Three goals in six second half minutes secured our first win in Group A of this season’s Europa League, as we came from behind to beat Shamrock Rovers on a balmy evening at White Hart Lane.
The League of Ireland side, the first Irish club to ever reach the group stage of a European competition, took a shock lead five minutes after the interval but that was wiped out in emphatic style as Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and Giovani struck in a crazy six-minute spell to turn the game around in our favour.
Harry Redknapp utilised his squad once again in the competition, making 10 changes from the side that beat Wigan 2-1 in Premier League action on Saturday, with right-back Kyle Walker the only one to keep his place.
But that didn’t affect the free-flowing football on display from his side as chance after chance was created, right from the moment Giovani fired the first opportunity of the evening straight at Rovers keeper Richard Brush inside the first two minutes.
And the little Mexican had two further efforts within the opening 11 minutes, seeing one shot deflected wide for a corner and another low drive saved again by Brush.
Indeed the English-born stopper had a fine first half, denying us on a number of occasions. On 17 minutes Vedran Corluka threaded a ball through midfield to Giovani who found Defoe in space on the right, his touch took him into the area but his shot was deflected up onto the crossbar by Brush, who three minutes later saved well from Pavlyuchenko eight yards out.
It was pretty much all one-way traffic towards the Rovers net and it took 27 minutes before the visitors had their first sight of goal, Gary McCabe firing a long range half volley well wide.
But we were soon back on the attack again and struck the woodwork once more when a corner was cleared to Danny Rose on the right-hand edge of the box and his looping shot cleared Brush’s fingertips but struck the crossbar. From the rebound, captain for the night Sebastien Bassong smashed an effort which was blocked by the face of Dan Murray and as the Rovers skipper staggered away from the impact, his side survived another scare.
And another Rovers player was in the right place at the right time six minutes from the interval, Stephen O’Donnell this time clearing off the goalline after Pavlyuchenko met Giovani’s corner with a powerful header.
At the start of the second half, Andros Townsend was introduced in place of Aaron Lennon as we went in search of the breakthrough, but instead it was Rovers who opened the scoring as the second half erupted with a flurry of goals.
Jake Livermore was penalised for a foul on McCabe 25 yards left of centre of goal and the Rovers winger sent in a curling right-foot shot which Cudicini parried away. But the rebound only fell as far as Pat Sullivan 20 yards out, who rifled in a low shot which flicked up off Stephen Rice and into the net, sending the green and white supporters in the away end into raptures.
For a while they were dreaming of a famous victory, but then came the dramatic six minutes which saw the game turned on its head.
We were level on the hour mark when Giovani sent over an inviting cross which Pavlyuchenko met well to head past Brush and it was an almost carbon copy move which saw us take the lead just two minutes later. This time it was Townsend down the left flank and his centre was headed home by Defoe for 2-1.
And that quickly became three on 66 minutes after some fantastic work from Defoe set up Giovani. The England international won the ball 20 yards inside his own half on the left touchline, went on a surging run that took him past Conor McCormack to the edge of the box where he played in Giovani on the right of the area, and he fired a left-foot drive past Brush.
That knocked the stuffing out of Rovers as we once again took control. Pavlyuchenko fired wide after excellent link-up play from Yago Falque, the Spanish Under-21 earlier replacing Defoe for his home debut in our colours, while Falque almost rounded off a fine move after Pav and Harry Kane, another late substitute, had combined with a neat one-two on the edge of the box.
Rovers had a late shout for a penalty in the closing seconds when William Dennehy went down under Townsend’s challenge, but the referee waved away their appeals and, with it, any hopes of a comeback. Next up, Arsenal!
Spurs (4-4-2): Cudicini, Walker, Bassong, Corluka, Rose (Kane 80), Lennon (Townsend 46), Carroll, Livermore, Giovani, Defoe (Falque 73), Pavlyuchenko. Subs (not used): Gomes, Bale, Kaboul, Modric.
Goals: Pavlyuchenko 60, Defoe 62, Giovani 66
Rovers (4-5-1): Brush, Sullivan, Murray, Sives, Paterson (Stevens 46), McCabe, Rice, Finn (Ricketts 73), O’Donnell (McCormack 46), Dennehy, Twigg. Subs (not used): Thompson, Sheppard, Kilduff, Turner.
Goal: Rice 50
Referee: Gediminas Mazeika (Lithuania)