A Jermain Defoe hat-trick sealed Tottenham Hotspur’s first win in the Europa League this season as they beat NK Maribor 3-1 at White Hart Lane.
Andre Villas-Boas’ team bounced back from a disappointing loss to Wigan Athletic on Saturday and grabbed a victory that promotes them to second in Group J behind leaders Lazio.
Spurs deservedly took an early lead through Defoe but Maribor were gifted an equaliser following a horrific defensive mix-up before the break.
Defoe slotted home once more after half time and sealed his hat-trick, and the win, when he tapped in on 77 minutes.
Debate leading up to the evening kick-off surrounded the home fans’ use of the Y-word when singing about their team, which historically has a large proportion of Jewish fans.
The Society of Black Lawyers earlier this week claimed the home fans’ use of the word was racist, but a large portion of the Tottenham faithful responded with regular chats of ‘We’ll sing what we want’ and ‘Y** Army’ throughout the 90 minutes.
Attention was turned back to the football when Defoe tapped in on 21 minutes to give the home side the lead when he met Gareth Bale’s low whipped cross from the left.
It was no more than Andre Villas-Boas’ team deserved after a dominant opening period, and Defoe did well to shake off his marker and open his foot to guide the ball into the far corner.
But all of Spurs’ good work in the opening half was undone with a moment of defensive madness in the 38th minute.
Lloris spread the ball to Kyle Naughton under pressure from Maribor striker Beric and, when the left-back found himself in trouble, he attempted a blind cross-field ball back to the French keeper.
Beric was loitering and, as he closed down the international shot-stopper, he was rewarded when the ball bounced off him and into the net as Lloris’ attempted to side-step the forward.
It was a goal handed to the visitors on a plate during a half in which they barely threatened for large periods.
Ales Mertelj earlier gave Hugo Lloris a scare when his long range effort deflected off Huddlestone and looped just over the bar and, moments before the goal, Goran Cvijanovic put his header over the bar with the goal at his mercy but in open play the Slovenians struggled to break down Spurs’ defence.
Spurs’ embarrassment was spared straight after half-time though when Defoe, dropped from Roy Hodgson’s England squad earlier in the day, got his second when he latched onto Tom Carroll’s through ball and slotted into the corner.
Tottenham deservedly grabbed all three points and Defoe deservedly grabbed his hat-trick when he was on hand to tap in Bale’s ball across the six-yard box.
Adebayor, who played through Bale for Spurs’ third goal, should have earlier increased the deficit but he pulled his volley wide when he was found with Bale’s clever looped through-ball.
Tottenham’s quality going forward was epitomised by Bale, who beat Maribor’s full-backs on the left, and later in the second half, the right, with consummate ease.
The only minor criticism of the home side in the opening 45 minutes was perhaps that the front pair of Adebayor and Defoe did not latch on to more of Bale’s quality deliveries into the box.
Defoe got up well to meet Aaron Lennon’s cross but he headed straight at the Maribor goalkeeper and Bale had his headed effort cleared off line on seven minutes.
It was again Defoe with the chance when he dragged wide on the turn soon after, with Adebayor a menace playing on the back line and Bale a constant threat down the left.
There were emotional scenes at half time as a tearful Fabrice Muamba took to the pitch and revisited the spot where he suffered a near-fatal heart while playing for Bolton Wanderers at White Hart Lane in March.
On the pitch, Spurs showed why they are real contenders for a top-four finish this season and Andre Villas-Boas will no doubt take as much comfort in the manner of the performance as the result itself going into Sunday’s game against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton, Lennon (Falque, 90), Huddlestone, Carroll, Bale (Mason, 85), Defoe (Dempsey, 81), Adebayor. Subs: Cudicini, Gallas, Sigurdsson, Livermore.
Maribor: Handanovic, Milec, Rajcevic, Arghus, Mejac, Cvijanovic (Mezga, 68), Mertelj, Filipovic, Ibraimi, Tavares (Komazec, 75), Beric. Subs: Pridigar, Vidovic, Potokar, Viler, Dodlek.
Referee: Antti Munukka (Finland).
Bookings: Mejac, 37, Bale, 51, Carroll, 74.