Desmond Kane

Soldado sharpens up as Tottenham continue road to redemption

On a day when Diego Maradona was being touted by a newspaper in Argentina as the man to succeed Andre Villa-Boas as Tottenham coach, the prospect of Roberto Soldado scoring a goal from open play seemed about as realistic as the 1986 World Cup winner waddling into White Hart Lane.

Until last night’s Europa League match with the Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, all Soldado apparently did was flatter to deceive.

His six goals in four months for the club included three from the penalty spot. The last of those was on October 27 against Hull. With a penalty. Hardly the workings of a player purchased for around £26 million from Valencia in the summer.

Just as AVB had been written off on the basis of the 6-0 drubbing by Manchester City, the thought process suggesting Soldado does not have the tools to succeed in England seem to have been premature. The demise is hardly permanent.

His hat-trick against Anzhi in a 4-1 win contained the obligatory penalty, but the Spain forward also sniffed out two other goals that were more like the man lauded for his work in La Liga.

Nine goals from 16 games in a Tottenham shirt suddenly sounds a bit more like it.

He glanced Gylfi Sigurdsson's free-kick into the net for the opening goal via a post on seven minutes before bounding onto Erik Lamela's pass to tuck away his second nine minutes later.

The rare sight of one of the sixth officials perched next to either goal on these nights alerting the referee to a foul enabled Soldado to complete a telling contribution before he departed the scene with 20 minutes remaining.

Replays showed the match official blundered: Spurs substitute Ryan Fredericks had gathered a rate of knots like Frankie Fredericks, and tripped over himself.

The match official bought it. Soldado duly potted the penalty.

Soldado is suddenly in contention to start against Liverpool on Sunday having being replaced by Jermain Defoe for last two wins in the Premier League at Fulham and Sunderland.

Does AVB stick or twist for the arrival of Brendan Rodgers’s side?

“Jermain was deserving of his chance as well," said Villas-Boas. "Now it's about putting the best possible strategy of the game and seeing what we can do.

"What this will help is put the player (Soldado) back with confidence with his final touch and a striker always lives off goals, so it's extremely important."

Spurs are gathering momentum. This is their fifth match unbeaten after the mauling by City. Sporting a sharp haircut last night, AVB continues to oversee a similarly tidy record as the club’s manager.

He has the second best win percentage of any Spurs manager since records began, yet was apparently fighting for his life on the basis of shipping six at the Etihad Stadium.

Defeat to Manchester United would apparently have sealed AVB’s fate a few weeks ago. Who knows if such speculation was true, but Tottenham have responded with some character from the debilitating nature of their defeat to City. They could be joint second in the Premier League before the weekend is out.

There was a movement and vitality about Spurs last night that was easy on the eye. There was also a lovely goal from Lewis Holtby, who controlled the ball with his left foot from Andros Townsend's pass before flicking a deft volley into the net to give Spurs a 3-1 advantage after half-time.

Tottenham qualified as winners of Group K with 18 points from six games. They are second favourites behind Champions League drop-outs Juventus to carry off a tournament AVB won with Porto in 2011.

Liverpool surely represent a tougher proposition than an Anzhi side bottom of the Russian league and without a win in 19 matches. They continue to flog their best players.

The Chelsea foward Samuel Eto'o was on hand as both an interested viewer and an expensive reminder of their excesses of yesteryear.

Those concerns will hardly diminish the optimism Spurs will derive from a perfect Europa League group stage.

The men at White Hart Lane appear to be in a better place just in time for Liverpool's visit. Most notably AVB and Soldado.