There was some hope at Tottenham Hotspur tonight that they would not pay too much of a price for their comfortable Europa League 3-0 win over Tromso.
At the final whistle, Spurs might not have been too thrilled with their haul of three points but three apparent injuries, as Mousa Dembele was stretchered off, Danny Rose went off in the first half and Younes Kaboul failed to complete the 90 minutes.
Spurs have a hectic schedule ahead - Cardiff City away on Sunday, Aston Villa away on Tuesday and then Chelsea back here on Saturday lunch time. Playing in the Europa League is a test of endurance and resources and without those three, their month would only get harder.
But Andre Villas-Boas confirmed afterwards that Rose's was the only injury worth worrying about. “We have to be a little bit more careful with Danny,” he said. “We hope it is not serious. We have to give him one night to see the reaction of his ankle. He is in doubt for Sunday but he should be OK.”
There was better news elsewhere. Dembele, who was visibly in pain when he was kicked by Lars Johnsen, was “now steady”, while Kaboul - making just his third start of the season -felt understandable tightness in his adductor muscle and came off only at 3-0 as a precaution.
That late good news made this almost a worry-free night for Tottenham. The match itself went almost precisely to plan, as they strolled past their very limited visitors. In a brisk first half, Spurs were never not on the front foot, playing high up the pitch, pressing Tromso into mistakes and moving the ball quickly enough to make chances - two of which Jermain Defoe took.
“It was a very, very good performance,” Villas-Boas said afterwards. “We kept the ball well and created lots of attacking chances. The second half wasn't as good as the first but overall it was a good win and a good performance.”
It was certainly made easier, though, by the fact that Tromso looked like they had never seen Defoe play before. Three times in the first half he darted behind their defence onto a through ball. The first time - when after 14 minutes he took Holtby's pass but shot at Marcus Sahlman - was their warning, but they did not take it.
The opening goal was not a desperate surprise, then, six minutes later. Holtby squared the ball to Lamela, in from the wing, and with a delightful first-touch pass he redirected the ball to Defoe, running behind Jaroslaw Fojut. This time he lifted the ball over Sahlman and in.
Again, 10 minutes later, Defoe scored his second. Sigurdsson won it, gave it to Holtby who paused, saw Defoe darting behind Miika Koppinen and played him through. Defoe, who lives for chances like this, found the bottom corner.
Defoe is an expert at that sort of situation in this sort of game, and Villas-Boas admitted that he was in a “difficult position” for Sunday. He tends to prefer 4-2-3-1 and he tends to prefer Roberto Soldado, but what more could Defoe do?
Spurs rather slowed in the second half - with Sandro, Lamela and Holtby all starting to tire. It was not until Christian Eriksen replaced Dembele that they started to move again.
The little Dane - the most exciting of Spurs' summer signings - almost immediately set up Sandro, chipping the ball onto his run, but for the Brazilian to head straight at the keeper. But he continued to show, pass and move until he saw his opportunity for the third: dipping the ball into the far top corner of the net from 20 yards out with four minutes left.
“It was a very good goal, really well taken,” said Villas-Boas. “He really helped us keep possession and he also has that finishing touch.”
It was an impressive evening or Eriksen, Lamela and others but as Villas-Boas is keenly aware, there are gathering challenges ahead.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Naughton, Dawson, Kaboul, Rose (Vertonghen, 39); Dembélé (Eriksen, 64), Paulinho; Lamela, Holtby (Paulinho, 71), Sigurdsson; Defoe. Substitutes not used Friedel, Townsend, Soldado, Kane.
Tromso (4-2-3-1): Sahlman; Causevic, Koppinen (Antonsen, 61), Fojut, Kristiansen; Johansen, Bendiksen (Johnsen, 45); Moldskred, Pritchard, Drage (Andersen, 78); Ondrasek. Substitutes not used Lekstrom, Nystrom, Frantzen, Helmke.
Referee Livor Kovarik (Czech Republic).
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