This match was decided in the centre of midfield, where Tottenham's talented trio of technical midfielders passed and rotated their way around Reading's static system. The understanding between Sandro, Moussa Dembélé and Gylfi Sigurdsson was particularly impressive considering this was their first match together – one would have expected Sandro to sit deep and leave the creativity to his midfield colleagues, but their flexibility and fluidity was crucial in breaking the deadlock.
Sandro played a very important role, helping to overload and surprise Reading in two different zones. First, when Brad Friedel played the ball out from the back, the Brazilian would drop deep between the centre-backs to create a three-versus-two situation against Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie, who were trying to close down high up the pitch. It meant the ball was worked into midfield easily, and Spurs' passing rhythm was much higher than in their previous league games.
Second, as Spurs tried to work the ball into the final third, Sandro broke forward from his deep-lying position. This was noticeable for the opening goal: Sandro made a sudden forward dart, Guthrie followed him, so space opened up for Sigurdsson to drop deep, away from Mikele Leigertwood, and receive the ball under no pressure.
He had time to look up and play an excellent pass into the path of Aaron Lennon, who cut the ball back for Jermain Defoe to fire into the far corner.
Lennon's run was also an example of André Villas-Boas's influence. Under Harry Redknapp the winger received the ball to feet, then attempted to dribble past the full-back – but he is now expected to make intelligent, purposeful off-the-ball runs to collect passes played in behind the defence.
In the first half Reading were extremely passive, taking 40 minutes to register their first shot. Brian McDermott seemingly wanted his side to sit back and soak up pressure before breaking quickly, but the first pass out of the defence was frequently wayward, conceding possession and inviting more Tottenham pressure.
Reading were simply unable to get high up the pitch. Spells of possession were extremely rare, and it was a surprise to see Jem Karacan substituted at the interval, since he was the only Reading midfielder who looked comfortable on the ball, completing as many passes as the other two central-midfielders, Leigertwood and Guthrie, combined. At least Guthrie was more involved after he dropped into Karacan's central-midfield role, with Adam Le Fondre introduced to turn Reading into more of a 4-4-2.
Reading were more proactive without the ball in the second half, and the presence of a second striker caused problems when the home side attacked directly. But Tottenham were still much the better side and retained their fluidity in the second half, with Sandro still bursting forward, making a purposeful run that ended with Gareth Bale firing wide.
Having wasted 1-0 leads in their previous two matches following defensive substitutions from Villas-Boas, the sight of Tom Huddlestone preparing to come on would have worried Spurs fans – but Bale fired the second goal before he got on, after another cut-back from the right, this time from Kyle Walker.
With that second goal, the game was over as a contest.