Tottenham Hotspur might not have wanted to be in the Europa League, but they are determined to make the most of it. Like holidaymakers insistent on fully enjoying an otherwise disappointing destination, they revelled in Europe's no-frills competition yesterday. Harry Redknapp's team treated the Tynecastle pitch with the proprietorial arrogance and swagger of the English abroad, and came away with a deserved 5-0 win.
Hearts barely touched the ball. Even with Spurs' first-choice midfield of Luka Modric and Sandro left behind, this was, for all but a brief second-half spell, an instruction in passing football. "We moved the ball about fantastic tonight and it was difficult for them to stay with us," said a delighted Redknapp. "The movement off the ball, the passing, was top class."
The value of away goals in two-legged football meant the tie was killed within 15 minutes. It only took five for Tottenham to go ahead. Rafael van der Vaart, drifting easily behind Jermain Defoe all evening, exchanged with his strike partner before allowing the ball to escape. Marius Zaliukas, discomfited all night, hurriedly cleared into Van der Vaart's body, and the Dutchman finished.
The pattern was set. Hearts could pick up neither Defoe nor Van der Vaart, nor could they cope with the pace of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon down the wings. The second goal arrived when Lennon darted in from the flank, and played a one-two with Van der Vaart before rolling a simple pass to Defoe. The striker darted past the static Zaliukas and finished with the confidence he lacked last season.
Comfortable passing in the final third set up Spurs' third. This time Jake Livermore stormed forward, took the ball back from Van der Vaart, and beat goalkeeper Marian Kello. With great respect to the Old Firm's Emilio Izaguirre and Nikica Jelavic, Hearts were unprepared for Van der Vaart, Bale and Niko Kranjcar. "Niko was outstanding in midfield," Redknapp added. "He played centrally and enjoyed it, joined up well with Rafa [Van der Vaart]."
The second half was better, as Hearts raised themselves for some aerial bombardment of Spurs' goal. Heurelho Gomes was strong enough to resist, though. And soon substitute Tom Huddlestone set up the fourth. His chipped pass and Bale's perfect run pierced Hearts' offside trap; with his first touch Bale took the ball beyond Kello, with the second he turned it home.
For all their patience and control, Spurs completed their scoring with a counter-attacking flourish. Livermore, as big as Huddlestone but more dynamic, played the ball through to Defoe on the left wing, and the striker swung in a cross to Lennon at the far post. The finish was simple.
Roman Pavlyuchenko made a late appearance, to the delight of Tottenham's travelling faithful. It may not have been how they would have expected to start their season, and was probably not where they would have hoped to spend their evenings, but an enjoyable night nonetheless.
Hearts Kello, Hamill, Zaliukas, Webster, Grainger, Templeton, Stevenson, Mrowiec (Obua, 81), Black, Driver (Elliott, 64), Sutton (Skacel, 74). Substitutes not used MacDonald, Jonsson, McGowan, Novikovas.
Tottenham Hotspur Gomes; Walker, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Livermore, Kranjcar, Bale (Townsend, 70); Van der Vaart (Huddlestone, 59), Defoe (Pavlyuchenko, 79). Substitutes not used Friedel (gk), Bassong, Corluka, Cudicini (gk).
Referee P Tagliavento (Italy).