Two second half goals secured a fifth win for Tottenham in Europa League Group K. The deadlock was broken with an own goal from a Nacer Chadli free-kick and Mousa Dembele added a second with 15 minutes to play.
Tromso IL 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Scorers: Dembele, opp. o.g
Team: Friedel; Naughton, Chiriches, Dawson, Fryers (Vertonghen); Capoue, Dembele; Townsend, Sigurdsson (Holtby), Chadli (Lamela); Soldado Subs: (unused) Archer, Fredericks, McEvoy, Coulthirst
Having left a number of players at home, Andre Villas-Boas took advantage of the strength of his squad to play a strong, experienced team with four young players on the bench.
In a scoreless first half, Tromso had an early opportunity as the game kicked off with snow falling lightly and the snow which had been cleared from the pitch piled up at both ends of the pitch. The ball was played behind the Spurs defence after 50 seconds but the Tromso striker put the ball wide. Spurs took time to adjust to the artificial surface made trickier with the falling snow. There was further confusion in the Spurs defence after three minutes as the winger cut in to run across the edge of the area.
Spurs made it more difficult for themselves with poor passing but gradually took greater control although they failed to open up the home defence or trouble the goalkeeper. Any chances during the opening 45 minutes were, as usual, restricted to shots from outside the area and only once was the home goalkeeper forced to make a save. It came after 25 minutes when Townsend in a central position shot from distance. The goalkeeper dived to his left and collected the ball near his post at the second attempt. Spurs attacking options failed to create any chances for Roberto Soldado who was often left frustrated when the ball failed to arrive in the area.
Tromso troubled the Spurs back line with the occasional break from defence or when they picked up a misplaced pass.
Scoreless at the interval Spurs discovered that with Anzhi drawing with FC Sheriff, they had won the group and at the start of the second half, Tromso were lively with a few early runs. Spurs became rather ragged and frustrated picking up three bookings in five minutes. Michael Dawson, Etienne Capoue and Soldado went into the referee’s book as Tromso had the opportunity to cause a few problems from free-kicks and corners.
Spurs had a goal disallowed when Gylfi Sigurdsson found the net from a Soldado pass but it was disallowed for handball, the ball having bounced up to strike the striker on the shoulder. Spurs regained control and Chadli shot over after a good run and cross to the back post by Townsend after an hour. Two minutes later, Spurs made the breakthrough. The referee awarded Spurs a free-kick for a foul on Gylfi Sigurdsson on the left as he made his way towards the bye-line. Chadli played the ball to the near post and as Vlad Chiriches challenged, the ball deflected off a Tromso player and into the net.
With twenty minutes to play, Jan Vertonghen and Lewis Holtby replaced Zeki Fryers and Chadli. Five minutes later, a pass from Holtby found Sigurdsson who played the ball to Mousa Dembele in the area. He kept possession to beat the goalkeeper.
A minute later Dembele should have added a third when played behind the defence from a pass by Soldado. He ran into the area, shot across the goalkeeper but the ball hit the post and when it rebounded to him he put it wide.
With two goals Spurs played in a more relaxed fashion and saw out time with few problems as Tromso were restricted to efforts from a few late corners.
As winners of Group K and with Anzhi through in second place, the next match at White Hart Lane has nothing at stake. It also ensures Spurs will have a home draw in the second leg of the Round of 32 in February and will avoid any of the other group winners.
In terms of next Sunday’s match, we are none the wiser but at least the result should put a stop to the media stories with ‘AVB Out!’ headlines for the moment.