Portsmouth 0 Tottenham 2

Own goal turns the tide on south coast as Tottenham set off on right course
Click to follow

That they collected only their second opening day win for nine years and did so without the injured Dutch midfielder, but with a busy, clever performance from Jermain Defoe, will have added to their sense of satisfaction and the frustration of Alain Perrin, whose team ultimately lacked any cutting edge.

The French do not have a happy history in Portsmouth - Trafalgar and all that - but Perrin, the former Marseilles manager, and his recruits, Laurent Robert and Grégory Vignal, are more than capable. But how he needs a striker, a replacement for the departed Yakubu Aiyegbeni.

Perrin knows it. "We were not strong enough," he shrugged. He admitted he has missed out on another Frenchman, Peguy Lyundula, who is set to join Auxerre, and desperately needs an experienced striker and an attacking midfielder. He and his coaches will spread across Europe this week to watch the international matches and hope to secure at least one replacement. It will be his most important signing.

There were six debutants in his league of nations as Portsmouth continue their unspoken purge of Harry Redknapp's squad with just one first-choice survivor - the new captain Dejan Stefanovic - from this time last season. There was just one Englishman. Unfortunately it was Andy Griffin who, trying to dispossess Mido, poked the ball beyond his own goalkeeper and into the net on the stroke of half-time to give Spurs an undeserved lead.

Before then, Portsmouth, with Robert's precision from the flanks, were the more threatening. Martin Jol, Spurs' head coach, recognised that. But he also, tellingly, spoke of the "professional job" his young team then went on to complete. "If we can have a solid performance defensively and we can win games, I think we can do better," he said.

The inference was that they had ground out the away win, the kind of thing they failed to do last season. Too many times, Jol said, his team had dominated without winning. It was time for change.

There was little sign of early cohesion even if his plans were stymied by the injuries to Davids, Robbie Keane and, in particular, Ledley King. In the latter's absence Anthony Gardner appeared hesitant, especially against the pace of Lomano LuaLua. In one first-half incident he bundled into the striker in the area. It was not a penalty but it was an unnecessary risk.

That was during Portsmouth's dominance. But for all their momentum they failed to create enough openings and they failed to anticipate Robert's guile. Also leaden was Spurs' Wayne Routledge, who should have taken advantage after just three minutes when the ball rebounded to him off the disappointing John Viafara. Instead, the winger thrashed his shot against the legs of goalkeeper Sander Westerveld.

It was Defoe who had sent Mido away for the first goal and it was the England striker who sealed the game in the second half. Before that, Vignal had Paul Robinson scrambling with a low, 35-yard shot that skimmed off the turf and Erik Edman almost turned a teasing Robert cross into his own net.

Then, as Spurs broke out, Mido sent the ball hopefully forward. Defoe scampered on to it and although he was running away from goal, on the angle of the area, he was able to wrap his left foot around the ball, and with Westerveld stranded, he beat the two retreating Portsmouth defenders. It was an excellent execution. "But that is Jermain," Jol said. "It's the difference between him and other players." And it was the difference between these two sides.

Portsmouth were drained of belief. Collins Mbesuma, a young striker from South Africa with a boxer's build, drove one chance straight at Robinson in the embers of the game but before then Defoe could have had two more. Now the bandwagon will gather pace. "They do it every year," Jol said of the pundits who rank his club as capable of a top-six finish. "But I really believe we have a team now."