Jermain Defoe could be forgiven for wondering what more he can do to force his way into Tottenham’s first-choice side. The England striker’s seventh goal in only his fourth start of the season set up a comfortable victory in Russia as Spurs moved closer to securing their progress past the group stage of the Europa League after just two matches.
The 30-year-old’s first-half strike saw him move to within one of Martin Chivers’ club record of 24 goals in European competition and certainly caught the attention of his manager Andre Villas-Boas. However, £26million summer signing Roberto Soldado is still expected to return to lead the line against West Ham on Sunday despite failing to find the net since his failure to find the net since his penalty against Swansea back on 25 August – a situation Villas-Boas acknowledged must be frustrating for Defoe.
“ We have to judge recovery and the fact that JD was involved today and Soldado wasn’t,” he said.
“Everything will come into consideration. We have been extremely happy with the performances of both. It is a question of deciding what is best for the team.
“It was another great goal, a great finish. It’s really good to see him out there again doing extremely well whenever he’s given the opportunity. He is a great professional, has a great attitude and now he’s only one off Martin Chivers so it’s a real great achievement for him.”
Tottenham’s victory was never really in doubt once Defoe was picked out by Lewis Holtby in the 34th minute and produced a trademark finish, with Belgian winger Nacer Chadli extending their lead five minutes later following a cross from Kyle Walker.
Currently bottom of the Russian Premier League and without a victory all season having sold several of their prized assets including Samuel Eto’o and Willian to Chelsea, Anzhi were a shadow of the side that defeated Liverpol in this competition last season but did cause the Tottenham defence a few problems after the break.
A draw in the group’s other match between Norwegians Tromso and FC Sheriff of Moldova effectively means Spurs can assure their place in the last 32 for the second successive season with another win in a fortnight’s time when they travel to eastern Europe. With Premier League trips to Everton and Manchester City to come next month, Villas-Boas will be hoping the Europa League can be put away until the New Year.
The only negative on the night was a knock sustained by Younès Kaboul, forcing him off 20 minutes from time. The French defender has been plagued with injuries for the best part of 18 months and suffered another setback in Russia, although his manager remains hopeful he will be available after the international break.
“It’s a bit of a problem because of his injury in the knee it has taken him time for his body to adapt to new positions on his run,” Villas-Boas said.
“Because of that he’s putting extra strain on his muscles and keeps getting small contractions that limit him finishing the games. At the moment it doesn’t look very serious but it will force him to stop for a week or so.
“When we get him back we will give him a one-week or two-week preparation to be physically better.”
For Defoe, the prospect of another week sitting on the bench with England when he is fully fit and in such excellent form must be deeply frustrating.
Swansea City 1 St Gallen 0 match report: Wayne Routledge settles blood-spattered affair
Wayne Routledge’s goal from all of eight inches looked by far the easiest aspect of this match. After all, Swansea had to save a penalty and watched blood stream from the back of their star striker Michu’s head after he was caught by a stray boot while stooping to head the ball.
Michu’s gash was bleeding so profusely that he had to have his shirt changed – indeed, a member of the Swansea City staff had to go to the club shop and have one printed off.
And the home team were far from happy that they were not awarded a penalty for the incident, which took place just inside the St Gallen area half an hour into the game. Ten minutes earlier Gerhard Tremmel had saved the easiest of spot kicks from Goran Karanovic, awarded after Dwight Tiendalli handled in the box. Of some succour to Karanovic, he had no recollection of the miss after being taken off at half time after suffering from concussion in a collision with Tremmel.
The game was hardly helped by the inconsistent and fussy refereeing of Duarte Gomes, but Swansea can now head into the home game with Kuban Krasnodar later this month knowing a win would make them strong favourites to claim a place in the last 32. The goal, seven minutes into the second half, was made by Daniel Lopar, the St Gallen goalkeeper, along with Wilfried Bony.
The Swansea forward’s shot, from just outside the six-yard box, squirmed under Lopar’s glove and spun into the path of Routledge, who had timed his run to intercept any rebound and duly tapped in for the goal.
There were some nervy moments later in the second half as the Swiss side – unbeaten in 12 previous matches – added some guile to their grit and Stéphane Nater was unlucky to hit the post for the visitors from a fine long-range strike.
Routledge was pleased to have made it two wins from two and conceded it was not pretty to watch. He said: “They battled hard and it was a gritty win. I thought the goal was going in. I let it roll as long as I could but I tapped it in.
“It shows we have massive character. We can knuckle down if we need to and play if we get the chance.”
Leon Britton, the Swansea captain, added: “It wasn’t a great performance but we got the win.”
Wigan Athletic 3 NK Maribor 1 match report: Nick Powell makes doubly sure of Wigan’s first win in Europe
Wigan marked their first-ever home match in Europe with a maiden Europa League victory over Maribor from Slovenia.
Owen Coyle’s side should have been more than two ahead at half-time and there were a few nervy moments after Maribor pulled one back but a late goal from Nick Powell made it 3-1.
Roberto Martinez, who led Wigan to their FA Cup triumph last season, thereby allowing them to make their European debut, was watching from the directors’ box as his former side made another piece of history.
After their 0-0 draw with Zulte Waregem in Bruges two weeks ago, it was Powell who broke their scoring duck in the 22nd minute, although the on-loan Manchester United midfielder was indebted to the Maribor goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic.
Jean Beausejour’s deflected cross did not look likely to cause any danger but Handanovic inexplicably punched the ball behind him for Powell to nod into an empty net.
Beausejour again provided the cross for the second goal after 34 minutes, leaving the Cup final hero Ben Watson the simple task of heading past Handanovic.
The hosts should have been out of sight before the Maribor captain, Marcos Tavares, pulled a goal back just before the hour mark. However, Powell made sure of victory with an individual effort in injury time.
The result left Wigan well positioned on four points in Group D, two behind Rubin Kazan, who defeated Zulte 4-0. Coyle’s Latics will now play the Russian club home and away.