A Robert Soldado hat-trick secured Tottenham’s 100% record in the Europa League this season as they completed their group stage with a 4-1 victory over Russian outfit Anji Makhachkala.
Soldado, returning to the Tottenham starting eleven in place for Jermaine Defoe, ended his goal drought in style, with a quick double within the opening 16 minutes of the game, completing his hat trick in the 70th minute from his friend, the penalty spot after Ryan Fredericks had been brought down in the box.
Despite the result being completely irrelevant to the standings of the group, Tottenham started a strong starting eleven, with players such as Erik Lamela, Moussa Dembele and Andros Townsend all starting.
We started something of a make-shift defence, with Danny Rose returning from injury to occupy the left back slot, with Kyle Naughton opposite him, whilst in the heart of defence, young Zeki Fryers partnered Etienne Capoue, both of whom playing in their less than preferable position.
Brad Friedel became the oldest player to play in the competition and captained our youthful side, with only Moussa Dembele and Robert Soldado being the only other players over the age of 25.
Despite Anji having the brighter of the starting play, we took the lead on the 7th minute when Andros Townsend won a free kick, which Gylfi Sigurdsson lined up, drilled the ball in and took a brief deflection off the head of our Spanish centre forward, completely perplexing the Anji Goalkeeper and sprung White Hart Lane into life.
We continued to press and doubled our lead on the 16th minute where Moussa Dembele played the ball wide to Erik Lamela, who slipped the ball through the defensive line into the run of Robbie Soldado who swiped the ball past the ‘keeper to make the score 2-0.
Just before half time, Anji pulled themselves back into the match, as Kyle Naughton allowed himself to be beaten by Ewerton at a corner, where the midfielder spiked the ball past the motionless Brad Friedel.
At half time, Danny Rose was replaced as Andre Villas Boas attempts to get him fit for the crucial match against Liverpool on Sunday in the Premier League, with young Ryan Fredericks filling the right back role, with Kyle Naughton pushing back over to the left.
We restored our two goal berth on the 54th minute; where some excellent link up play between Andros Townsend and Lewis Holtby resulted in the former cutting in from the right, floating the ball over to Holtby for found himself in acres of space behind the Anji centre halves. Lewis then took the ball down with a touch and chipped it over the on rushing Anji ‘keeper who was unable to deny Holtby.
Robbie Soldado then completed the score line and his personal hat-trick when Ryan Fredericks burst into the box on the 70th minute, to be taken down by Jucilei and the referee awarded what is on review, a very harsh penalty. Nevertheless, Robbie continued his impressive record for us from the penalty spot and slotted home to the delight of the Tottenham faithful.
A very impressive display for this much changed Tottenham side, mainly down to the balance brought to the side, particularly in the wide areas, where despite having Erik Lamela and Andros Townsend cutting in, our full backs had the ability to attack on the overlap, of which is crucial and hasn’t been exploited by our side as far this season.
Gylfi Sigurdsson was bright and creative in the #10 role, whilst Lewis Holtby had a fantastic match, playing deeper next to Moussa Dembele, playing more as a catalyst to the side.
Many will question Andre’s decision to start so many first team players in this pointless fixture, but it allowed some of our players to gain confidence and match fitness. It was important for Danny Rose to secure some match team, albeit only 45 minutes, but if he is to play any role in the Liverpool match, then no doubt today wouldn’t have done any harm. Whilst Robbie Soldado will have gained bags of confidence from his hat-trick which will almost definitely see him start on Sunday.