A fine hat-trick from Roberto Soldado and a wonderful Lewis Holtby goal made it six wins from six in Group K of the Europa League, as we completed the group stage of the competition in style against Anji Makhachkala at the Lane on Thursday evening.
Our Spanish striker hit a first-half brace before completing his treble from the penalty spot after the interval, while Holtby put the finishing touch to a fine move nine minutes into the second half, after our Russian visitors had made it 2-1 through centre-half Ewerton.
Our 4-1 win ensured a full complement of 18 points from the group, with 15 goals scored and just two conceded and we now await our fate in the Round of 32, the draw for which takes place on Monday.
There were a number of changes from the team which beat Sunderland at the weekend, with the headline news being the return to action after injury of Danny Rose, back in the side for the first time since our 3-0 home win over Tromso on September 19. In the centre of defence, young defender Zeki Fryers was paired with Etienne Capoue, who performed so well in the role at the Stadium of Light five days ago. Anji, meanwhile, were only able to field five of their seven allocated substitute slots.
The match itself was a ‘dead rubber’ in Group K since we were already assured of top spot and the visitors had secured second place, but that didn’t prevent both teams starting the game in a good competitive tempo.
And it was the visitors with the first opportunity on four minutes when Ilya Maksimov was sent clear on goal, Fryers slide in to put him off his initial shot and Brad Friedel was out quickly to block his second attempt.
In what was a lively opening, we were ahead three minutes later. Andros Townsend was fouled right on the edge of the area, only 10 yards from the goal-line and Gylfi Sigurdsson whipped in a lovely right-foot free-kick which Soldado flicked on to send the ball in off the far post.
That was his seventh goal in our colours – and his eighth followed quickly after. Just 16 minutes were on the clock when Mousa Dembele delivered a pass out wide right to Erik Lamela, he cut inside, beat two players and slipped a delightful reverse pass into Soldado, who turned and fired across Evgeni Pomazan and into the far corner of the net.
Sigurdsson sent a header wide from Townsend’s clipped cross on 33 minutes before Maksimov found himself through on goal again. Serder Serderov sent him clear but this time Capoue thwarted the danger with a sublime tackle from behind to win possession as the striker was about to shoot.
Kamil Agalarov cleared off the line from a Lewis Holtby corner which goalkeeper Pomazan failed to punch away and Townsend should have made it 3-0 on 41 minutes when put clear by Sigurdsson but his attempted chip went wide.
Then just before the break the Russians pulled one back. Captain Jucilei saw his header from a Maksimov cross tipped over by Friedel, but from the resulting corner, Ewerton stuck out a foot at the far post to poke home and reduce the deficit at the interval.
Andre made a change at the break, bringing on 21-year-old Ryan Fredericks in place of Rose, for his first appearance in our colours since the 1-0 defeat away to Rubin Kazan in November, 2011.
And nine minutes into the second period we were two goals ahead again thanks to a magnificent team goal. It started with Dembele winning possession in the right-back berth, he found Sigurdsson on halfway who advanced forward and slipped the ball wide to Townsend. The winger cut back on to his left foot and sent over a cross which Holtby controlled with one touch and chipped past the keeper with another, a delightful finish to a great move.
A lightning quick break almost delivered our fourth, when the pace of Townsend and Fredericks opened it up down the right and the youngster’s cross was met by Soldado’s glancing header but this time Pomazan was equal to his effort.
But there was no denying him on 69 minutes from the penalty spot as he completed his first Spurs hat-trick. A superb driving run from Fredericks was ended when Jucilei clipped his legs in the area, and referee Kennet Johannesson took his time before awarding the spot-kick. Soldado stepped up and drilled confidently past Pomazan to rapturous applause from the White Hart Lane faithful.
Shortly after, Pomazan made a fine tip-over save to keep out Lamela’s excellent header from Fredericks’ cross, while at the other end, Friedel had to be alert to thwart Vladimir Sobolev’s effort.
Soldado received a fantastic reception when he left the action on 77 minutes with his treble in the bag, to be replaced by young striker Shaq Coulthirst, making his first-ever competitive appearance.
To their credit Anji kept pushing forward and almost went close to a second on 81 minutes, but Friedel kept out Nikita Burmistrov’s 20-yard drive and the rebound from the same player that came at him quickly.
That was the end of the action…and so it’s onwards to the last 32 in February.