TOTTENHAM manager Andre Villas-Boas showered praise on striker Jermain Defoe after his clinical hat-trick sunk NK Maribor and reignited Spurs’ flagging Europa League campaign.
Defoe’s treble saw him overtake Teddy Sheringham in the club’s all-time scoring charts and served as a nudge to England manager Roy Hodgson, who has overlooked him for next week’s friendly in Sweden.
It also spared the blushes of defender Kyle Naughton and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, whose calamitous failure to clear invited Robert Beric to equalise for the Slovenians just before half-time.
Villas-Boas reaped the rewards of a tactical gamble, switching from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 and handing Emmanuel Adebayor a first start of the season alongside Defoe in a bid to earn Tottenham’s first victory in Group J.
“He was amazing,” the Portuguese said of Defoe, who is now eighth in the club’s all-time scoring chart. “It’s important for him because he overtakes Teddy Sheringham’s record in the club, which means a lot.”
Villas-Boas was also pleased with Defoe’s partnership with Adebayor, which helped Spurs climb to second in the table and rediscover their deserted winning touch.
“It was good to see,” he added. “It is important for us to have this option. It was good to see us use this system. He [Defoe] makes the most of the opportunities he gets. When you have so much quality in the link-up you have the possibility to score and he’s a good goalscorer.”
Three successive draws had left Tottenham in dire need of a win and Defoe set them on their way after 22 minutes when he deftly touched in a whipped cross from winger Gareth Bale, who was at his rampant best.
France No1 Lloris, who has made clear his displeasure at playing second fiddle to Brad Friedel at Spurs, did his cause no favours by trying to dribble past Beric but instead gifting him an open goal, after Naughton’s dreadful backpass.
Defoe ruthlessly restored the Spurs lead four minutes after the break, before Adebayor dragged a point-blank volley wide when teed up by Bale’s scooped pass. Defoe was more accepting of Bale’s gifts, tapping from eight yards after the Welshman was released down the left and delivered a perfectly weighted low cross.