In the shires, the doom-mongerers of middle England fret about Eastern European immigration as the EU expands; at White Hart Lane last night they had reason to be much more open-minded. Tottenham's new Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov might have cost £10.9m to bring into the country but his goalscoring debut suggested that he will prove a very welcome addition to the labour market.
The summer signing from Bayer Leverkusen scored his first Tottenham goal within seven minutes but grafted for the whole evening in what proved an accomplished introduction to White Hart Lane. He was accompanied spectacularly by England's teenage phenomenon Aaron Lennon who, in bamboozling Sheffield United's defence in the first 20 minutes, was described by Neil Warnock as "unplayable".
From Berbatov, a loping, inelegant forward whose touch and strength made the second goal for Jermaine Jenas, to the 19-year-old Lennon raiding the right wing, White Hart Lane could believe at last their season has started after the defeat to Bolton on Saturday. In Bulgaria, Berbatov was known as "the devil with a face of an angel" although, for Tottenham, last night was much closer to football heaven than the alternative.
Robbie Keane was the third key character in a dominant Tottenham performance, often dropping deep to collect possession in the first half and outmanoeuvring a Sheffield United team who, their manager conceded, were at times "overawed".
Warnock lost Rob Hulse, Paul Ifill and Derek Geary to injury yesterday morning and after the euphoria of a draw against Liverpool on Saturday, the realities of the Premiership came crashing down on his side.
Banished from the touchline, Warnock admitted that his two-way radio with his assistant, Stuart McCall, was barely functioning and after 17 minutes McCall may have been tempted to mime helplessness to the stands: there seemed to be little he could do to halt the pitiless tide of Tottenham attacks. "We gave two goals away and some people might have thought we were in for double figures," Warnock said. "But in the second half we got back in the game."
Destruction came down their left flank, delivered by Lennon, a speedy, twisting sprite who gave Chris Armstrong two chances to tackle him in the seventh minute. Twice he wriggled away and squared the ball for Berbatov to tap home his first Premiership goal from a yard. In the 17th minute, Keane struck a long ball from the left that Berbatov nodded down from above David Unsworth into the path of Jenas. The England midfielder took one touch to flick the ball over the grounded Paddy Kenny and another to ease it into the net.
Berbatov, Jol admitted, had realised the different challenges the English game presented, adjusted himself accordingly after defeat to Bolton and "showed his class". There was no place in the team for Jermain Defoe who is carrying a minor foot injury but showed no discomfort when he came on for the last nine minutes and struck two shots that Kenny did well to keep out.
Warnock said that his side had a strong claim for a penalty when Teemu Tainio brought down David Sommeil in the area. "It's a learning process the Premier League and one or two of our players were looking around and not concentrating," he conceded. The Sheffield United manager did claim he was missing the one player capable of containing Lennon - and that was Ifill - although in this form it was difficult to agree.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Lee, Dawson, Davenport, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Davids, Jenas, Tainio (Zokora, 69); Berbatov, Keane (Defoe, 81). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Stalteri, Gardner.
Sheffield United (5-4-1): Kenny; Sommeil (Montgomery, 60), Bromby, Morgan, Unsworth (Nade, 60), Armstrong; Gillespie (Quinn, 80), Tonge, Jagielka, Webber; Akinbiyi. Substitutes not used: Kozluk, Leigertwood.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).Reuse content