Roberto Soldado was a surprise inclusion in Tottenham Hotspur’s travelling party to Norway as Spurs strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe escaped Europa League duty. It was an insight into Tottenham manager’s first-team thoughts for the clash against Manchester United on Sunday despite Andre Villas-Boas’ protestations that Adebayor had a slight niggle and Defoe had a record of injuries on synthetic pitches. Nevertheless, it was a chance for Soldado to discover his finishing touch. However, once again, the 28-year-old had little service of note as Spurs were unimaginative and too narrow. When Nacer Chadli or Andros Townsend did beat their opposing full-backs, the pair opted against a first-time cross and checked back – to the clear frustration of the £27.5m summer signing. It rendered Soldado’s instinctive movement ineffectual as Tromso centre-halves were allowed to recover their positions. When Townsend finally found the former Valencia man with a first-time ball, Soldado teed up Sigurdsson, only for the referee to penalise the striker for a handball. It summed up the Spaniard’s miserable night in Norway.
Villas-Boas fielded a relatively strong Tottenham side containing the likes of Mousa Dembélé, Etienne Capoue, Michael Dawson and Soldado. But the standout performer was Gylfi Sigurdsson. Hailing from Iceland, the 24-year-old is no stranger to icy conditions and provided the attacking thrust which this Spurs side desperately needs. Sigurdsson created Tottenham’s best chance of the first half as he threaded a pass into the feet of Chadli but the Belgian failed to control his subsequent shot, which flew over the Tromso crossbar. He had better luck after the break. The former Swansea midfielder created the opener as his free-kick was deflected into the Tromso goal by Adnan Сausevic. Sigurdsson also played a role in Tottenham’s second as he carved upon the opposition defence with a bright run before teeing up Dembélé. Villas-Boas substituted the Icelandic midfielder with 10 minutes remaining – and should he start against United, it will be deserved. With Christian Eriksen currently sidelined with an ankle injury, Sigurdsson has shuffled to the front of the queue to occupy the No10 role in the Dane’s absence.
Tottenham travelled to Norway knowing that they were facing a no-win situation. Fresh from successive Premier League defeats, including a 6-0 thrashing at Manchester City, Villas-Boas was coming under increasing pressure after spending over £100m on new players in the summer. Anything other than a rout at Tromso would be deemed unsatisfactory, while even an emphatic win would be viewed as normal service for a squad of such rich quality. The Norwegian side proved to be resilient opponents despite their recent relegation as stuttering Spurs failed to dust off the icicles and terrorise the Tromso defence, particularly in the first half. With a demanding December schedule, Villas-Boas wanted to secure top spot with a game to spare. And the north London side achieve their end goal, although it was thanks to Adnan Сausevic’s second-half own goal and Moussa Dembele’s late strike – and not a resounding win. The Spurs boss has toyed with the idea of reverting from a 4-5-1 formation, and the 36-year-old should consider doing so if he is to re-jig his side.
ENHANCED ODDS: Get Italy, Netherlands and Belgium to win at 14/1