Hapoel Tel-Aviv 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2: Berbatov displays old dash as Spurs regain winning touch

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The Independent Football

Dimitar Berbatov started the day insisting he was happy at White Hart Lane and finished it by scoring in this important Uefa Cup victory.

The 26-year-old admitted the reports linking him with a move had affected his performances but he showed glimpses of last season's form as Spurs got back on track in Group G after losing to Getafe.

Robbie Keane volleyed the opener here, with Berbatov heading a second to add to the anger of Hapoel fans, whose team are bottom of the Israeli league. The hosts also had Gal Shish dismissed in the second half.

For Tottenham, their captain, Keane, could take heart from his side's defensive efforts. "The most important thing was the clean sheet," he said. "We needed to get a good win, but we've been conceding goals of late so that was the most important factor."

The Spurs manager, Juande Ramos, has won this competition in the past two seasons with Seville, but will surely face sterner tests if he is going to make it a hat-trick. The Spaniard insists that getting into the winning habit is his immediate aim before targeting silverware; he remains unbeaten in his three games since taking over from Martin Jol, but Tottenham's performance here featured little of the free-flowing football he was known for in Spain, and Ramos acknowledged as much.

"We didn't play well enough but after the two goals I felt better and I could think about Sunday [when Spurs play Wigan]," the manager said.

Ramos, though, refused to single out Berbatov for praise. "I believe in looking at a team rather than at any particular individual players," he said.

The hosts started brightly and almost took advantage of an unbalanced Spurs defence. Younes Kaboul was relegated to the bench and Pascal Chimbonda, a full-back by trade, was at the heart of Spurs' defence. A sloppy pass from him set up Hapoel's first chance, Bebars Natcho slipping the ball to Fabio Junior but the Brazilian could not get power on his volley.

Natcho was found in a promising position on the edge of the penalty area after Spurs failed to clear a cross, but he snatched at his shot and screwed wide.

Spurs gained control of the game by taking their first chance in the 26th minute. It consolidated Keane's remarkable run of goalscoring form – he now has 25 goals in his last 33 Spurs games, 10 of them coming this season.

He fed the ball to Steed Malbranque on the left flank and then met the cross first-time on the volley, leaving goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama motionless.

Berbatov added the second five minutes later. His first effort was blocked by Gabriel dos Santos, but the rebound spun out to Malbranque, who provided the cross for Berbatov to head home.

Berbatov should have added another just after the half-hour when he burst into the area but his shot was saved by Enyeama. Keane's follow-up effort was deflected wide by Dos Santos, with Spurs appealing for a penalty.

Spurs finished the first 45 minutes strongly but the hosts' Barukh Dego had the first chance of the second half when he chipped over Paul Robinson but just wide. However, their hopes of getting back into the match faded when they were reduced to 10 men.

Shish had been booked late in the first half for a clash with Berbatov and Aaron Lennon, and he received his second yellow card in the 50th minute for a tackle on Lennon.

Malbranque was taken off for Jermain Defoe as Ramos looked at a 4-3-3 formation. The new substitute was booked for a needless hack at his full-back, but he also fed Keane, who got his angles wrong and shot wide with the goalkeeper to beat.

With the game over as a contest, Hapoel fans aimed their frustration at their young coach, Guy Luzon, as well as the owner who was in the directors' box. The locals' misery could have been compounded by the substitute Darren Bent, who hit the post after rounding the goalkeeper.

Spurs fans were in more cheerful mood, but they could not persuade Ramos to wave to them as Jol used to, perhaps because he did not understand them. A hat-trick of Uefa Cups for Ramos, however, and they will be speaking the same language.

Elsewhere in the Uefa Cup, Spartak Moscow beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 thanks to penalties from Roman Pavlyuchenko and Santos Mozart .

Zenit St Petersburg beat Larissa 3-2. Fatih Teke scored the winner in the 78th minute, glancing in a cross from Alejandro Dominguez.

Hapoel Tel-Aviv: Enyeama; Bakshi (Manzor, h-t), Chen, Gabriel, Shish, Natcho, Mazowa, Abutbul (Abedi, ht), Dego (Antebi, 58), Badir, Fabio Junior. Substitutes not used: Ben Shaanan, Doani, Oved, Srur.

Tottenham Hotspur: Robinson; Stalteri, Chimbonda, Dawson, Lee, Lennon, Zokora, Jenas (Boateng, 68), Malbranque (Defoe, 56), Berbatov, Keane (Bent, 68). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Kaboul, Tainio, Huddlestone.

Referee: G Gilewski (Poland).

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