Harry Redknapp took plenty of positives from our final friendly of the summer as we came from 1-0 down to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at the Lane on Saturday.
The manager was particularly pleased with the second half performance as goals from Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe turned the match around.
Our Spanish visitors showed all the qualities that took them to fifth place in La Liga last season in an impressive first half that had echoes of Villareal’s display at the Lane in a friendly this time last year.
Comfortable on the ball from back to front, they took the lead through Mikel San Jose and threatened on a number of occasions without seriously testing Heurelho Gomes again.
Harry made a number of changes at half-time and a switch of formation from 4-1-4-1 to 4-4-2 enabled us to put more pressure on Bilbao further up the pitch. We enjoyed more possession as a result and dictated the match.
Crouch, one of those substitutes, took just five minutes to level, volleying home from 12 yards after fine work from another substitute, Gareth Bale.
And three minutes later Defoe, another player introduced at half-time, fired into the top corner from Aaron Lennon’s cutback.
The football flowed after that, visiting goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz made a number of fine saves including denying Niko Kranjcar from the penalty spot and a Mexican Wave around the stadium summed up the atmosphere.
"The second half was much better," said Harry. "We had a bit more pace to the team. Gareth came on and he gives us pace alongside Aaron, that's good pace down the sides.
"Niko did well in midfield with Luka, the two Croatian lads together and Crouchy and Jermain came on and scored. Defoe’s looked sharp all pre-season, so that’s good for him.
"Tom also had half a game, which was encouraging."
The only down side of the afternoon was injury to Steven Pienaar, who limped off midway through the first half. "He looks like he might have a tear in his groin," said Harry. "He'll go to see a specialist."
Bilbao concluded our pre-season programme and we now countdown to the Premier League opener against Everton at the Lane on Saturday, August 13, 3pm.