Gareth Bale Stars for Spurs After Andre Villas-Boas's Winning Changes
Andre Villas-Boas turned halftime boos to full-time cheers with a tactical overhaul that allowed Tottenham to come from 1-0 down against Queens Park Rangers to win 2-1.
The Portuguese coach has not had the easiest of starts to his tenure as Spurs head coach—be it with results on the pitch or treatment on the back pages—but his reshuffle of personnel and formation at the break resulted in him claiming his first home win at White Hart Lane.
Following on last weekend's 3-1 win at Reading, securing back-to-back league wins ahead of next week's trip to Old Trafford was extremely important for Spurs as a whole and their boss in particular.
Just as with the team selection and set-up with which he began the match, the change at the break was borne out of necessity, but that it was so decisive and effective will be cause for optimism in a season in which Spurs have already lost or drawn several games they should have won.
With injuries to Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton, Villas-Boas was forced to field winger Gareth Bale at left-back—his position all the way through his youth at Southampton and when he first moved to Tottenham five years ago, but one no one would recognise as his now.
That meant Clint Dempsey was deployed in an unfamiliar left-sided attacking slot of a 4-2-3-1 formation on his first league start for the club. Understandably, the US forward struggled to get into the game. Striker Jermain Defoe and No. 10 Gylfi Sigurdsson were also both cut off as Tottenham's attack was disjointed.
QPR were in the bottom three and were the league's lowest goal scorers coming into this London derby, but the Hoops took full advantage of their hosts' struggles and dominated the first half. They took a fully deserved lead with a goal from former Spurs striker Bobby Zamora, his (and QPR's) third league goal of the season.
At halftime the shot count read six to three in favour of QPR, with four of the visitors' efforts on target. By contrast, Spurs had not made Julio Cesar lift a finger at the break.
Bale's first and only run up the wing for the first half came on 45 minutes. On that occasion only the 5'5" Aaron Lennon was in the box to attack the cross, so to no one's surprise it didn't yield a chance.
The home team went down the tunnel to plenty of booing from their own fans—something which should only be deployed in the very worst of situations at a club, not when a club is playing its sixth match of the season with a new manager. Still, the crowd had spoken, and Villas-Boas duly responded.
The second half saw central defender Steven Caulker replace the ineffectual Sigurdsson, who had just 18 touches of the ball in the first half. The switch saw Jan Vertonghen move out to left-back and Bale pushed up the wing as Tottenham reverted to a 4-4-2 with Dempsey up front with Defoe.
Dempsey had his team's first shot on target of the match seven minutes into the second half, and that heralded a major change in the flow of the match.
There was now a purpose and directness in Tottenham's play, with the wide men able to concentrate on playing with far more focus down the wings.
Lennon and Kyle Walker have a familiar and effective partnership on the right, but it is the speed with which Vertonghen and Bale struck up a similar understanding on the left which led to Spurs being so lethal on the counter-attack whenever QPR came forward.
Spurs scored two goals in as many minutes around the hour mark—the first an Alejandro Faurlin own goal from a set piece, and the second Defoe's 199th career club goal.
It was Caulker's header from a corner which led to Faurlin's error. Moments later, Vertonghen's storming run teed up Bale's shot, which rebounded off the bar via the keeper and landed for Defoe to net his sixth goal in nine games for club and country this season.
Having been so shackled in the first half, Bale ended up with three of his four second-half shots hitting the target, including the one which led to Defoe's goal, and he also set up several other chances as Spurs repeatedly broke forward in numbers.
Just before their equaliser, the home side had registered eight shots to QPR's seven. When the final whistle blew, the count read 20 to eight, with Spurs hitting seven of their nine shots on target in the final third of the match. QPR only managed one more effort in that time, and were unable to test goalkeeper Brad Friedel as they had done in the first half.
The returns to fitness of Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker will enable Villas-Boas to persist with the 4-2-3-1 which is his preferred system and they way he wants the club to go.
But against QPR he discovered he has the personnel in his squad to change things around when things are not going to plan, while Spurs fans were given an example of how their much-maligned manager can get the job done as he settles into it.
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