Spurs will return to North London with three more points under their belts after a comftable 2-0 victory over Anji is Moscow this evening. Our two goals were a perfect mixture of power and placement, as Jermain Defoe latched on to a cute Lewis Holtby pass and saw his unstoppable shot beat Anji keeper’ Evgeniy Pomazan to open the scoring. Our second goal came just 5 minutes later, as Nacer Chadli carefully dispatched a cross from Kyle Walker. Spurs really failed to build on this early dominance, and had very few clear-cut chances in the game as a whole.
I think the cold, Baltic conditions affected our tempo somewhat this evening. The likes of Erik Lamela, who looked very lively and promising against Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup recently, and Lewis Holtby, looked rather disappointing. Both were careless on the ball and were caught in possession a number of times in the first half. Lamela was also guilty of some horrendous passing – finishing the match with a passing accuracy of just 79.5%, the lowest of any Spurs player on the night. That being said, the pair did have some good moments; Lamela did go some of his maisy runs and caused Anji’s defenders some issues, and Holtby managed to test Pomazan with a lovely, angled long-ranged strike. Holtby also played a beautiful through-ball to Defoe for his goal. That was Lewis’ 5th assist of the campaign in all competitions, in what looks to be a much improved second season for him, despite a quiet performance tonight.
Nacer Chadli was another of our attacking players who struggled to get a rhythm going tonight. His well-taken goal was virtually his only involvement of the match, and unfortunately offered very little to the side. A starting role for Nacer in the Premier League looks some way off for Nacer at this moment in time. Jermain Defoe’s performance could be summarised in a similar fashion: a well-taken goal but little else. He saw precious little of the ball, but finished emphatically when a chance was presented to him. A classic Defoe finish, which was his seventh goal of the season. Very impressive.
Our midfield duo of Sandro and Dembele both had very good games. Dembele has surprised me this season I must admit, and the initial scepticisms I had about him going into this season have been answered now he has been restored into a new, slightly deeper role. Dembele ran the midfield, and ended the game with a 94% pass completion rate and had 135 touches of the ball, more than any other player. He was excellent tonight, and should retain his place for the West Ham game on Sunday in my opinion. Sandro also had a good game. He provided astute cover for Walker and Fryers in defence when needed, and patrolled the area all night, breaking up Anji’s attacks on a number of occasions. I feel that Dembele and Sandro, who were the first choice central midfield partnership from last season, have an excellent understanding, and really won us this game. Faultless performances.
Hugo Lloris was solid tonight, making three good saves. He was quick off his line to thwart Abdulavov in the first half, after a ball had been played over the top of Kyle Walker, and demonstrated to everybody watching just how agile he really is, and why he is a much better fit to AVB’s ‘high-line’ defence than Brad Fridel, who in my opinion, who have struggled to get to Abdulavov tonight. Younes Kaboul, who was replaced by Michael Dawson in the second half, looked composed as ever and won a number of aerieal duels and tackles. In my onion, Kaboul is still the best defender at the club, and I really hope he can return to full fitness soon and get a run of games in the Premier League this season.
Tonight saw Ezekiel Fryers and new-signing Vlad Chriches make their first European starts for Spurs, and both had good games. Fryers has proved his worth to Spurs in recent weeks, putting in solid performances against handy Aston Villa and Anji sides. Although Anji didn’t offer much going down the right hand side tonight, Ezekiel dealt with whatever was put in front of him well. An extremely encouraging display from the young defender. Chiriches, who has Champions League experience with his old employers, looked excellent tonight. Although, just like against Aston Villa, Vlad started a little shakily, he regained his composure and became a key offensive weapon for us. His confidence on the ball is quite astonishing, and is very similar to Jan Vertonghen in the way he likes to step up into midfield and feed midfield runners. Although I have seen a few people questioning Chiriches’ defensive ability this evening, I think we have quite a special player on our hands with Chiriches. I don’t think he is ready to start in the league yet, but so far I am encouraged by what I have seen from Romania’s captain.
The last player to mention is Kyle Walker, who was a risky inclusion for me, bearing in mind his importance to Tottenham’s defence. He put in a valiant performance, and showed a typically gutsy work-rate. He got up and down the line well, and provided Nacer Chadli with an easy chance for his goal. However, Walker did at times try and do a bit too much, in the way of trying to play his way out of trouble and getting dispossessed. A good performance from Kyle on the whole, but I am just happy to see him fit and in one piece for our game on Sunday in the Premier League. I would be very reluctant to start Walker in any of our other Europa League group games, bearing in mind how likely it is looking that we will top our group.
In conclusion, I thought our performance tonight was solid, but by no means spectacular. Old faces Sandro, Dembele, Kaboul and Walker won us the game, and Vlad Chiriches was a key contributor also. Lamela was disappointing again, and we did seem to lack a little something in the final third.
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