Tottenham Hotspur bounced back and up, landing at the peak of Group H last night. Coming back from 1-0 down, to 2-1 up, putting Borussia Dortmund out of the Champions League.
Aided by Real Madrid’s 6-0 battering away to Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia, the loss put to rest any hopes of the home side qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League, and has them tied on points with Apoel for the Europa League spot.
Mauricio Pochettino fielded his strongest squad despite speculation that with qualification guaranteed, he may rest key players such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
Tottenham Top the ‘Group of Death’ as Borussia Dortmund crash out
To the delight of the traveling fans, it was an all-star affair, and as expected both sides came out pressing high from the start, with a couple of early attempts.
As expected, Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang caused immediate problems for the Spurs defence. Davinson Sanchez unintentionally playing him onside, he found space, to sweeping in a beautiful goal just beyond the reach of a diving Hugo Lloris.
Netting his 16th goal of the season, and ending a five-game drought, he again proves his worth to his club. His recent off the pitch antics had seen him in trouble with his manager. Surely now atoned for opening the Dortmund account.
Spurs, still looking a little bruised from their poor performance against Arsenal, the defence worked hard to keep the deficit to one goal. Dele Alli did little to improve on this lackluster performance on Saturday, and Harry Kane still looked off the pace.
The German side controlled for the most part of the half. The ever solid Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen prevented further damage. With only the odd run made, Spurs showed no sign real sign of breaking.
Whatever was said at the halfway point, however, Pochettinos men came out driving faster and further up the pitch. Young Harry Winks once again showed his astounding composure and movement on the ball, in the absence of Mousa Dembele.
Dele Alli then displayed his creative best. Squeezing between defenders to pass to the reliable foot of Harry Kane. With his classic low finish, the visitors were level.
The traveling fans could now be heard loud and clear, above even the persistent drum of the Dortmund disciples, and their admirably persistent verbal support.
With the home side tiring, and knowing the score in the Apoel game, Spurs quickly took advantage. Dele Alli again showed his undeniable talent as he battled to complete the comeback. Once again he found space passing deftly to set Heung-Min Son up for the deserving winner.
It was an excellent performance all round in a game that Spurs didn’t need to win.
Yet, following the dreaded loss to Arsenal, the North Londoners proved that they can compete with the European big guns. By the same token, Borussia Dortmund showed great stamina and pride to battle so hard knowing there was a slim reward.
Following the emphatic win over Real Madrid, subsequent below-par performances saw the press and critics immediately question Spurs resilience when it matters at the top level. In particular away from home against high calibre competition, which has been an issue for the North Londoners on the home front.
Progressing in Europe
There was little hope given to Tottenham following last season’s disastrous outing in the Champions League. In those first Wembley games, they failed to qualify for the last 16, their first attempt in some years. They have never got past the last 16, their nearest attempt was with Harry Redknap at the helm,
Being listed as the ‘Group of Death’ with occupants such as Borussia Dortmund and Spanish giants Real Madrid, Spurs were given little hope of even qualifying.
With the Pochettino instilled fight the new Tottenham have gained, they not only qualified but have beaten titleholders and the group’s second favorites. Banishing the memories from the weekend, Saturday will see Spurs head into their home Premiership clash with West Bromwich Albion on Saturday in fine fettle.
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