England striker Jermain Defoe scored twice as Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed their first victory under Andre Villas-Boas courtesy of a 3-1 Premier League win away to Reading on Sunday.
Spurs had drawn two and lost one of their three previous league matches this term under Villas-Boas and doubts were starting to surface at White Hart Lane as to whether the Portuguese, sacked by London rivals Chelsea before they won the UEFA Champions League last season, was the right man to replace the popular Harry Redknapp.
However, an early goal from Defoe helped settle the nerves of the traveling fans, although it was not until the 71st minute, when Gareth Bale made it 2-0, that Spurs could start to relax.
“It was a well-deserved win,” Villas-Boas told the BBC. “Everyone performed to their top level and it is a win that will lift us up for the season. We created lots of chances and the second goal gave us the stability. It was a good solid performance from everybody.”
“Jermain is showing his abilities, the amount of shots he has on target is amazing,” he said. “Every player improves through time and as the lone striker up front, he is linking well with the colleagues.”
Defoe gave Spurs an 18th-minute lead at the Madejski Stadium when he stroked in a pull-back from Aaron Lennon after a burst down the right flank by the winger.
Spurs, who climbed several places to 10th in the table, nearly had a second goal when an error by novice goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, dwelling on the ball in the box, saw him dispossessed by Defoe. Defoe cut the ball back for Gylfi Sigurdsson, but the Iceland international was denied on the line by Alex Pearce.
At halftime, Premier League newcomers Reading, who remained second bottom with just one point from three matches, could consider themselves fortunate to be only 1-0 down, but with such a slender deficit, the Royals were still in the game.
That remained the case until 19 minutes from time when Bale finally gave Spurs the second goal their dominance deserved.
Kyle Walker’s cross found Bale and the Wales star’s scuffed shot beat McCarthy, already committed to a dive.
Spurs added a third three minutes later when Defoe, on the break, beat McCarthy with a shot into the far corner.
“When you’re playing with quality players it’s not a problem [scoring],” Defoe told Sky Sports. “Today, we had a lot of a ball and I made sure my movement was good. We wanted the second goal to settle us down — when it’s 1-0 you panic a bit. It could have been a lot more. When a new manager comes to the club it takes time [to get wins].”
However, Tottenham were denied a clean sheet when Hal Robson-Kanu pulled a goal back for Reading in the closing moments.
“I thought we were too submissive and didn’t get on the ball enough or in their faces,” Reading manager Brian McDermott said. “We came up against a very good side today and they deserved the win. We’ve got to move on very, very quickly. Today was a learning curve for all of us. Spurs is a team full of world-class performers, but we didn’t cause enough problems for them, especially in the first half.”