Though these fixtures are all about sharpness not scorelines, with Champions League fixtures arriving soon Tottenham must hit the ground running this season and Harry Redknapp's team did not fare well by either measure at White Hart Lane last night, succumbing 4-1 to Villarreal.

Redknapp named a strong line-up for the visit of the Spaniards, the first of a hat-trick of friendlies against European opposition designed to ready the club for their Champions League play-off next month. Fiorentina and Benfica follow before Spurs begin their Premier League campaign away at Manchester City on 14 August. This result, though, did not bode well.

"They're a great side, I was very impressed with them," said the Spurs manager. "We had a good squad out, but they were sharp. They were different class."

Jermain Defoe started up front, with Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon the others of England's World Cup squad involved, while Heurelho Gomes played in goal having missed the club's pre-season tour of the United States. Jermaine Jenas, his influence at White Hart Lane surely threatened by Redknapp's interest in Scott Parker, started alongside Tom Huddlestone in midfield, while Robbie Keane, similarly under pressure given his manager's interest in Craig Bellamy, took the captain's armband. Jenas, though, hobbled off with a leg injury inside the first 20 minutes.

With Dawson and co needing to shake off the disappointment of England's time in South Africa as well as their summer rust, Spurs could hardly have got off to a worse start. David Fuster and Santi Cazorla had already gone close by the time the visitors opened the scoring after 21 minutes. The impressive Cazorla found space 20 yards out and shaped to shoot, only to play a wonderfully disguised dinked pass through to Giuseppe Rossi. The former Manchester United striker, himself needing a confidence boost after Italy's dismal World Cup campaign, made no mistake.

Though Spurs were undone by a moment of individual excellence for the first, a portion of blame could be attributed to the rusty Dawson for the second. The central defender failed to cut out Marcos Senna's through-ball and Rossi, clean through, again slotted calmly past Gomes.

Redknapp's seven half-time substitutions, rather than disrupt Spurs' rhythm – there was little to speak of anyway – in fact offered the home side greater fluidity and control. Gareth Bale has begun pre-season in the same impressive manner in which he finished the last campaign and on 55 minutes Spurs pulled one back. Peter Crouch took advantage of defensive hesitancy to slip in Giovani dos Santos, and the Mexican chipped the ball confidently past Diego López in the Villarreal goal.

Rossi, though, completed his hat-trick with 20 minutes to go, his long-range drive deflecting off Vedran Corluka to make it 3-1, and Marco Ruben added a fourth with four minutes to play. The Yellow Submarines, despite finishing seventh in La Liga last season, will play in the Europa League this year, following Mallorca's expulsion after going into administration. If they do not hit their straps when things really kick-off, Tottenham could still join them.

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