Tottenham cruised to a most comfortable victory to begin their Europa League campaign as they beat Tromso 2-0 at White Hart Lane. The encounter was every bit as straightforward as it had appeared on paper against a visiting side that are battling at the wrong end of the Norwegian Tippeligaen. The hosts enjoyed a monopoly of possession from the off, with a quick-fire brace from Jermain Defoe midway through the first half proving decisive in securing an opening three points. To add some extra shine to the performance, Christian Eriksen, fresh from his impressive debut at the weekend, came off the bench to curl in a sublime goal with four minutes remaining.
In the buildup to the match, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas had been understandably lamenting his side’s fixture pileup that sees them face three games in six days. In that sense, it is unlikely to overly concern him that the tempo dropped dramatically after half-time as his side cruised toward a win that was never in doubt.
Villas-Boas had made six changes to the side that beat Norwich 2-0 on Saturday, with Erik Lamela making his full debut and Defoe taking advantage of only his second start of the season, in place of Roberto Soldado. But, ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Cardiff and a Capital One Cup tie just two days later against Aston Villa, the Spurs coach will have been concerned by both Danny Rose and Mousa Dembele going off with apparent injuries.
Still, this match gave Villas-Boas the chance to showcase Tottenham’s newly built strength in depth after an impressive summer of recruitment. The raft of arrivals has meant that January signing Lewis Holtby has been something of a forgotten man. But the Germany international provided a pleasant reminder against Tromso of the quality he possesses.
It was the 23-year-old who set-up the first chance of the night with a clever ball into the path of Defoe in the area, but on this occasion the striker’s shot lacked refinement and Marcus Sahlman blocked in the Tromso goal. Holtby was again involved in creating a chance for Defoe in the 21st minute and this time the England international, frustrated with his lack of games this season, finished with aplomb.
Holtby laid the ball square for Lamela, who produced a delightful first-time reverse pass onto Defoe in the box. In a similar position to his earlier chance, Defoe took advantage of the goalkeeper advancing to just dink it over him and put Tottenham into a deserved lead.
It was a similar scenario that saw the home side’s lead doubled eight minutes later. This time the goal was all about a perfectly weighted through ball from Holtby that split Tromso’s defense wide open to meet the run of Defoe, who showed his striking instincts and simply rolled the ball with his left foot into the far corner.
As half-time approached, Defoe came close to completing his hat-trick but, after cutting inside a defender on the edge of the box, his curling effort was turned away by Sahlman.
At the other end there had been no threat to speak of. The one two efforts at goal by Tromso in the entire 90 minute came from their loanee from Fulham Josh Pritchard, but both were ambitious and missed the target.
The second-half played out as a virtual training match. Tromso lacked the quality to threaten any hint of a fight back, while Tottenham appeared happy to play out the minutes and conserve energy for the challenges ahead.
Some life was injected into the affair by Paulinho, who was just unable to get a shot away after bursting into the box before crossing a fraction over the head of Defoe after neat work on the left. It was another substitute, though, who got Spurs fans to their feet.
The quality of Tottenham’s squad was demonstrated emphatically when Eriksen, having taken over the playmaking role from the excellent Holtby, picked up the ball 20 yards from goal and whipped it into the far top corner beyond the dive of Sahlman.
With three points in the bag, Tottenham next visit Anzhi Makhachkala before a double-header with Moldovans Sheriff Tiraspol in a group from which they should have little trouble progressing.