Reading 1 Tottenham 3: Lessons as AVB registers first Spurs victory
Reading 1 Tottenham 3: What did we learn as Andre Villas-Boas secured his first victory as Spurs manger against the Royals?
Focus on the goalkeepers at the Madejski
For both Brian McDermott and Andre Villas-Boas, the debate around their respective goalkeeping options continued to rage ahead of their clash at the Madejski Stadium. The Reading boss opted to drop Adam Federici following a string of mistakes upon the Royals’ return to the top flight, bringing in Under-21 England international Alex McCarthy for his Premier League debut. Despite some shaky moments, the 22-year-old produced an assured performance, epitomised by an early double save to deny Gareth Bale and Gylfi Sigurdsson in quick succession. He was powerless to prevent Jermain Defoe’s superb double and Bale’s scuffed effort, but that aside, Federici could be set for a permanent spell in the side. Meanwhile, Hugo Lloris watched his second successive Tottenham game from the bench as Villas-Boas persevered with veteran shot-stopper Brad Friedel, who was denied his 134th clean sheet in the Premier League by Hal Robson-Kanu’s late consolation. The £12m signing from Lyon is reportedly unhappy at playing second fiddle to his American team-mate, but the Tottenham manager was understandably reluctant to drop the in-form 41-year-old and risk the France captain in a combative away fixture.
Defoe continues to keep Adebayor out
Many Tottenham supporters were dismayed to see the popular Harry Redknapp get the chop at White Hart Lane in June, but for Jermain Defoe, it has prompted a welcome run of first-team football. Emmanuel Adebayor’s permanent switch to Spurs appeared to spell further time on the substitutes’ bench for Defoe. But Villas-Boas, never one to shy away from a contentious selection decision, has stuck with the in-form England striker – and thus far, the move has paid dividends. The 29-year-old netted his second goal of the season in the 18th minute, latching onto Aaron Lennon’s cross and steering his finish into the left corner of Reading’s net. Minutes later, Defoe came close to scoring a wondrous second after superbly controlling a long-range pass by flicking it over a Reading defender before just guiding an effort the wrong side of McCarthy’s post. The diminutive forward was everywhere, and on the half-hour mark, he intercepted Ian Harte’s wayward pass and promptly rounded McCarthy before teeing up Sigurdsson, who was unable to net his first Spurs goal against his former club. Defoe was rewarded for his endeavour with a superb solo strike in the 82nd minute, collecting the ball in the middle of the park, out-pacing Kaspars Gorkšs, and wrapping up three points with a calm finish. A sullen-looking Adebayor could be set for a role reversal this season if Defoe continues in such clinical form.
Reading struggle to cope with Spurs
Reading and Southampton are already the early-season favourites to be relegated from the Premier League. The Saints have conceded 14 goals, although Nigel Adkins rightly pointed to a demanding set of fixtures against Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal. The Royals haven’t quite hit the same defensive lows as the south coast club, but McDermott will be concerned by the eight goals his side have shipped so far. Spurs ruthlessly exposed Reading’s rearguard which appeared to lack clear communication and at times were the architects of their own misersy following a series of sloppy passes. Former Leeds United defender Harte is the only member of Reading’s back four with top-flight experience, and it showed as Bale, Defoe, Sigurdsson and Lennon were constantly on the move to drag McDermott’s back four out of position. Even Harte looked off the pace with a casual back-pass leading to a goal scoring opportunity for Defoe. Reading also struggled to trouble Tottenham up front, with Pavel Pogrebnyak isolated and deprived of service. It could be a long season for the Royals.
Bale’s barren run ends
Bale has been living off his sparkling form in the 2010-11 campaign for over a season now as the Wales international failed to maintain the high standards he set during his breakthrough campaign. Still only 23, the winger is evolving in Tottenham’s side and patience is needed with the often brilliant but occasionally inconsistent Bale. He has struggled in 2012, with his last Premier League goal coming against Wigan Athletic on 31 January. Villas-Boas will be keen to get the Southampton youth graduate scoring on a more regular basis, and Bale ended his 19-game drought in the English top flight with a fortuitous strike on Sunday. Kyle Walker’s series of step overs bamboozled the home defence, before the right-back picked out Bale, who swung for the ball with right foot but a deflection off his mercurial left looped the ball over McCarthy to give Spurs a two-goal cushion. The challenge for Bale will be stay amongst the goals.