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.