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19 Aug 2011

Tottenham showed no signs of rustiness in their first competitive game of the season as they demolished Hearts in their Europa League play-off first leg.

Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring on five minutes when he slotted in after Hearts failed to clear.

Jermain Defoe and Jake Livermore added similar goals with Van der Vaart involved in good build-up play.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon then completed the rout when they scored on the counter attack.

There could have been more goals for Harry Redknapp's side with Defoe also hitting the bar in the first half despite being flagged offside.

But the performance showed that rather than suffering from a lack of meaningful action after their Premier League match against Everton was cancelled because of riots in north London, they had a real appetite to get their season up and running.

The goals from five different scorers came on a night when Spurs were hampered by injury, but they passed the ball around with ease in a dominant display.

It may be stretching it to say the victory showed they would be able to cope without midfielder Luka Modric, who has been linked with Chelsea, such was the lack of bite from the hosts.

Yet the emergence of Livermore, alongside Niko Kranjcar, will give watching supporters reason to think the future is bright.

All evening the hosts struggled to pick up Van der Vaart, who was playing behind Defoe and had a hand in all three first-half goals.

His influence dictated the tempo of their attacks, yet once Spurs had taken a two-goal lead the game was shorn of its edge and gaps appeared all over the park.

Bale had already looked menacing down the left before Spurs went ahead and the goals before the break all began on that flank.

Defoe cut in to play a one-two with Van der Vaart but when the ball bounced off a defender and Marius Zaliukas failed to clear, it dropped to the Dutchman, who calmly finished.

Next it was Kranjcar who found Van der Vaart, and when he slipped the ball to Livermore, the 21-year-old created space for Defoe to prod home.

Livermore then crowned a fine display when he scored his first Tottenham goal, with Van der Vaart again the architect and Defoe playing the final pass.

The first meaningful effort by Paulo Sergio's side came on 38 minutes when Ryan Stevenson cut in from the left and fired wide of the post.

But despite the gulf in class between the two teams, the newly-appointed Portuguese coach will have been disappointed by Hearts' lack of pressure on the ball.

They rallied briefly after half-time when a succession of corners created some cheer for the home supporters who had began the game in good voice.

Twice Michael Dawson cleared, however, and when Andy Driver's goal-bound cross was diverted over by Stevenson, it summed up a miserable night for the Scottish team.

Just after the hour, Bale collected Benoit Assou Ekotto's lofted pass to round Marian Kello and put the second leg next Thursday beyond all doubt.

Lennon then added the gloss when he tucked in Defoe's cross after a smart pass on the counter attack by substitute Andros Townsend.

Hearts boss Paulo Sergio: "In the first half we played like someone buying a ticket to watch the match. We didn't press the ball and if you give spaces like that to Tottenham it makes it difficult.

"We improved in the second and we were more aggressive on the ball. There is a huge difference in quality between the two teams but we should have done better in the first half."

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp: "The first half was fantastic. We moved the ball around quickly and that how I like to see us play. They came out second half stronger but in that first half we could have been even further in front. I just enjoyed watching us play. Niko Kranjcar and Rafael van der Vaart, their link-up play was great.

"You have to be fair and realistic, we have obviously got better quality players who earn a lot more than their players. We go to Old Trafford on Monday and we will see a different game."

Source: bbc.co.uk

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