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By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent, at the Lamex Stadium
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Pre-season friendly: Stevenage 0 Tottenham 2
Andre Villas-Boas made a winning start to his pre-season campaign tonight, with Tottenham’s new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson hitting the opener 10 minutes after coming off the bench.
Spurs made a slow start to life under their new head coach, struggling to find their rhythm or create openings in a dull first half.
But the visitors were much improved after the break, with Andros Townsend taking full advantage of his chance to impress by setting up Sigurdsson for the breakthrough in the 65th minute, before Sigurdsson and Adam Smith combined to set up Yago Falque for a late second.
Villas-Boas’ first line-up included David Bentley, Jermaine Jenas and Steven Pienaar, who had all fallen out of favour under Harry Redknapp.
With the only current first-team striker, Jermain Defoe, still away on holiday following Euro 2012, Harry Kane was given an early chance to impress up front.
Meanwhile, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto still absent due to the shoulder injury which curtailed the end to his last campaign, and Danny Rose away with Team GB, Kyle Naughton started out of position at left-back.
This was the start of the Villas-Boas era following a summer of changes behind the scenes and alterations to the squad – but there was initially very little evidence of anything different on the field.
Spurs lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation which Harry Redknapp had often favoured, with Jenas and Jake Livermore operating in deeper-lying midfield roles behind Pienaar, Bentley and Aaron Lennon.
Missing Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and their star strikers, Tottenham struggled to retain possession or create chances, and passes frequently went astray.
Indeed, the first half of tonight’s friendly was very reminiscent of last season’s turgid FA Cup tie on the same ground – when Spurs had also struggled to produce their best football without Modric in a goalless draw.
It took 25 minutes for the Lilywhites to create a chance of note as Pienaar, who was one of the more impressive and industrious Tottenham players, appeared to get away with a foul on Anthony Grant before cutting infield from the left.
The South African freed Kane, who was all alone inside the box, and the England Under-19 international had all the time in the world to take a touch and unleash a powerful drive, which was well saved by former Spurs goalkeeper Chris Day.
Villas-Boas made seven changes at the interval, introducing his two new signings Jan Vertonghen and Sigurdsson as well as Brad Friedel, William Gallas, Sebastien Bassong and youngsters Tom Carroll and Townsend.
Carroll replaced Livermore as a holding midfielder alongside Jenas, while Townsend came on the left of the offensive trio and Sigurdsson took up his role in the centre of the three.
Spurs were markedly improved after the interval, and with 53 minutes gone 20-year-old Carroll unleashed a 20-yard drive which Day had to claw behind for a corner.
Two minutes Tottenham were ahead, with Sigurdsson opening his account for his new club just 10 minutes after entering the fray.
Townsend wriggled to the by-line and got around the back, pulling the ball back to Spurs’ new £8million man, who took a touch and fired low into the far corner.
It was nearly 2-0 shortly afterwards as the lively Townsend hared onto Carroll’s inch-perfect ball over the top, raced into the box and teed up Kane, who fired wastefully over.
Villas-Boas made four more changes on the hour-mark, with Tom Huddlestone making a long-awaited return from injury, while Smith, Falque and Souleymane Coulibaly were also given a chance to show their talent.
This was a much-improved display to the first half, with more pace and better possession.
Townsend created another chance for Coulibaly, whose shot trickled across goal – and Sigurdsson then turned and released the 17-year-old Ivorian striker, who hit the target this time from six yards and forced Day to save with his feet at the near post.
Spurs sealed a comfortable victory late on as Sigurdsson found Smith, who put Falque through one on one against his defender, and the Spaniard attacked the box before seing a deflected effort wrong-foot Day and roll into the bottom left corner.
Tottenham first half: Cudicini (Friedel 45), Walker Kaboul, Dawson, Naughton, Livermore, Jenas, Bentley, Lennon, Pienaar, Kane
Second half: Friedel, Walker (Smith 61), Gallas, Vertonghen, Bassong, Jenas (Huddlestone 61), Carroll, Townsend, Sigurdsson, Lennon (Falque 61), Kane (Coulibaly 61)
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs