Spurs ease AVB pressure
Tottenham eased the pressure on their manager Andre Villas-Boas with a narrow win over Tromso deep inside the Arctic Circle.
Vlad Chiriches and Mousa Dembele both scored their first goals of the season to seal a 2-0 win that confirms Tottenham as winners of Group K with one match to spare.
Those were the positives from a sub-zero night at the northern tip of Norway, but there were also a few negatives for the north London club and their under-pressure manager.
Roberto Soldado again looked isolated up front, the visitors' momentum was slow and Nacer Chadli missed a big sitter in the first half.
If Spurs beat Anzhi Makhachkala in a fortnight's time, they will have won all six of their Europa League group matches.
But the reality is that neither Anzhi, Sheriff nor this Tromso team are anywhere near good enough to play in the Barclays Premier League.
They are certainly nowhere near as good as the Manchester United team who head to White Hart Lane on Sunday.
Villas-Boas, who rejected claims his job was under threat on Wednesday, will no doubt try to put a positive spin on the game, but it is important to remember that Tromso were relegated from Norway's top flight three weeks ago.
The Norwegians caused the visitors many problems, and will feel that they should have beaten Brad Friedel at least once, but at least Spurs can head back to London having put an end to their damaging losing streak.
Once the tractors cleared the afternoon snow from the pitch, Tottenham emerged into the freezing cold to hear chants of "AVB's blue and white army".
The early praise was soon drowned out by gasps from the home supporters as Zdenek Ondrasek bore down on goal after giving Michael Dawson the slip with just 33 seconds on the clock.
Fortunately for Spurs, Ondrasek is not as good a finisher as Manchester City's Jesus Navas and he dragged his shot wide.
The Czech striker was creating mischief two minutes later when he entered the box and went down under pressure from Vlad Chiriches. Spurs breathed a sigh of relief, though, as referee Levgenii Aranovskyi waved play on.
The snow stopped falling after 10 minutes but passing conditions remained difficult for the visitors, who struggled to find their rhythm and their build-up play was painfully slow at times.
Andros Townsend was Spurs' most dangerous player early on. The England winger used his skill to gain a yard of pace and set up Gylfi Sigurdsson, but the Iceland striker dragged his shot wide.
Etienne Capoue's deflected shot dribbled just wide while Morten Moldskred was rooted to the spot. The Tromso goalkeeper was still not tested until the 23rd minute when he saved Townsend's low skidding long-range shot.
Sigurdsson then carved open the Tromso back line with a beautiful curling pass with the outside of his right boot, but Chadli leaned back and thumped the ball into the empty uncovered stand behind the home goal.
The tractors came on at half-time to clear the excess snow that had settled on the pitch. That allowed Spurs to pass the ball more smoothly, but Tromso still looked dangerous.
Ondrasek built up some speed and darted at the Tottenham defence from the halfway line. Dawson pulled the striker down with a cynical foul, but the referee only produced a yellow card.
Sigurdsson had the ball in the net moments later, but Soldado was rightly penalised for handball in the build-up.
Tromso then had Spurs on the ropes after a couple of threatening attacks. Capoue and Soldado resorted to fouling the dangerous Thomas Bendiksen and they both entered the book as a result.
Brad Friedel then saved from Bendiksen and Jaroslaw Fojut as Tromso continued to pile on the pressure.
Just when Tottenham looked in danger of going behind, they took the lead thanks to a slice of good fortune.
Sigurdsson drilled a low ball into the box from a free-kick and found Chiriches. The Romanian's shot was going in, but Adnan Causevic helped it over the line.
Jan Vertonghen, Lewis Holtby and Erik Lamela entered the game but surprisingly, the youngsters who had been brought on the trip stayed on the bench.
Dembele then made sure of the win with 15 minutes left when he placed the ball into the far corner after being slipped in by Sigurdsson.
Tottenham fans suddenly became full of festive cheer as chants of Jingle Bells rang out around the Alfheim Stadium despite the bitter weather.
Tottenham will have to up their game on Sunday if they are to leave that encounter in a similar mood, though.
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