Pete Jenson: Adebayor's fresh start means hard work, short hair – and vital goals

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The Independent Football

Almost two years to the night that Emmanuel Adebayor scissor-kicked the best goal of his career past Villarreal keeper Diego Lopez for Arsenal in the Champions League quarter-finals, he scored two of his most important goals to beat his former team's north London rivals here last night.

If the Manchester City loanee is to make his stay in Spain permanent he needs to score vital goals and his strike after four minutes put them in firm control of the tie and the one he added in the second half was crucial both for him and his team.

Adebayor likes playing Tottenham. He has now scored 10 goals against them in 13 games and eight of those came in nine games wearing an Arsenal shirt. He and Peter Crouch appeared to have been charged with picking each other up at corners last night. Immediately after Crouch had failed to stop Adebayor heading Real Madrid in front, the Togo striker was clearing a corner at the other end. And it was not long before there was only one big centre-forward left on the pitch.

That volley at Villarreal's Madrigal Stadium on 7 April 2009 should have been the moment Adebayor became one of Europe's top strikers, but it was another false start in his career. Real Madrid might represent his last chance to fulfil the potential Arsène Wenger spotted when he signed him in 2006.

"The club is in a perfect situation because the price for Adebayor is already agreed," said the Real coach, Jose Mourinho, after successfully landing the player on loan in January. "We now have him until the end of the season and we can make a decision then."

The smart money is on them sending him back to City but if he gets the goals that take Mourinho to the final at Wembley then his coach may well fight for him to stay and this summer, unlike last year, the Portuguese will have full control over who comes and who goes at the club.

Adebayor should have added to his tally as he terrorised his former team-mate William Gallas and Michael Dawson. He headed one Mesut Özil cross over the bar and had another shot blocked by Dawson when the ball was pulled back to him by Marcelo, who had been better placed to shoot. He then headed Marcelo's cross past Heurelho Gomes after 57 minutes to seal the victory.

He ran tirelessly and it is his work-rate, so questioned at City, that will set Mourinho thinking that maybe Adebayor will be worth keeping beyond the summer. Mourinho had warned the Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, that they should not enter the final stages of this season with just two strikers and last night he was proved right.

With Karim Benzema out with a thigh strain picked up on international duty for France and Gonzalo Higuain only just back from a three month lay-off, there were no other options and despite a poor performance in the defeat to Sporting Gijon at the weekend Adebayor had to start.

After hitting the ground running when he arrived in January, he had not scored since cutting off his famous dreadlocks last month. "I knew I'd never make it here if I didn't," was his slightly strange justification for the change of look. Desperate to impress off the pitch as well as on it, Adebayor has also made a point of not threatening the dressing-room accord.

Last night he was at the heart of the side's harmony on the pitch, leaning back into his former Arsenal captain Gallas and bringing his team-mates into play. With Tottenham stretched by being a man down, they struggled to cope with the movement of Ozil, Angel di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo, with flying left-back Marcelo also joining the attacks freely.

After the weekend's disappointment Mourinho had kept his players behind to give a rousing "the season is not over" speech and his players responded last night. "I have not been surprised by Tottenham this season at all," Adebayor had said in the run-up to the game. "I played against them on the first day of the season and said in the dressing room after the game I said 'this team are going to be serious contenders this season.'" He never found his place in that Mancester City dressing room, but last night he was the toast of the Real Madrid one.

Ray of light? How Wilkins' commentary made him king of Twitter

For many TV viewers, Ray Wilkins was the anti-hero of last night. His Sky commentary drove him up the trending list on Twitter as viewers lamented his lack of balance and clumsy phrase-making.

Most perplexing was his repeated instruction to Spurs players to "stay on their feet". These were so frequent it seemed as if Wilkins believed the Spurs players could hear his instructions. Rio Ferdinand felt moved to joke on Twitter: "Got the volume off mute for 15mins.... just told the masseur to #stayonyourfeet while giving me a rub or ray will go bananas!!"

Wilkins also spent the evening referring to Tottenham, for whom he never played, in the first person. This surprising partisanship prompted Jack Wilshere to ask: "Think Ray Wilkins is a Spurs fan???"

One man willing to breach conventional wisdom, though, was Carlton Cole. "Ray Wilkins is cracking me up with some of his quotes," Cole admitted. "What a ledge."

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