effect.
Emotional scenes at half-time when Fabrice Muamba took to the field. Fantastic applause from the stands.
Our attitude remained focused post-half time. Tom Carroll, brilliantly assisting Defoe's second with a superb pass splitting the defence and finding the net by way of another sublime piece of control and finishing. 2-1. Happy days.
Following on from Shaq Coulthirst's 'perfect' hat-trick away to Barca in the NextGen competition, it was poignant that the first team would be celebrating it's own European occasion with another hat-trick. Adebayor stating the move from deep (no star headlines from the big man but director rights are all his), Huddlestone with the pass to Bale who crossed for yet another smart JD finish. 3-1, job done, positivity for all to bask in. 126 goals now for Jermain, ahead of Sheringham into 8th in the all time Spurs list.
No collapse then. Not sitting back and defending. We took the game to them and we beat them convincingly. Even Villas-Boas had time for his own animated reactions on the touchline, pushing one of the coaches away who attempted to sheepishly congratulate the gaffer after a goal.
We got everything we wanted. The much needed win, a solid performance which had both guile and aggression with plenty of intelligence. Our shape was more than evident through-out, with and without possession and plenty of width. The crowd was even noisy, mostly a particular group up in Block J.
Bale a stand-out for his energy and quality. Carroll, a sort of Modric-mini-me, very light and small (he's nine years old so allow it) and already with two vital midfield commodities that has me and one or two others looking forward to his future: vision and composure. I hope he continues to be involved with first team action as the quality of players he's lining up with and playing against will continue to test and develop him (for the record, 87 passes made with a 88% completion rate).
The return of Adebayor and a reminder of how good a player he is. The dimension he brings makes a world of difference and perhaps, the evening went some way to suggesting it will work so much better with Defoe in the starting line-up. A middle ground for many of us, including myself, who has wanted Adebayor in the team ahead of Defoe. Obviously, this was only Maribor. But the system is adaptable for the Premier League. Mainly because this is not two forwards up front but still the one forward up front with the other in supporting role. It's subtle but then again its worlds apart.
Well done Tottenham for playing with style and showing some belief to go on and outclass the opposition after the game fell back to 1-1.
More to follow on AVB post-match, the 1882 and WHL atmosphere and City away later on.