Carroll and Holtby the stars at Spurs make Thursdays enjoyable again

Posted by Dan Fitch

When a team wins the first leg of a European tie 5-0, the referee should be permitted to step in and put the losers out of their misery, as a boxing official would do with a fighter who was no longer throwing punches.

The second legs of such games are generally turgid affairs that are a waste of time for everyone. The losers' only motivation is to keep the aggregate score below double figures, while the winners generally use the return match to give debuts to kids who have school commitments the next morning.

This second leg had plenty to keep Tottenham fans interested, however. With such a deep squad of quality players now available, there were several on display tonight who were making their first starts of the season.

The game was an excellent opportunity to give 90 minutes to players coming back from injury, such as Younes Kaboul and Sandro. Both looked incredibly strong and fit, right to the end the match.

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Perhaps more significantly, it was a chance to shine for players who might find themselves marginalised, loaned or even sold, given the slew of new arrivals coming to the squad.

To a man, they did their chances of playing a part this season no harm at all. On a day when Spurs were linked to a move for Javier Hernandez, Jermain Defoe scored two very good goals and put in an energised display.

His first came as the result of a lovely move, which saw Lewis Holtby marking his first game of the season with an angled pass to Defoe, who smashed it into the net.

Defoe's second saw Gylfi Sigurdsson play the decisive ball from the right-wing, allowing the England striker to dart toward the near post for a close-range finish.

Holtby and Sigurdsson are two players with pressure on them following the arrival of Erik Lamela and the rumours surrounding Christian Eriksen. Another with something to prove was Tom Carroll. It was his first game of the season and his chance to prove that he can contribute something to this squad of powerhouses.

All three had good games, but it was Carroll and Holtby who were the stars of the show. Tottenham have lacked creativity in midfield, so it was refreshing to see two young players spraying the ball around with such confidence.

Holtby has always shown energy, but not always an end product. Tonight -- against admittedly poor opposition -- he not only buzzed around intelligently, but also created the first goal and scored the third. In midweek, Holtby scored a great long-range effort against West Ham for the U21 side and tonight he repeated the trick, as he rifled in a right-foot shot from a Carroll pass.

Carroll is such a positive player. There are no pointless sideways balls when he's in possession. He's always looking to make a pass that will progress the team's attack and manages to do it quickly, without dwelling on the ball. It's not just Spurs fans who would have been hugely encouraged watching him tonight, but England's, too.

It still wouldn't surprise me if Carroll was sent out on loan. Perhaps it would be more advantageous for him to play regularly in the Premier League, than to be a fringe player at Tottenham this season.

If he is retained, then he'll no doubt see plenty of action in the Europa League at least. Last season it was difficult for Andre Villas-Boas to juggle his limited squad between Europe and the Premier League. This time his job should be much simpler. Spurs can play an entirely different XI on Thursdays, while still fielding a strong side that are well capable of progressing deep into the competition.

The Europa League no longer needs to be a tiring distraction. It might actually prove to be a competition that we the fans, and the players involved, can all enjoy.


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