This was a 3-1 rout for Tottenham, even if Reading did limit the damage until a second goal was supplied by Gareth Bale in the 71st minute. Jermain Defoe, who had opened the scoring, soon added the third. It would be far fetched to make a fuss about the fact that this was Tottenham's first Premier League victory under André Villas-Boas in four attempts but it will help to establish him in the eyes of the club's supporters.

It would be over doing it to pretend that the manager's tactics here were an act of genius but he did run risks by employing Defoe as a lone striker. They paid off. The one dissident could be Emmanuel Adebayor, a striker who spent his afternoon on the bench, but there could be no cause for rebellion when Villas-Boas's approach worked so well.

There was a fluidity to Tottenham's play but it would be unfair to present Reading as mere stooges. Brian McDermott's side were not without merit and there has to be acknowledgement that the ascent into the Premier League, given the calibre of Reading's new rivals, will be something of an ordeal. Even so, no one at the Madejski Stadium looked as if they were overwhelmed by foreboding.

It took time for them to appreciate that notice would have to be taken of a Tottenham under interesting redevelopment. The campaign has barely drawn breath but that need not check the excitement of onlookers. Signs of promise can be misleading but Spurs fans will find their hopes climbing when signings such as Moussa Dembélé, bought from Fulham for £15m in the summer, can already look entirely at ease in the team.

Reading will carry grievances about decisions that went against them but the outcome was entirely appropriate. Villa-Boas does not become a towering leader with one win but it is a step in the right direction after his unhappy departure from Chelsea.

The outcome might have been worse for Reading had Tottenham not been denied a goal with the score at 1-0. It looked as if the ball might have crossed the line before the centre-half Alex Pearce blocked it and it is a measure of Tottenham's performance that such an episode was only a minor detail in a game where they were mainly in the ascendant.

Reading scored through the substitute Hal Robson-Kanu in added time but solace must have been limited. This fixture was hard on Reading. They had gone 25 days without a Premier League match following the downpour that washed away their game at Sunderland. The team could have been deemed rested or, if all went badly, stale but they were so ineffective for so long that they forfeited any right to an excuse.

Brian McDermott's side were in trouble even though the clinching goals were delayed. A better co-ordinated Tottenham led from the 18th minute when Defoe applied a strong finish to a cutback from Aaron Lennon in a move initiated by the outstanding Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, deputising because of Adam Federici's knee injury, had already been fully occupied.

The lead at half-time was one goal yet there could just as easily have been a rout by then. The failure to exploit Reading's vulnerability at an earlier stage was the one criticism that could be levelled at Tottenham – a flaw that must have been particularly irksome to the visitors' Villas-Boas as he searched of his first league win with Spurs. It was particularly ridiculous, for instance, that Defoe should send Lennon clear in the 35th minute, only for the winger to run the ball behind for a goal kick.

The main asset enjoyed by Reading then was the leniency of Tottenham and for a while the score gave the misleading impression of a contest. Defoe put Tottenham ahead but there would have been recriminations if they had not increased their lead because he had also been wasteful. As it was, Villas-Boas and his men surely left the ground in a state of contentment.

Reading might feel unhappy with particular events but the truth is that the task before them will be daunting week by week. There is no shame in that but the sort of means that can make a difference tend to lie with expensive footballers. All the same, the perseverance of the club has been put beyond question by their climb to this level of the game.

McDermott conceded his side had been second-best throughout. "The second goal killed us. We came up against a top-class side and they played well. They deserved to win We have to move on very quickly – you have to do that in this league.

"It's a learning curve for all of us. We knew we were playing against a team of world-class individuals. They played well and we didn't cause them enough problems."

The outcome was disappointing for his club's fans but it was not the type of encounter that will plunge them into despair. This was a memorable day even if it did not come to the conclusion yearned for by the Madejski faithful.

Man of the match Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham)