Jermain Defoe scored a hat-trick as Spurs defeated NK Maribor at White Hart Lane in the Europa League last night. The win lifts Spurs into second place in Group J two points ahead of Maribor and two behind Lazio who they play in Rome in a fortnight. Spurs with Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor starting for the first time under Andre Villas-Boas were comfortable winners although they caused a scare just before the interval when gifting the visitors an unexpected equalising goal.
Tottenham Hotspur 3 NK Maribor 1
Scorers: Defoe (3) Berac
Team: Llorois; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon (Falque(, Huddlestone, Carroll, Bale (Mason); Adebayor, Defoe (Dempsey) Subs: (unused) Cudicini, Gallas, Sigurdsson, Livermore
Andre Villas-Boas selected an experience and attacking team in a 4 – 4 – 2 formation with Defoe and Adebayor leading the attack. Hugo Lloris took over in goal while Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen made up the central defensive partnership. The two Kyles, Walker and Naughton, were at fullback while the two Toms, Carroll and Huddlestone played in central midfield with Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale on the wings.
Tottenham were much more fluent and expansive than in recent weeks with Lennon and Bale causing constant problems with their pace and direct running. Spurs got the ball to them quickly which gave both of them the space to run into with both of the strikers heading for the Maribor penalty area. A lovely chipped pass pass up the line by Dawson inside the first minute found Lennon wide on the right wing and he controlled the ball well and made a quick dart into the penalty area to win the first corner of the evening. Another corner followed when good inter-passing released Bale after two minutes to break into the area. Spurs were aiming to play the ball to Bale and Lennon as often and as quickly as possible and Maribor’s tactics helped them as the wingers were often left one on one with the defender, a dangerous situation for the visitors. After six minutes another Huddlestone corner was flicked on towards goal by Bale at the near post but a defender was well placed to head clear.
Three minutes later a Bale cross was headed out to Adebayor who played it to Defoe with his back to goal, Defoe swivelled and shot but it went wide. Spurs were playing much quicker and always looked threatening. After a quarter of an hour, Huddlestone took a quick free-kick, picking out Bale on the edge of the area, who beat his man and got to the line but no-one was able to get to the cross as he pulled the ball back.
It was constant Tottenham pressure with continual attacks from the wings, this time Carroll played the ball forward to Bale but the cross was just too high for Defoe. Good play from Adebayor released Lennon on the right wing for another corner. On twenty minutes, a cross from Adebayor on the right was headed towards goal by Defoe but saved. Two minutes later, Bale’s cross was met perfectly by Defoe who glanced the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net for Spurs’ opening goal.
Maribor responded and got forward for the first time but Lloris collected the ball safely. Spurs continued to use Lennon and Bale very effectively while Adebayor was working hard and linking play well.
After half an hour Carroll sent Bale away but the cross was too far ahead of Defoe, then a minute later another Bale cross was headed towards goal by Adebayor. The striker, then performed a perfect turn and chip on the edge of the area to put the ball into the net but was flagged for off-side. Maribor won their first corner after 32 minutes and immediately earned a second when a shot was blocked.
Spurs continued to press as the wingers switched sides, with Lennon trying to play Walker in and Bale’s cross just too high for Lennon. Tottenham’s passing was quick and sharp but Maribor created their first opening of the match with seven minutes to play of the half. A low driven cross from the right was palmed out by Lloris but the rebound was headed over the bar. Two minutes later, Spurs presented Maribor with an equaliser. Lloris played the ball out to Naughton on the left wing but he was pressed by a number of Maribor players and turned back towards his own goal, passing the ball back to the goalkeeper, playing Berac onside. Lloris took a touch as Berac closed him down, the ball hit the striker’s foot and rebounded behind Lloris and into the net. Shock for everyone inside White Hart Lane but especially for Lloris and Naughton who were both at fault for conceding such a soft goal.
Suddenly, Maribor had belief and grew in confidence with their passing much more accurate as Spurs tried to recover from the disappointment.
At the start of the second half, Maribor attempted to press Spurs much more quickly and further up the pitch to reduce the opportunity for Bale and Lennon to cause problems from the wings. A long range shot was gathered by Lloris but with four minutes of the half played, Walker broke from defence and passed forward but when his pass took a deflection it fell kindly to Carroll who quickly played Defoe into the area and Spurs had their second. With this goal Defoe passed Teddy Sheringham to move into eighth place on Tottenham’s all-time scoring list and into second place on their list of European goalscorers.
From this point on Tottenham assumed constant control with Maribor unable to cope with Bale and Lennon. Through the half there were occasions when Bale and Defoe were unceremoniously stopped by Maribor defenders on the edge of the box without the referee taking the appropriate action and awarding Spurs a free-kick.
Maribor threatened when they got behind the Spurs defence but Naughton recovered to get in a clearing tackle. Spurs responded when Walker played the ball into Adebayor and his shot was well saved for a corner. Three minutes later Spurs secured the victory with a well worked team goal, playing the ball out of defence, the ball was well controlled wide on the left by Adebayor. He found Huddlestone who immediately set Bale off and his cut back came to Defoe to complete his hat-trick after 77 minutes.
Lennon had a good chance to add another a few minutes later with a run through the middle but he was eventually closed down in the area and the opportunity was gone. Clint Dempsey replaced Defoe and had a shot which was collected easily by the goalkeeper. In the final minutes the Maribor goalkeeper did something similar to what had happened to Lloris for the Maribor goal when he played the ball against Dempsey but he had the good fortune that the ball rebounded into his hands.
This was a much improved performance by Tottenham against limited opposition but Spurs maintained control and possession much better and had Defoe to score the goals. It was an evening of personal triumph for Defoe whose place in the team was under threat with the return of Adebayor. His response was the perfect reply from a striker – a hat-trick with three quality strikes on the day he had been omitted from the England squad, rested for the international next week in Sweden.
Bale and Lennon caused constant problems for the Maribor defenders and Adebayor worked hard with good movement and linked well with Defoe and the midfield, playing the ball wide and creating more space from which Spurs could attack. Tom Carroll gave a very confident display setting up the second goal and looking to release Bale with balls over the defence for the winger to run onto. Carroll impressed in last season’s Europa League matches when he kept his game simple with short passes but being always available. Last night he added a greater range of passes to his play and was very creative and effective from central midfield, something Spurs have been missing this year with the departure of Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart.
A good response from the Totenham players to recent disappointing results and performances, setting them up for the Europa League match in Rome against Lazio. Before that, however, there is the small matter of two away games against Manchester City and Arsenal.