James Lawton: Villas-Boas finally up and running with Tottenham


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All's well that ends well seemed to be what Andre Villas-Boas was saying in the euphoric body language that accompanied the second of Jermain Defoe's goals. Maybe he's right.

Perhaps he really is entering the first stages of the rest of his football life and the sight of Emmanuel Adebayor smouldering on the sidelines was just the smallest of occupational hazards when set against the memory of the full-scale insurrection that he provoked at Stamford Bridge.

The trouble is this wasn't the end of anything except an extremely embarrassing beginning at White Hart Lane.

It's true that everyone, except perhaps Adebayor when Defoe was responding so brilliantly to a little bit of what he surely believes is overdue faith, was breathing a lot easier in Reading after a performance which at the very least reminded us of how AVB first made his reputation. Tottenham produced some passages of superb cohesion which highlighted the reputation for running, passing football which gave their manager his year in the sun in Porto and hugely profitable move to Chelsea.

There was also plenty of evidence that in the absence of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart Spurs have replacements of impressive quality in Mousa Dembélé and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

However, even their skill, strength and tactical awareness, and the long established assets of Aaron Lennon's speed and Gareth Bale's explosive power, were not overwhelming evidence that it was time to consign the regime of Harry Redknapp to some distant recess of memory.

Before the game the author of such dramatic change, chairman Daniel Levy, rubbished reports of AVB's already precarious status and said that one poor season didn't make a bad manager. Maybe so, but then it is also true that one extremely eye-catching victory at Reading hardly makes a month, let alone a season.

Reading, even after due consideration of the ring rustiness after playing just two Premier League games, were utterly hopeless.

Lennon not only gave the veteran Ian Harte a transfusion of twisted blood, he handed out brutal lessons on basic demands of survival in the top league. This reality left Reading doomed from the first killing stroke of Defoe. It wasn't the most clinical finish but he was in the right place after Sigurdsson had cut Reading in two and Lennon had produced the perfect cross.

AVB, below, erupted from his seat as well he might after those chilling games at home to West Bromwich and Norwich. Perhaps wisely, he seems not to have resurrected the request he made to the Chelsea players that they rush to include him in their celebrations.

However, there was some pre-match evidence that at least certain Spurs players were on-side. Kyle Walker was especially ardent.

The dressing room, he declared, could not be more enthusiastic about AVB. This was, presumably, in spite of the coach's complaints that the transfer window had not opened as widely or successfully as he had wanted. That complaint did not seem too weighty as Tom Huddlestone and Clint Dempsey joined the action long after Tottenham's absolute ascendency had been established. Nor, if you put aside the brooding expression of Adebayor, was there a breath of evidence to suggest Walker was over-stating the enthusiasm.

Spurs played some beautifully rhythmic and intelligent football, exploiting their strengths in a way that heaped futility on their outplayed opponents.

Two years ago, of course, they were performing similar feats against the likes of Milan and Internazionale.

Spurs once again had the look of a team of considerable talent with the means of imposing some genuine authority. Villas-Boas's side showed us more than a glimpse of some extremely fine football. It was, given his antecedents, hardly before time.

Two years ago, Spurs were performing similar feats against the likes of Milan and Internazionale.