Defoe fires Spurs to much needed win
Tottenham 3 Maribor 1
Jermain Defoe responded to his England snub by scoring a superb hat-trick that put Tottenham’s Europa League campaign back on track.
Just nine hours after he was left out of Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions squad, the Spurs striker put in a top-class performance against Slovenian side Maribor, scoring all three goals to move Tottenham up to second in Group J with two matches to go.
The 30-year-old’s excellent display owed a lot to his partnership with Emmanuel Adebayor, who made his first start of the season.
Tottenham won seven of the eight games the two started together last campaign, and the double-act worked a treat tonight, with the players combining effectively.
Gareth Bale’s efforts also proved key to Defoe’s display, with the Welshman putting in one of his best performances of the season on the left.
Bale provided the cross for Defoe to score his first goal early in the first half, but a Hugo Lloris howler allowed Maribor to equalise just before the break.
Defoe put Spurs ahead three minutes after the restart when he converted Tom Carroll’s pinpoint pass, and the former West Ham striker killed off the game with 13 minutes left when he got on the end of Bale’s sweeping cross to score.
Spurs were good value for the win, which means they will qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Lazio in Rome in two weeks’ time.
At the start of the game the home crowd sent a clear message of defiance towards the Society of Black Lawyers when they bellowed “Yid Army” – a phrase the organisation say is anti-Semitic – as the players took to the pitch.
Tottenham flew out of the blocks clearly determined to put memories of Saturday’s horror show, and defeat, against Wigan to bed.
Adebayor looked particularly keen to impress. The Togolese frontman peeled away from his marker in Tottenham’s first chance, but could only head over Tom Huddlestone’s corner.
Bale got on the end of another Huddlestone corner only to see his header cleared off the line by Martin Milec.
Bale then turned provider to find Adebayor in the box but the former Arsenal man headed wide.
Only Defoe’s lack of height stopped him from turning in Bale’s cross as Spurs laid siege to the Maribor goal.
The hosts’ pressure paid off after 21 minutes when Bale whipped the ball in from deep and Defoe casually sidefooted past Jasmin Handanovic in the Maribor goal.
Adebayor had the ball in the net 10 minutes later thanks to a superb chip, but the assistant referee correctly ruled the striker had just drifted offside.
Tottenham were playing some of their best football of the season and Maribor could barely get any time on the ball.
However the Slovenians then found themselves level. Kyle Naughton’s ill-advised backpass left Lloris with little time on the ball. As Beric closed in on the Frenchman he tried to beat his opponent. The moved failed as Beric took the ball off Lloris’ foot and tapped in to an empty net, leaving Tottenham’s goalkeeper hugely embarrassed.
The Spurs fans rallied around Lloris after he emerged for the second half, chanting the goalkeeper’s name loudly.
The Frenchman saw little action at the start of the second period as Spurs set about taking the lead once more.
It took only three minutes for the Londoners to score. Carroll calmly slotted an inch-perfect pass into Defoe’s path and he coolly slotted beyond Handanovic.
The strike moved Defoe ahead of Teddy Sheringham and up to eighth in the list of Tottenham’s all-time top goalscorers.
Adebayor wasted a golden chance to score his first of the season when he latched onto Bale’s clever chip pass but he could only volley wide.
Defoe latched onto a through-ball before being bundled over by Arghus, but much to the striker’s fury the referee waved play on.
Fully aware of Tottenham’s tendency to throw away points in the final quarter, the home fans became nervous.
Their concerns disappeared 13 minutes from time, however, when Spurs tore forward on the counter through Bale, who squared for Defoe and he made no mistake from close range.
Defoe and Bale both received rapturous applause as they were substituted and manager Andre Villas-Boas also received huge praise, the Portuguese’s name being sang as the game drifted towards its conclusion.