Tottenham Hotspur scored twice in five minutes and then coasted to a mostly comfortable Europa League win over Anzhi Makhachkala, Thursday.
Jermain Defoe opened the scoring with his third goal of the competition in the 34th minute, and Nacer Chadli doubled the guests’ advantage in the 39th.
The match, which was played at Saturn Stadium on the outskirts of Moscow, began slowly as Tottenham, despite posting dominant possession numbers, struggled to create meaningful openings in the attacking third.
Anzhi, meanwhile, posed the odd threat of a counter-attack throughout the first half, but went back down the tunnel with only a single shot to their credit.
Spurs, on the other hand, had twice found the back of the net after finally breaking through a stubborn Anzhi backline.
Defoe, who bagged a brace against Tromso in the Group K opener, ran onto a superb Lewis Holtby through-ball and clipped his effort just under the bar and beyond a helpless Yevgeny Pomazan in the Anzhi goal.
Not long after, Spurs were two goals to the good—Chadli having turned Kyle Walker’s cross from wide on the right beyond Pomazan, who in this instance might have done better.
The introduction of Anzhi forward Lacina Traore to begin the second half seemed to spark the hosts, and, when Andrey Yeshchenko joined his towering teammate on the pitch 11 minutes later, it looked for a time as though the Russian side would pull their way back into the contest.
Twice Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was forced into making excellent saves following Traore-inspired buildups, and Pavel Solomatin also grew in influence as the half wore on.
But Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas calmed things down with 12 minutes to play when Holtby was withdrawn for Eriksen. Just as he did against Tromso, the Danish midfielder helped his side slow down the pace and comfortably cross the finish line.
Key Player Grades
Jermain Defoe: A-
He gets some credit because he scored what proved to be the match winner, and the goal also took him just one behind Martin Chivers—Spurs’ all-time leading goalscorer in European club competition. But when the service dried up so, too, did Defoe’s influence on the encounter. Although he did what was asked of him in opening the scoring, he did precious little thereafter.
Mousa Dembele: A
The Belgian international faded slightly in the second half, but for the majority of Thursday’s match, he was imperious in the centre of the park—driving play forward and consistently finding teammates with well-placed passes. At the final whistle he had touched the ball 135 times and completed an incredible 94 per cent of his passes. (All statistics courtesy WhoScored.com.)
The Anzhi captain was especially impactful in the second half, following the introduction of Traore. His passing rate of 76 per cent may have left something to be desired, but his manager will no doubt have been impressed with the Brazilian’s nine successful tackles on the night.
Next up for Anzhi is a Russian Premier League match away to Rubin Kazan, and they’ll return from the international break with an October 19 showdown at home to Spartak Moscow. Five days later they’ll host Tromso in the Europa League. Tottenham, meanwhile, will host West Ham on Sunday and travel to Aston Villa on October 20. On October 24 they’ll be away to Sheriff Tiraspol.