Any hope that Hearts fans had that their team would keep their UEFA Europa League playoff tie alive headed to White Hart Lane is now gone. In fact, it was all gone after 13 minutes. Tottenham Hotspur can play a youth and reserve side without a single first choice player in the second leg if they please, thanks to their crushing 5-0 win over Heart of Midlothian on Thursday night in Edinburgh. The visitors were simply brilliant throughout the match and despite a decent surge to start the second half, Hearts end the match with nothing to show for their efforts.
Rafael van der Vaart got Spurs off to a fast start with his 5th minute goal, nicking the away goal that Hearts simply couldn't afford to give up if they wanted to have a good chance of advancing to the Europa League group stages. It involved a quite a bit of luck, but just as much skill and hard work as van der Vaart combined with Jermaine Defoe before powering his way through defenders, scoring with a class finish after a poor tackle by a hearts defender caused the ball to fall right to his feet.
Defoe then got one of his own eight minutes later, an encouraging sign for all Spurs fans. The England international has been a deadly finisher throughout his career, but showed little to none of that ability last season. After a spectacular run and through ball by Aaron Lennon, Defoe got onto the ball and placed a fantastic close-range finish, completely putting the tie to bed after just 13 minutes.
The squad saved the best goal of the bunch for their third tally, in the 28th minute. In a series of quick passes, Benoit Assou-Ekotto played a long pass up to van der Vaart, who found Jake Livermore. The young central midfielder then played a great one-two with Gareth Bale before scoring, notching his first competitive senior goal in a Spurs shirt. Livermore was immense in the center of midfield all night long, and while he won't be taking a spot away from Sandro, Tom Huddlestone or Luka Modric, he showed in this match that he certainly deserves a chance to take over the fourth choice and second box-to-box place from Jermaine Jenas.
Lennon and Defoe created the last great chance of the half in the 33rd minute, when Defoe put in an excellent cross and Defoe attempted an audacious volley, which he hit off the crossbar. Unfortunately, the linesman correctly flagged for offside, as Defoe was half a step off.
Despite his team's 3-0 lead and the fact that they had the tie in the bag at that point, Harry Redknapp elected to make no halftime subs. Why, we'll never know. With a massive Monday match against Manchester United looming large, some extra rest and minimized risk of injury would have been nice.
Unsurprisingly, the team started the seond half slow and for the opening 10 minutes of the half, Hearts enjoyed their best spell of the match. It appeared they were going to score in the 50th minute when Kyle Walker was badly beat down the right, but he recovered beautifully and showed fantastic speed and skill to get back to the ball and make a vital tackle.
In the 59th minute, Huddlestone entered the game for van der Vaart and instantly made an impact. Combining with Defoe, who provided him with a great setup, Huddlestone ripped a shot from the edge of the penalty area but missed just wide. Just four minutes later, his impact would be felt further.
Hearts defense lived up to every negative stereotype about the Scottish Premier League in the 63rd minute when they were completely caught out by Huddlestone and Bale, who had no problem figuring out their offside trap. Huddlestone played a brilliant ball from a deep position in midfield to Bale, who got onto it and found himself one-on-one with Hearts keeper Marián Kello. The Slovakian international hesitated, allowing Bale to round him easily and put in the fourth goal of the game.
Young winger Andros Townsend entered the game for Bale in the 70th minute, a move that many Spurs fans probably wanted to see at the halftime mark. It didn't take him long to show off his talent, as he was instrumental in setting up Spurs' final goal. Following a Hearts corner in the 78th minute, Townsend played an absolutely stellar through ball down the left for Defoe to run onto. The diminutive striker placed a great cross into the six yard box for Lennon, who finished wonderfully to cap off Spurs' perfect evening.
The return leg is next week at White Hart Lane, and if Harry Redknapp elects to keep the likes of Townsend, Harry Kane, Souleymane Coulibaly and Christian Ceballos out of his lineup, he'll get to hear plenty of moans and groans from his fans. Spurs have booked themselves a place in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League, and must now focus on a very difficult match against Manchester United on Monday.