Team effort sends Tottenham cruising past Tbilisi

Posted by John Crace

Andre Villas-Boas didn't pick the same side that beat Crystal Palace, but it was just as strong and rather more effective. Such is the strength of the Tottenham squad this season that even though Aaron Lennon, Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker were sidelined, their absence was barely noticed as Spurs cruised to a comfortable and impressive 5-0 away win against Dinamo Tbilisi in their Europa League qualifier.

- Match report: Dinamo Tbilisi 0-5 Tottenham

Kyle Naughton had one of his best games at right back -- confident pressing forward and secure in defence. But it was Andros Townsend who was the star of the show, scoring the first, from a driving solo run in his own half -- who needs Gareth Bale? -- flighting a pinpoint cross for Paulinho to head home the second and cutting back for Roberto Soldado to hook in his second goal in as many games. The winger, who was marginalised for much of last season before being sent out to QPR on loan, now seems to have more bite and a better sense of purpose. Lennon will be facing competition for his spot.

This wasn't the best or most competitive of Dinamo Tbilisi teams -- their defence was at times almost nonexistent -- but they are still the Georgian champions and are precisely the kind of team against which Spurs have struggled in the past. No one fancies a six-hour flight to play any midweek game, and last season Spurs failed to win a single away game in Europe. So to do so with such style was immensely reassuring for everyone at White Hart Lane. Too often in recent years, Spurs have failed to turn pressure into goal advantage; this time there was no easing up until Spurs were ahead 5-0 and AVB brought on Thomas Carroll and Harry Kane for Paulinho and Soldado. Even then Kane might have added a sixth from a header that hit the upright and rebounded to the keeper.

The upsides to this game didn't end there. Soldado might have had only a couple of touches throughout the game, but he still showed why he is considered a natural striker, scoring twice. Including the preseason game against Espanyol, he has scored four goals in three games. Nacer Chadli came on as a second-half substitute and looked much more at home than he had Sunday, creating goals for Soldado and Danny Rose. Hugo Lloris kept Spurs ahead with a reflex save when they were still only 1-0 up and made an even better one in the final minutes to preserve a clean sheet. Younes Kaboul tired toward the end, but the sight of him lasting a full 90 minutes can only be good news. The defence invariably looks more secure with him at its heart.

A 5-0 win does more than -- bar a Dinamo miracle -- put Spurs through into the Europa League group stage. It gives AVB the option of resting some key players next Thursday for the return leg. With a home game against Swansea this Sunday and the crucial derby game against Arsenal the next weekend, the Spurs manager won't have to risk tiring his players early in the season. Most encouraging of all was that the team played as a team. Any club with the money can buy good players, and Spurs have certainly done that. The trick is to get them all playing well together. On the basis of this performance, they are beginning to do just that. If Bale does force through his move to Real Madrid, it could just be that, come the end of the season, it will be the Welshman who is nursing the regrets.


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