It may have been their first pre-season warm-up back on home soil, designed to give as many players as possible a run-out. But Harry Redknapp must have been relieved last night that it was only a friendly rather than Tottenham's Champions League debut.
After watching a makeshift Spurs side dispatched by Spanish opponents who were classy but hardly world-beaters, Redknapp will be looking for considerably more sharpness and cohesion as he considers how to meet the new Premier League requirement of 25-man squads.
Not too much should be read into last night's error-strewn display since no fewer than eight first-teamers were missing, either rested or nursing long-term injuries or short-term knocks. But as an exercise in building momentum following their recent US tour, there were few signs of encouragement ahead of a campaign that starts against Manchester City on 14 August before that eagerly awaited Champions League qualifier a few days later.
Jermain Defoe was back after his post-World Cup break, along with England colleagues Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson. It would not be fair to single them out but none rose above the mediocrity. Villarreal, who finished seventh in La Liga, may not be among the most illustrious names in Spain but have just won themselves a place in the Europa League at the expense of Mallorca, banned by Uefa due to financial irregularities pending an appeal.
With their European-style 4-1-4-1 formation, they provided a stern test and struck with venom on the counterattack as all good Continental sides do. By half-time, the former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi had given them a two-goal cushion with his still-sweet left foot.
Having already lost Jermaine Jenas through injury, Redknapp made a string of further changes, notably including Giovani Dos Santos. The Mexican, farmed out on loan last season but such a threat for his country at the World Cup, had a point to prove and reduced the deficit on 56 minutes just after Nico Kranjcar's rifling effort was disallowed for offside.
Rossi responded by duly completing his hat-trick and Marco Ruben added a fourth but Redknapp, for whom worrying injuries are already stacking up, refused to chastise his players, instead attacking the schedule. "Villarreal were excellent, far better than us," he said.
"But I didn't want this game, it was far too quick. It's not an excuse but we've just come back from a gruelling trip and everyone is waking up at 3am. The schedule is just crazy. It's pre-season and the last thing we need right now are games. We should be on the training pitch working." Instead, Spurs play Benfica in Lisbon on Tuesday.
Tottenham Hotpsur (4-4-2): Gomes (Button, h-t); Hutton (Walker, h-t), Dawson (Bassong, h-t), Corluka, Naughton (Assou-Ekotto, h-t); Kranjcar (Taarabt, 80), Huddlestone (Parrett, 78), Jenas (Rose, 18), Lennon (Bale, h-t); Keane (Crouch, h-t), Defoe (Giovani, h-t).
Villarreal (4-1-4-1): D Lopez (Oliva); A Lopez (Gaspar), Catala (Castellani, 86), Musacchio (Valero), Oriol; Senna (Ruben); Cani (Montero), Fuster (Kiko), Soriano (Insa, 78), Cazorla (Cristobal); Rossi (Perez, 78).Reuse content