Spurs put one foot in Champions League quarter-finals
Goals from Son Heung-min, Jan Vertonghen and Fernando Llorente give north Londoners a significant advantage over Borussia Dortmund after round of 16 first leg at Wembley
13 February, 2019 — By Dan Carrier at Wembley
UEFA Champions League, Round of 16, First Leg
SPURS 3 (Son 47, Vertonghen 83, Llorente 87)
BORUSSIA DORTMUND 0
IT must rank as one of the finest second-half displays of Mauricio Pochettino’s five-year reign – a devastating blitz of goals against Germany’s league leaders and a scoreline that has given Spurs a hefty cushion when they face Borussia Dortmund again in three weeks’ time.
Goals from Son Heung-min, Jan Vertonghen and Fernando Llorente were the product of a wonderful performance that surely makes Spurs, barring disaster, favourites to be in the last eight.
Speaking after the game, Pochettino said he was happy with how the game panned out – but there was still a second match to negotiate.
He said: “I want to congratulate my players for a massive performance and effort, but it is only the first half of the tie. It was a good result but you always have to respect a team like Borussia. We will go there to win. There is still a lot of work to do.”
He explained how at half-time he talked his players through what had gone wrong and what they needed to improve.
He said: “The first half was difficult. Our feeling was we never felt the confidence to play. We took decisions like we were not quite comfortable and it did not feel like who we planned to play.
“We fixed some problems, showed some clips from the first half and we tried to help perform better, have some tweaks. When we scored, it was a massive boost of confidence and the team started performing better.”
While Dortmund sneaked it in the first half, they found Pochettino’s tactics tough to break down. And it was hardly surprising as he fielded three centre-backs in Davinson Sanchez, Toby Alderweireld and Juan Foyth – and then gave a fourth, Vertonghen, a role on the left.
It was to pay dividends to push Vertonghen out wide. His was a man-of-the-match performance, handling his defensive duties and getting forward. He won the game by setting up Son’s opener and then doubled the lead with a superb volley.
Spurs started brightly with Lucas Moura shooting wide on five minutes from a great position. Later in the half Son would test Dortmund keeper Roman Burki with a low shot that he stopped with his feet.
For the visitors, Jadon Sancho caused Spurs problems with his pace, and his positive running offered the Germans’ best outlet in the opening period and led to Dortmund’s finest chance on 43. A deep cross was met by Dan-Axel Zagadou, and his must-score header was kept out by a magnificent piece of goalkeeping by Hugo Lloris. He stooped low, down to his right, and got a big hand to the ball to turn it away.
But after half-time, it was all Spurs.
Tottenham took the lead on 47 when Vertonghen looped a cross over that any self-respecting striker dreams about. Son side-footed his volley home.
Spurs settled into a groove, letting an increasingly ragged Dortmund side run into dead ends, and then sprung attacks from the feet of Eriksen and Winks for Vertonghen and Serge Aurier, Moura and Son to chase.
It was Aurier’s ball to his team-mate on the opposite flank that doubled the lead. He spotted Vertonghen crashing in at the back on 83 – and the Belgian smashed a perfectly executed volley home.
Spurs grabbed the third when substitute Fernando Llorente acored from close range from a corner with three minutes left.
Dortmund are flying in the Bundesliga. They are no soft touches. Spurs, without Harry Kane and Dele Alli, have found a different way to win – and on the strength of this evening, deserve to dream of a quarter-final appearance.
Spurs: Lloris, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Son (Lamela, 88), Winks, Sissoko (Wanyama, 90), Foyth, Eriksen, Aurier, Moura (Llorente, 83).
Subs: Gazzaniga, Trippier, Rose, Wanyama, Skipp.
Borussia Dortmund: Burki, Zagadou (Schmelzer, 76) Hakimi, Delaney, Sancho (Balerdi, 87), Gotze, Dahoud, Pulisic, Witsel, Toprak.
Subs: Hitz, Guerreiro, Philipp, Wolf, Bruun Larsen.