Bent tears Dinamo to shreds
Tottenham 4 Dinamo Zagreb 0
Friday 07 November 2008
A Darren Bent hat-trick, an imperious display from Tom Huddlestone and a quicksilver performance from the Croat Luka Modric against his former club. The misfits of the Ramos regime are all falling into place under Harry Redknapp.
It is not quite alchemy – no one would doubt the talents of the trio although at £16.5m Bent's may have been heftily overblown – but there is certainly a touch of sorcery about the new man's stewardship. And to think they used to call Juande Magic.
The evening was marred by a series of incidents involving the Dinamo Zagreb fans. At first vociferous and passionate, they, with a flurry of flares, and some scuffles involving stewards, over-stepped the mark and turned the atmosphere ugly. Five arrests were made in the ground and they were involved in a number of scuffles with police on the Tottenham High Road after the game that resulted in several shops being damaged.
Nevertheless, the resounding victory eased Spurs, after their defeat at Udinese that was Ramos's last match in charge, back into comfortable contention to progress from Group D of this season's Uefa Cup. One more victory and they will go through.
Redknapp even managed to hand a debut to John Bostock, all 16 years and 295 days of him, making the midfielder, whose controversial transfer still rankles at Crystal Palace, Spurs' youngest-ever player. He almost scored, too, with a drive from fully 30 yards that whistled narrowly wide. But that would have been too much, surely, even for Harry on his current run.
"It's confidence," Redknapp said. "Winning is good. We will have bad days but we've made a good start, a terrific 10 days and I want to keep this run going and get us off the bottom of the league table."
That is clearly the priority for, despite that start, Spurs are still bottom. Redknapp has said all the right things about the importance of Europe but it matters not a jot in the face of Premier League safety. Play Ledley King in this competition? Not a chance. Redknapp is ring-fencing him for more important fights.
But winning is a habit, as is scoring, and Bent, so maligned, so indifferent, so apparently surplus when Berbatov, Keane and Defoe were flying, is suddenly, inadvertently, the main man. He has nine goals this season and is, finally, flying.
It was the maligned trio who combined for the opening goal – along with another who has struggled, David Bentley. His neat flick sent Modric skipping down the left, a cross was missed by Huddlestone but it distracted the defenders enough for the ball to run to Bent who steadied himself with one touch before driving a shot which deflected off the former Liverpool player Igor Biscan, as he threw himself in an attempt to block, and spun over goalkeeper Ivan Kelava and into the net.
Within three minutes it was two. And again the same players were involved. This time, after Modric's run down the right, Bentley diverted a clearance to Huddlestone who, on the area's edge, shaped to shoot but, smartly, slid a pass to Bent who, free on goal, easily beat Kelava.
"This is the first time I've worked with Darren," said Redknapp. "He has a good attitude and works hard. It's a terrific return getting nine goals and hopefully he can keep going. There's competition for places up front."
Spurs were now clicking through the gears and, next, a training-ground routine came off, a sure sign of confidence coursing, with Bentley angling a corner to Huddlestone who struck a sweet, low volley from 25 yards that cracked past a shocked Kelava.
On they came. Huddlestone, playing in the more advanced role he craved, showing his passing range and ability, again won the ball, surged forward and neatly found Bent who took the pass in his stride and slid the ball into the net.
It was his first hat-trick for Spurs, his first for five years, in fact, and the first scored by a Tottenham player in Europe since Garth Crooks in October 1984 – when the club were the Uefa Cup holders. There is a long way to go, and far greater priorities and targets to be met, before that feat is repeated. But with Magic Harry there is at least another chance to dream.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Hutton, Dawson, Woodgate (Gunter, 85), Bale; Bentley (Bostock, 79), Zokora, Huddlestone, Lennon; Modric (Campbell, 75); Bent. Substitutes not used: Cèsar (gk), Gilberto, Assou-Ekotto, Dervite.
Dinamo Zagreb (4-2-3-1): Kelava; Lovren, Biscan, Drpic (Etto, 46), Ibanez; Vrdoljak, Hrgovic; Mikic, Mandzukic, Sammir (Morales, 43); Balaban (Badelj, 60) . Substitutes not used: Loncaric (gk), Tomic, Tadic, Carlos.
Referee: F Fautrel (France).
Results: Dinamo Zagreb 3 NEC Nijmegen 2; Udinese 2 Tottenham 0; Spartak Moscow 1 Udinese 2; Tottenham 4 Dinamo Zagreb 0.
Tottenham's remaining group fixtures: 27 Nov: NEC Nijmegen (a); 18 Dec: Spartak Moscow (h).
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