Tottenham eased the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas with their first win of the season as they overcame Reading with two goals from Jermain Defoe and one from Gareth Bale at the Madejski Stadium. Spurs set aside all the doubts and uncertainty of the previous Premier League games to produce an exciting display. From the start they were positive and had Reading under pressure with the only disappointment at the interval being that they were not more than one goal ahead. Although Reading showed some improvement in the second half, Tottenham were always in control and made sure of the three points with two goals in three minutes midway through the half.
Goals for Defoe – Relief for Spurs and Villas-Boas
Reading 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Scorers: Robson-Kanu Defoe (2), Bale
Team: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton; Sandro, Dembele; Lennon (Townsend), Sigurdsson (Huddlestone), Bale (Dempsey); Defoe Subs: (unused) Lloris, Caulker, Dawson, Adebayor
Andre Villas-Boas surprised many by including Defoe in his starting line-up – the general concenus of opinion being that Emmanuel Adebayor would be selected. Injuries to Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Jake Livermore saw Kyle Naughton start his first Premier League match for Tottenham while Mousa Dembele partnered Sandro in the holding midfield role. Gylfi Sigurdsson played central against his former club with Aaron Lennon and Bale wide. As he had indicated Brad Friedel would be in the team with Hugo Lloris on the bench along with Clint Dempsey and Adebayor. Michael Dawson also made the bench for the first time this season. Reading had goalkeeper, Alex McCarthy, making his Premier League debut.
Tottenham started in a positive manner and took the game to Reading. They retained possession well and were looking to get forward to put pressure on the home defence. Kyle Walker had a shot over in the second minute when he had other options available to him and then two minutes later, the young goalkeeper made two quick saves to keep Spurs out. He saved a Sigurdsson header from a Bale free-kick and then blocked a shot from Jan Vertonghen who had picked up the rebound. A minute later Bale got a touch to a ball over the defence as the goalkeeper rushed out but it went just wide.
Any threat from Reading was to come from set-pieces and they had claims for a penalty turned down when the referee penalised Alex Pearce for a push rather than Walker for handball. After eleven minutes Sigurdsson who was very involved in Spurs’ early play, found Defoe after a run forward and the striker turned and shot past from the edge of the box. Tottenham were dominating the play and went ahead after 18 minutes when Sigurdsson played a lovely pass forward for Lennon on the run and he pulled the ball back to Defoe who scored. Spurs were deserving of their lead and could have added to it as Sandro had a long range shot blocked by the goalkeeper and a defender cleared as Lennon closed in. After 20 minutes, Spurs had 67% possession, showing the level of their dominance.
Three minutes later, a long clearance by Naughton from a Reading free-kick was brought down with great control by Defoe but his shot was wide. After half an hour, Defoe created an opportunity out of nothing when he dispossessed the goalkeeper whose touch was too heavy – he took the ball wide to the line and pulled it back to Sigurdsson who looked certain to add a second but a defender cleared off the line and the ball was gratefully picked up by the goalkeeper. They spurned another chance to increase the lead when Defoe and Lennon harried the home defenders into a mistake but the ball ran away from Lennon.
On forty minutes Reading had their first threat from open play but the shot went wide. At this point Tottenham had had 6 shots while Reading had none. In the final minutes of the half, Spurs continued to dominate possession and chances with Defoe shooting wide and a Dembele shot deflected wide for Spurs’ first corner.
At the start of the second half, Reading introduced another striker, Adam Le Fondre , their leading goalscorer from last season. The home side showed early threat but Spurs coped comfortably as Walker and Vertonghen cleared dangerous situations. Spurs then continued where they had left off at the interval with Lennon, twice, causing opportunities for Sigurdsson and Defoe as Tottenham looked to threaten quickly on the break. Dembele and Bale then combined for Defoe to shoot past.
Tottenham were having the better possession but Reading were trying to create pressure to deny Spurs time on the ball. Sandro worked hard in midfield and he broke up an attack for Bale to go on a run and shoot wide from 25 yards. Defoe and Lennon again combined but the latter’s cross was put out for a corner. With less than thirty minutes to go Spurs still had only one goal and as Reading increased the pressure Friedel had to be alert to collect a cross and gather a ball over the defence.
A run and cross from the left by Bale created a chance for Defoe but he turned and shot over. With 20 minutes remaining Walker created the second goal for Bale. He showed patience on the right but then got behind the defence to play the ball back for Bale to score from the centre of the area. A goal that Tottenham’s superiority deserved and it rather knocked the confidence of the home side. Three minutes later Defoe won the ball inside his own half and headed for goal with Bale up in support but he had only one thought and he added his second.
Spurs were now in the comfort zone, Clint Dempsey came on to make his Tottenham debut with 13 minutes to play. Tottenham were in total control and with five minutes left, Reading had their first shot on target as Gallas cleared the ball from behind his goalkeeper. Andros Townsend replaced Lennon for the final three minutes and good play with Dempsey created a final chance for Defoe’s hat-trick but he shot over.
In the final minute Hal Robson-Kanu scored for Reading, knocking the ball in at the back post, a late consolation and disappointing for Spurs not to keep a clean sheet.
For Tottenham five points looks much better than two with the win taking them up to 10th position in the Premier League and lifts the pressure on Villas-Boas. He reacted with delight to the three goals which eased the tension that had increased on his face as Spurs failed to capitalise on their domination and superiority. This was clearly Tottenham’s best performance under the new coach and he will see it as a vindication of his methods and a response to those who have been questioning them in recent days. Spurs away fans were magnificent and supported their team throughout as the strain and concern grew for the home fans.
A well-deserved result for Tottenham with a number of positives to be taken by Villas-Boas as he prepares his team for their first Europa League game against Lazio on Thursday at White Hart Lane.