Anzhi Makhachkala 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Tottenham: Defoe 34’, Chadli 40’
Man of the match: Lewis Holtby (Tottenham)
For two clubs who have recently lost prized assets, Anzhi Makhachkala and Tottenham Hotspur could scarcely be more different.
From divergent financial models to contrasting consequences, their meeting was a clash of clubs heading in opposite directions.
Spurs are on the up, second in the Premier League and making serene progress in the Europa League. A radical overhaul was rendered possible by Gareth Bale’s £85 million (Dh505m) move to Real Madrid. Yet while he is the world’s most expensive player for a few, surreal years, Anzhi were deemed its richest club.
Then the money dried up, a firesale began and reality has ravaged a small club from Dagestan. Having let Samuel Eto’o and Willian leave, they are at the bottom of the Russian Premier League. Whereas last year they defeated Liverpool at home in Europe, an inarguably more inferior group of players were comfortably beaten by Tottenham.
Not that Spurs needed to be at full strength. Bale’s transfer to the Bernabeu allowed them to invest £109m over the summer, but two of the principal arrivals, Roberto Soldado and Paulinho, were not required while a third, Christian Eriksen, only made a brief cameo.
Instead, Spurs showed the depth of their squad while their cup specialist Jermain Defoe pressed his case to displace Soldado from the Premier League team. The Englishman has only started four games this season, all in knockout competitions, but has nevertheless scored seven goals. With predatory awareness, he opened the scoring.
The common denominator in the goals was another who, though he has only been at White Hart Lane for nine months, almost qualifies as one of the old guard. With the summer influx of midfielders – and Bale’s departure helped fund the arrival of a diverse, but gifted, quartet – it has been easy to overlook a cheaper January acquisition.
Lewis Holtby is on the fringes of the Premier League team, demoted by the recruitment of a rather more glamorous playmaker in Eriksen, but the German twice illustrated his ability with defence-splitting passes.
The first found Defoe, who lifted his shot into the roof of the net. The second was chipped into the path of the overlapping Kyle Walker, who squared for Nacer Chadli to finish. And that was that in an uneventful game.
Anzhi manager Gadzhi Gadzhiyev – Guus Hiddink was another to leave when Anzhi suddenly started cutting costs – brought on his fit-again, £15 million forward, Lacina Traore. It merely allowed the lanky Ivorian to put himself in the shop window.
Because, whereas Tottenham find themselves better positioned for the future, Anzhi’s looks bleak. Having come from nowhere, suddenly and swiftly, it looks as though they bought a return ticket. It is all they can afford nowadays.