Defoe makes it the season to be Jol

Tottenham Hotspur 5 - Southampton 1
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The Independent Football

The season for remembering old friends does not allow for footballing loyalties. Just when Harry Redknapp, in his second match as manager of struggling Southampton, needed a favour, Jermain Defoe produced the sort of finishing that once benefited them both at West Ham, scoring a hat-trick that confirmed the Hampshire side as serious relegation candidates. While there may be some goals in them, whether or not James Beattie is sold, the defending yesterday was dreadful, and lesser strikers than Defoe would have filled their boots.

The season for remembering old friends does not allow for footballing loyalties. Just when Harry Redknapp, in his second match as manager of struggling Southampton, needed a favour, Jermain Defoe produced the sort of finishing that once benefited them both at West Ham, scoring a hat-trick that confirmed the Hampshire side as serious relegation candidates. While there may be some goals in them, whether or not James Beattie is sold, the defending yesterday was dreadful, and lesser strikers than Defoe would have filled their boots.

For Tottenham, it was a fourth successive win, a feat last achieved in September 1995 under Gerry Francis. They conceded a first goal in almost six hours after Redknapp changed formation at half-time and wobbled very briefly, but would love, as their supporters requested, to play this sort of opposition every week.

Harry's Game, as ever, will be to wheel and deal, duck and dive, and make sure everyone knows what a difficult job he has on; this time that may be no exaggeration. His additional concern yesterday was with the ghosts of Christmases past at Upton Park, Michael Carrick, Defoe and Frédéric Kanouté all starting for Tottenham after escaping from West Ham and the Championship. Sure enough, the three of them combined to open the scoring within eight minutes and by half-time had collected three goals.

After Kevin Phillips had been crowded out in the visitors' first attack, Carrick sent a fine long ball winging down the right flank, which Danny Higginbotham could not cut out, allowing Kanouté to head for the byline. Defoe, predatory as ever, cleverly pulled away to make sufficient space for himself to drive a fierce shot high into the net.

Martin Jol has wisely decided that his three leading strikers do not fit well together except in extremis, so Robbie Keane was left on the bench with Redknapp's son, Jamie, the club captain who finds himself unable to get a game.

Redknapp senior left Beattie for the later stages of the game, not wanting to rush him back after injury despite having described him as the only Southampton outfield player who would bring in big money to fund a transfer splash in January.

Not surprisingly, many Southampton attacks ended with a chip or a thump towards the lanky Peter Crouch, who began his professional career at White Hart Lane. One nod down, after a quarter of an hour, led to Phillips having a shot deflected for a corner, from which Anders Svensson's header slid wide. That was a rare opportunity as play mainly flowed in the opposite direction, Kanouté holding the ball up well and Defoe always threatening a square defence.

In the 26th minute the little striker shot straight at a grateful Antti Niemi after Darren Kenton slipped, but the reprieve was brief. Almost immediately David Prutton slid into a tackle with Kanouté and succeeded only in knocking the ball back to Defoe, who this time placed it comfortably past the goalkeeper. Niemi then excelled in fisting Kanouté's drive over the bar, but there was no protection in front of him.

One minute before half-time the right-back Noe Pamarot headed a cross by the left-back, Thimothee Atouba, over the bar and in the next move the defence disappeared again. Higginbotham played for offside and did not get the decision - correctly, the replays proved - allowing Kanouté to move on to another adroit pass by Carrick and score the third goal.

As if to emphasise that nothing was going Southampton's way, Paul Robinson foiled their hopes of a morale-boosting reprisal immediately before the interval. Prutton advanced down the left and crossing for Crouch, whose low side-footed effort was brilliantly kept out by the goalkeeper. It would have been all the more interesting had that one gone in, because two minutes into the second half, the visiting contingent did have a goal to cheer. Ledley King skewed Prutton's high in the air and was then outjumped - as most people are - by the 6ft 7in Crouch, who nodded past a static Robinson.

Redknapp could claim some of the credit, the move having started with Jason Dodd, who he had moved to wing-back at half-time, bringing on Andreas Jakobsson as a third centre-back. But only a few minutes later Dodd's back injury forced him off the field and on the hour a fourth Tottenham goal arrived. Michael Brown won a ricochet, forcing Niemi to parry his strong shot, Defoe following in to complete the hat-trick.

Sending Keane on as well was unseasonably masochistic. He finished off the scoring from Defoe's scooped pass, the ball dribbling underneath Niemi. "Harry, Harry, what's the score?" the home support chorused. Unkind.

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