Updated: Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 22:39 | Comments
Roberto Soldado kick-started his Tottenham career with a sublime hat-trick to make it six wins from six for Andre Villas-Boas in the Europa League as they saw off Anzhi Makhachkala 4-1.
Soldado had struggled since his £26million move from Valencia in the summer, scoring just once from open play in the Barclays Premier League, but he tore Anzhi apart on Thursday night as Spurs ran out easy 4-1 winners at White Hart Lane.
Soldado glanced Gylfi Sigurdsson’s shot beyond Evgeni Pomazan and he beat the Anzhi goalkeeper again from close range before scoring from the spot for the fourth time this season to seal his hat-trick.
Kyle Naughton’s mistake allowed Anzhi to get on the scoresheet through Ewerton, but a fine goal from Lewis Holtby ensured Tottenham progressed from Group K with a 100 per cent record.
Spurs will face much stronger teams in the knockout stages – and on Sunday when they host Liverpool – but this was another valuable win for Villas-Boas’ side, who are now unbeaten in their last five games ahead of the crucial festive period.
Anzhi’s recent cost-cutting venture means they are nowhere near as good as the side that contained the likes of Roberto Carlos, Willian and Samuel Eto’o, who turned up to cheer his old team on.
The Russians came to White Hart Lane having not won a league game all season, but they almost caught Tottenham cold at the start.
A mistake from Holtby allowed Ilya Maksimov to race through, but Brad Friedel, starting ahead of the rested Hugo Lloris, came off his line to block.
Any early nerves were soon put to bed, though, as a much-changed Spurs team took the lead after five minutes.
Abdul Razak clattered into Andros Townsend to win a free-kick on the edge of the box. Sigurdsson whipped a flat shot towards and Soldado stole in to glance the ball home off the far post.
Ten minutes later and Spurs were 2-0 up. Etienne Capoue used his gangly legs to skip past two players and release Erik Lamela.
The impressive Argentinian slipped the ball to Soldado through Gia Grigalava’s legs and the £26million man fired the ball across and beyond Evgeni Pomazan.
Soldado was oozing confidence. The Spaniard jinked past one player and muscled his way past another before being blocked by a third Anzhi player.
Lamela’s trickery made him a danger on the right and he also showed tenacity, scrapping with Razak for the ball to the point where the Argentinian was lucky to escape a booking.
Although the game was a dead rubber, Villas-Boas was totally consumed by it. The Spurs boss jumped up and down every time Spurs had a chance and he also stomped on the floor when Holtby gave the ball away again, allow Maksimov to race clear.
This time Capoue came to the rescue with a late sliding tackle.
Spurs continued to pile on the pressure. Kamil Agalarov hacked the ball off the line from a corner and Townsend missed a good chance by chipping wide.
Friedel suddenly found himself under pressure, tipping over Jucilei’s header over with an acrobatic save.
Moments later, the American was picking the ball out of his own net.
Slack marking from Naughton allowed Ewerton to get his foot to a Nikita Burmistrov cross and he stabbed the ball home.
The home crowd booed, but they only had to wait a few minutes for Spurs to restore their two-goal cushion.
Townsend cut in from the right and whipped a ball in to Holtby, who teed up the cross with his left foot and then flicked the ball past Pomazan with the same boot a millisecond later.
It was a sublime bit of skill that drew deserved applause from the 23,000 inside White Hart Lane.
Tottenham’s fourth came by a much easier method.
Substitute Ryan Fredericks was clipped in the box by Jucilei. At first referee Kennet Stefan Johannesson waved Tottenham’s penalty appeal away, but after consulting the official behind the goal, he pointed to the spot and Soldado did the rest to wrap up his first hat-trick for Spurs.
The Spaniard earned a standing ovation when he came off soon after.
Lamela almost grabbed the goal his performance deserved, but Pomazan palmed wide and Tottenham had to settle for four.
The win may have come against poor opposition, but no one will want to get the Londoners when the draw is made for the last 32 on Monday after their exploits in the group stage this term.