No bite from Wolfsberger as stylish Spurs advance in Europa League
Tottenham Hotspur 4 Wolfsberger AC 0
Tottenham eased into the Europa League Round of 16 with an expected victory over Wolfsberger.
A terrific overhead kick in 10 minutes by Dele Alli, a second half double by Carlos Vinicius and a strike by substitute Gareth Bale, saw off the Austrians, after a 4-1 first leg success. Tonight’s cruise was, at the very least, a welcome diversion for the Londoners, currently in a slump, falling down the Premier League table and out of the FA Cup.
Europe however, may be a different matter altogether, representing an outside possibility of success. That does of course depend on a big slab of the famous Jose Mourinho optimism and a resurgence of form, particularly as Wolfsberger were among the more modest of opponents. Sterner tests are guaranteed to follow. Ajax, Villarreal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Manchester United, Rangers and Leicester City are all expected to join Tottenham in these latter stages. Perhaps Arsenal, too, with Spurs’ local rivals in action at home to Benfica tomorrow.
There may not have been a number of stellar names in the hosts’ starting line-up, such as Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Bale. However it was still a surprising selection, considering the handsome advantage from that corresponding fixture, with Mourinho pointing out that next month will see many players featuring in as many as a dozen games at both club and international level.
Could it be that the Portuguese had this encounter in mind in order to restore a collective confidence, following a recent slump which has seen the north Londoners claim just 12 points from a possible 36? Momentum too, as the Spurs boss reasserted his vow that the Europa League is a competition his men can win. Quite an assertion, considering Tottenham’s alarming descent to ninth place in the Premier League table.
Unsurprisingly, Tottenham sensed the prospect of making capital against the visitors, who finished third in the Austrian Bundesliga last season. Steven Bergwijn hastily shot wide with the first real chance for the hosts in six minutes – but the wait for a breakthrough shortly arrived in sublime style.
Bergwijn picked up possession on the left of Wolfsberger’s penalty area, before the ball was threaded across the box to Matt Doherty, via Alli. The full back clipped in a good cross and, from around 14 yards out, Alli composed himself in front of Dominik Baumgartner before despatching the scissors kick which crept past keeper Manuel Kuttin into the corner of the net.
This settled Tottenham – and a satisfied-looking Mourinho on the sidelines – and they began to assert more control, with Dutchman Bergwijn at the heart of most attacks. Yet Spurs grew mainly comfortable rather than clinical in possession; their best opportunity of doubling the lead came a few moments before the break when Vinicius, having rounded Kuttin, had his effort clipped off the line by the vigilant Gustav Henriksson. The manager would have had, though, few complaints.
Spurs doubled their lead five minutes after the restart – with a goal casually executed from the training ground. Vinicius, who was, like Bergwijn, working particularly hard, evaded the attention of Lucas Lochoshvili at the back post to nod home an angled Alli cross from the left.
With complete comfort in possession and dictating the tempo, Erik Lamale then went close with a drive which cannoned off the knee of Kuttin with Tottenham looking to supply some additional gloss.
As for Wolfsberger? A low shot in 62 minutes by Dejan Joveljic, easily scooped up by Joe Hart, was as close as Ferdinard Feldhofer’s side came to scoring.
Mourinho freshened things up midway inside the second half, sending on Bale for Lamela and Lucas Moura for Bergwijn. Bale, as it transpired, took just five minutes to add a classy third.
Again, a quality construction, with Alli the provider – and the Welshman, bursting past Jonathan Scherzer into the box, curled a first time shot with his left foot past the keeper. The finish was admirable in its’ simplicity; a reflection on a performance of comfort and complete control that was to be expected overall.
Wolfsberger tired in the latter stages and the luckless Henriksson was guilty for facilitating Tottenham’s fourth – and final – goal. With seven minutes left, Benfica loanee Vinicius helped himself when the defender lost possession the edge of his own penalty area, before despatching a fine left foot strike, leaving Kuttin with no chance.
They may have their issues elsewhere, but in the Europa League, Tottenham are getting their business done.
Tottenham Hotspur: Hart, Doherty (Lavinier 74), Alderweireld, Dier, Davies, Sissoko , Winks, Lamela (Bale 68), Alli (Scarlett 80), Bergwijn (Moura 68), Vinicius