Tottenham effectively booked their place in the group stage of the Europa League with a leg to spare after an emphatic 5-0 win over Dinamo Tbilisi in Georgia. Manager Andre Villas-Boas selected a strong side for the first leg of the playoff tie and they ensured that he will not now have to do so when the two sides meet again at White Hart Lane in a week’s time.
Andros Townsend was one of the few fringe players to get a start at Boris Paichadze National Stadium and the young winger was arguably the star of the contest. After firing in a first after just 12 minutes, he laid the second and third on a plate for Paulinho and Roberto Soldado, respectively, either side of half-time. The third goal signaled something of a collapse by the overmatched home side, as two more followed in a seven minute spell. Danny Rose got on the scoresheet with a fine strike before Soldado made it three goals in two games for his new club.
Dinamo only provided an occasional threat and Spurs will be pleased that captain-for-the-night Younes Kaboul came through the full 90 minutes as he continues his return from long-term injury. Villas-Boas is a noted fan of the Europa League after lifting the trophy with Porto and will be keen to improve on last season’s quarterfinal exit. While the trip to Georgia will not have been welcomed, his players were hardly overly exerted on the night ahead of Sunday’s meeting with fellow Europa League participants Swansea City.
Their night in Tbilisi got off to an ideal start with an always-welcome away goal. From a Dinamo corner, Townsend broke from inside his own half and was allowed to carry the ball to the edge of the opposition area before firing a crisp left-footed strike into the bottom corner. It was only the beginning of a fine performance from Townsend that can only help his chances of featuring more in Villas-Boas’s plans after being loaned out to Queens Park Rangers last season.
With a minute to go before half-time, the England Under-21 international set-up a second. Dribbling down the right of the area, Townsend left a Dinamo defender on the ground by cutting back onto his left foot and then picked out Paulinho completely unmarked six yards from goal to head home for his first goal for Spurs. It was well deserved too for the Brazilian after he repeatedly showcased his ability and willingness to get forward with well-timed runs into the box.
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And the tie was all-but sealed just before the hour mark. Townsend was once more the architect as he drove to the byline down the right and lifted his head up to roll a ball back to Soldado to side-foot past Giorgi Loria. That strike appeared to drain the spirit of the hosts and two more goals quickly followed.
The first came from Rose as he met Nacer Chadli’s ball back to the edge of the box with a delightful, placed effort into the far top corner with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot. And substitute Chadli had a hand in the final goal of the night too. The Belgian picked out Soldado with a precise first-time cross to the back post and the Spanish striker finished with a simple side-footed volley.
Harry Kane should have had added a sixth instead of putting a header from point-blank range against the post, but it was a case of job done for Tottenham and the club can now get back to trying to add to what already appears an impressive squad.