They say the stadium is a 2.5 hour drive out of Moscow in heavy traffic, which is what the Spurs team did last night. 8 changes from last weekend’s team. Defoe leading the front line. Vertonghen, Paulinho and Soldado had already played 3 goals in 6 games. This is the club that has cut its budget by two thirds in the past 6 months and “did” us by “co-operating” with Abramovich’s hijack of Willian as part of their clear out sale, so I hope our European (note I didn’t say “second” or “reserve”) squad sticks 6 past them. They haven’t won a game yet this season but start well, pressing higher up the pitch than one might expect. There is a loud drum thumping to get their crowd going. That reminds me, whatever happened to ours at White Hart Lane?
The three “Ps” of possessio, passing and patience have become key to Tottenham’s early success this season as Tottenham acquired their second win in the Europa League group stages, defeating Anzhi 2 – 0 in Russia.
Their time zone is 3 hours ahead of hours. So it’s an evening kick off for them, 4.45 to you and me.
First 20 mins are fairly ponderous. We had one shot on target at 13 mins; they have had a couple of isolated breaks on Lloris. At a casual glance, this Tottenham 11 looks much like the team that played the last league game. Even though it is early in the season, we seem to be developing a new Spurs style that any of the squad can rotate in and out of but maintain level and style of performance. If we continue in this way, it must bode well for our chances in Cup competitions as well as the league.
The chants of “Anzhi” don’t sound dissimilar to “Brazil” which must make some of our players feel at home. After 28 mins, bored stiff, the ITV4 commentator says, “Do you expect Spurs to inject a bit more pace and tempo into the game at some point, Alec?” That sums it up so far and is immediately followed by a break through on Lloris goal.
31 mins. That’s more like it. Good shot from Holtby from outside the box brings a save out of the Anzhi goalie, palming it away.
33 mins. Holtby threads a delightful ball through the defenders for Defoe to run on to and whack it into the top of the net. 1-0, Good goal. Just what AVB would have been looking for.
Chiriches looks confident and competent strolling out of defence with the ball. The pitch looks soft and is cutting up and interfering with attempts at a smooth passing game.
38 mins. Sweet lofted ball by Holtby from the centre spot to an unmarked Walker on the right. He places an almost casual ball across the defence into space which is nonchalantly stroked into the corner by Chadli. “Perfick” as Pop Larkin would say.
Half time 0-2 in our favour
We should be learning to trust AVB’s style by now. We do not often go for a team’s throats at the outset, especially away. Getting a grip on a game, possession, passing and patience are the name of the game but we are learning (have learnt?) to choose the moment to shift up a gear and cut through on goal – then back again to the “3 Ps.” This approach has still to be honed but is working well as the two teams in the squad are learning to gel. Only bad news so far is that Lamela looks off the pace for a £30 million man. Getting caught in possession and the ball bouncing off him. Reminds me a bit of Rooney when Ferguson dropped him last season. Needs a lucky break to get himself going.
I am enjoying composing this. It feels so much better to be writing about the actual football instead of incidents, rules and politics of the game. It really raises the spirit watching the replays of Defoe’s goal flying into the back of the net.
52 mins. Anzhi trying to give it a bit of a go but we have already had two chances. Lamela is getting more involved. I think AVB may well have had an encouraging word at half time. It was certainly needed.
56 mins. a great run down the left by Traore for Anzhi, shrugging of Sandro which not many people do. Their winger flashes in a cross low which Lloris reacts to well a yard out. Anzhi keep trying. An opportunistic shot from the right which Lloris palms up and away. We nearly catch them on the break twice in succession but they come back at us again and get a corner. We are in danger of conceding unless we reassert ourselves. Nevertheless, some competent Spurs defending along the line of the penalty box.
64 mins. Kyle Walker seems to have been limping a bit and goes down heavily under a challenge.
69 mins. Dawson comes on for injured Kaboul, joined shortly afterwards by Sigurdsson for Lamela. We seem to have settled for 2-0 but Anzhi are getting the odd chance.
85 min. Lloris has to be alert, doing well when diving to his right to push away a speculative shot that hits a bobble just before it gets to him, so that it very nearly bounces over his wrist into the net.
The ITV4 commentator is still coming out with some fascinating trivia to pad out the gaps in excitement now that the game has quietened down, as he puts it, almost to walking pace. The Russian authorities have laid on a special train to get supporters back to Moscow to avoid the traffic jams. Only trouble is, it leaves 5 minutes before the end of the match! Hence the banks of empty seats around the stadium.
92nd min. A speculative shot from way outside the area loops well clear of Lloris’ bar.
That’s it. 0-2 final score.
Both at half time and full time, AVB had a cosy chat with Anzhi’s captain. I wonder whether he might be headed in our direction come January?
Back to WHL and our dear friends from the East End on Sunday. I do hope Karen Brady has a good sense of humour…