Aaron Lennon seals Tottenham's brutal breaking of Hearts

If Tottenham Hotspur had any reservations about an away tie in the Europa League before they head for a Premier League match at Old Trafford on Monday, Heart of Midlothian were present to ease all their cares.

Aaron Lennon seals Tottenham's brutal breaking of Hearts The visitors aided themselves by sending out a fairly strong line-up but this fixture was a slapstick version of the great contests that used to loom over the nation when teams from either side of the border confronted one another.

The Tottenham manager had all the assets he needed. Luka Modric, the subject of Chelsea interest, took no part but he was carrying an injury and this was a fixture when there was no cause whatsoever for Harry Redknapp to take any sort of risk with him. There was no possible jeopardy at Tynecastle.

Hearts suffered the heaviest defeat of their European history. They have in the Portuguese Paulo Sérgio a manager appointed shortly after the start of the campaign, with Jim Jefferies sacked despite having taken them through an earlier round in this competition. The club's owner, Vladimir Romanov, has no history of patience but the impoverishment of Scottish football goes beyond Hearts.

While this match was in progress, Rangers were losing at NK Maribor and Celtic were held to a goalless draw at home by FC Sion. These are issues of no consequence to outsiders. Redknapp, indeed, would have relished an evening when Niko Kranjcar excelled and so hinted at a certain depth in the Tottenham squad.

All the same the manager is unlikely to deviate from his pre-match comments about wishing to sign players. That is part of his nature, no matter how much he relished watching the 21-year-old Jake Livermore notch his first goal for the club. This was certainly the night and the place for an individual to make his breakthrough.

The victors indeed wound down in the latter part of the rout. The exhaustion of mind and body belonged solely to the victims. The fiery challenge to Tottenham that had been anticipated dreamily by the hosts was never presented. The most noticeable impact from the crowd was the scorn shown by the Tottenham supporters when the lead went to 2-0 in the 13th minute. "Are you West Ham in disguise?" they inquired in a traditional sort of sneer.

That was ritualistic insult and also misguided. West Ham, even after relegation, are still a club of means that Hearts can barely envisage. The supposition was that there would be a spirit at Tynecastle that would somehow arm the hosts. If that were to happen, though, Hearts had to avoid falling behind early in the encounter.

Tottenham took the lead and, in effect, settled the outcome with four minutes gone. The ball broke off the Hearts centre-half Marius Zaliukas and then struck the hand of Rafael van der Vaart before he converted the chance. The contact was unintentional even if the goal did carry his fingerprints.

By half-time Tottenham led 3-0. Their second came from Jermain Defoe after he had been set up by an uncontainable Van der Vaart. The Dutchman also linked with Aaron Lennon to let Livermore add the third. Tottenham would have been satisfied, too, that they had taken little out of themselves before the fixture with Manchester United.

That, in itself, should not indicate that the Europa League as a whole will go on being a secondary consideration to Tottenham. There is little sense to the theory that this competition should barely matter to Redknapp. The tournament can gradually take on significance for the club, all the more so if they are still in Europa League action next spring.

Hearts, for their part, would have found this night distressing. At the interval, Dave Mackay, a great midfielder of both clubs' past, told the crowd that he wished he was playing. The hosts needed a footballer of his standing more and the larger issue lies in the scarcity of such players at the level in which clubs such as Hearts now find themselves.

A fourth goal came when Younes Kaboul released Gareth Bale, with the Welshman rounding Marian Kello before tucking the ball into the unattended net after 63 minutes. That ease reflected the nature of the night all too faithfully.

A generous account would claim that Sérgio's men had been fragile because they overrated themselves when supposing they could carry the play to Tottenham. If so, Hearts had far too great a conception of themselves. The visitors had carried out a thoroughly professional job to guarantee that one task in this campaign is already completed.

Even so, they added a fifth goal after smooth play by Livermore and Defoe left Lennon to finish in the 76th minute. Only then did Tottenham relent but Hearts will not feel they had been shown any mercy.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Kevin McCarra at Tynecastle, for The Guardian on Thursday 18th August 2011 21.51 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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