In yesterday’s preview I questioned the value of this game, Roberto Soldado’s hat trick was a good riposte from the Gods of Dead Rubbers. Though his individual confidence will have benefited hugely from his haul it was the general team performance that we watchers should take most from.
Even bearing in mind the opposition, we played with more verve and freedom than we’ve been generally used to this season. An increase in tempo meant there was more space for Townsend and Holtby to utilise as they drove at the Russian defence and put them under constant pressure. Anji broke well occasionally and looked capable of breaching a square back line but Capoue, Friedel and Fryers did enough to thwart them – apart from one set piece just before half time that brought the score to 2-1 and would’ve engendered some optimism in the away dressing room as they huddled over the samovar.
We took an early and commanding lead when Soldado flicked in Siggy’s free kick with his head and then precisely finished from Lamela’s perceptive pass. Notwithstanding Soldado’s goals, and the second in particular was a fine finish, Holtby was the pick of the bunch I thought. His energy and bustle is allied to an eye for a pass and a fine technique as his finish from Townsend’s lovely chipped pass showed. Goal four came from the spot after Ryan Fredericks was upended in the box on a journey to the byeline. His protests when the referee initially indicated no pen forced a rare event, the intervention of the fifth official. He it was who’d seen the contact that brought Fredericks down and Soldado grabbed his third with a low shot to the keeper’s right.
Erik Lamela remains something of an enigma. He had several chances in this game to show why he’s so highly thought of but on almost every occasion something mundane rather than magical emerged. His assist for goal two was sublime and he hit a fine low shot late on that was well saved but personally I’m expecting more. Shaquille Coulthirst’s first touch was a dummy and spin that took out a defender and sent him on his way down the touchline, Lamela did little of similar quality in the game. Not that sort of player, I know and also being played out of position behind Soldado but even so. I think he’s getting better, he’s more involved and looks less like a fish out of water but it’d be great if the more to come came sooner rather than later. His very first touch as a Spurs player was at The Haemmorhoids when he was asked to whip a free kick into the box. I’m not sure he’s taken a free kick since. Maybe the problem is simply that he’s one of the many (Sigurdsson, Holtby, Townsend, Paulinho, Eriksen) that AVB is struggling to find the right shaped hole for. So to speak.
The draw for the next round is on Monday I believe.
A Gerrard, Sturridge and Henderson less Liverpool face us this weekend. They still have the cannibal up front though, a player more than capable of making Dawson look ordinary. We need a very manful showing from our skipper given the MIAs around him. Fingers crossed that Rose will be back, I don’t know why he left at half time yesterday, but the midfield is where the battle will be one and lost. It’s a proper test of our mettle and were we to not get a good result we should bear in mind their absentees before we make excuses with our own.
Jonathan Moss is down to referee. COYS.
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