Tottenham Hotspur 5
van der Vaart 5, Defoe 13, Livermore 28, Bale 63, Lennon 78
After a blank weekend due to the recent disturbances, Tottenham Hotspur ran riot in Edinburgh as they kicked off their season with a crushing win in their Battle of Britain Europa League play-off against Scottish Premier League side Hearts.
Harry Redknapp sent his side out in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Heurelho Gomes given the nod in goal. Despite worries over his central midfield, the pairing of Jake Livermore and Nico Krancjar still looked a strong combination, whilst Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale operated in the wide areas. Rafael van Der Vaart was given a free role, in and around Jermain Defoe who led the attack.
New Portuguese Coach Paulo Sergio had joked pre-game about Hearts’ controversial owner Vladimir Romanov picking his side for him, and he set his side out in an identical formation with two banks of four in the defence and midfield. With Andrew Driver and David Templeton offering the width, John Sutton was the target man with Ryan Stevenson offering support.
Spurs were dominant from the off and there was no surprise when they took the lead early on. Inside five minutes panic ensued in the Hearts defence as Defoe and van Der Vaart went forward, and after two failed attempts to clear the ball, the second of which ricocheted off the Dutchman into the area, he was unerring in his finish past Marian Kello. Spurs doubled their lead on 12 minutes. Lennon played a beautiful ball from the left flank into Defoe on the edge of the area, and the striker’s first touch took him clear of the Hearts defence and allowed him to coolly slide the ball into the net.
Hearts simply could not get to grips with the Tottenham movement and passing. Krancjar and Livermore, both fringe figures at White Hart Lane, were in complete control with the Croatian in particular finding time and space aplenty in the middle of the field. It was the youngster Livermore though who rounded off a slick move to put the tie to bed on the half hour. Six passes saw the ball move from the left hand side, with Kranjcar and van Der Vaart involved before Defoe laid off for Livermore to fire in from the edge of the area.
It appeared that the Hearts boss Sergio had really got into his side at half-time as the Scottish side seemed a yard faster and a lot hungrier all over the pitch. This coupled with some sloppy Spurs play, understandable given their first-half dominance, saw the home side at least force a period of pressure in the opening minutes of the second period.
Harry Redknapp removed van der Vaart on the hour, replacing him with Tom Huddlestone and pushing Krancjar further forward into the hole behind Defoe. The giant midfielder looked as languid as ever and with Hearts beginning to drop off again in midfield, was given plenty of time to pick out Bale running behind the defence to score the fourth.
With Hearts trying to restore some pride, Spurs were content to sit and play on the break, and grabbed a fifth through Lennon who rounded off a classic counter attack as he turned in a Defoe cross.