In beating Dortmund for a second time, Spurs ensured that they can’t lose top spot in the group they were supposed to struggle in and so won’t be joining a certain other team in the Europa League in the New Year.
Spurs have seen this group of death and so far have played five games, winning four and drawing the other one. Victory over Dortmund meant with the better head to head record against Madrid – due to beating them in the last game – means that they’ll top the group no matter what happens in the final game against Apoel Nicosia – who were stuffed by Madrid.
Admittedly this ain’t the Dortmund that put Spurs to the sword in the Europa League a couple of seasons back. They’re on a really bad trot of defeats adding in there’s something not quite right with their star man, Aubameyang, who returned for this must win game for the hosts, after he wasn’t in the squad for their last league game due to disciplinary reasons.
Spurs had their own want away player back, with Rose starting this one.
That wasn’t a surprise team selection, others maybe were. As said in the post after the last match I didn’t know if Harry, Dele and Eriksen would feature, wondering if they would be rested what with the three of them looking like they needed it.
But here they were, lined up as they should be. Pochettino went with the best formation and the best players in that formation, from what was available. 3-5-2 is the best way, with Son alongside Harry up front, then Dele and Eriksen in a slightly deeper role in the midfield alongside A.N. Other – this time Winks – then in the back three having Sanchez central with Dier on the right. Things just look more balanced that way.
Things started a bit ropy, like they were still playing Saturday’s game. They were almost caught by a through ball to Aubameyang but the onrushing Lloris might have just done enough for the Gabon striker to miss the target. They were caught pretty much the same way on the half hour mark but this time Aubameyang scored. In a way that goal came just as Spurs were getting into the game.
They came into it more after the goal when the Dortmund keeper, Burki, stopped being the berk he was for the first game and has been a bit for them this season and remembered he was a goalkeeper. With saves to deny Eriksen and more impressively Dier it had the look of Dr Tottenhem bringing their season back to life.
They really got into it after the break, four minutes after when Kane finally looked alive. Rose won the ball, onto Dele, onto Harry and from the edge of the box his shot seemed to take Burki by surprise – much like the first game against Dortmund. It was a classic bit of Kane, not really involved but one chance, one half chance, barely a back lift and bang it’s all equal.
That just seemed to drain Dortmund a bit. They’ve had a few weeks of it and the confidence just disappeared, what few attacks they had fizzled out without troubling Hugo. Spurs just looked better after that goal. It climaxing with Dele breaking through two defenders, wich you felt he hadn’t done since the Madrid game, into the box cut back for Son who curled in an excellent winner, well out of the reach of Burki into the top corner.
Spurs had more chances to match the scoreline in the opening group game but Eriksen and Lloriente fluffed their chances while the latter finished Burki’s night.
Now, will Pochettino please stick to that kind of lineup please. Any of the fullbacks, any of the central midfielders you can change but the rest that needs to stay the same. Though the next group game can be a run out for the kids and understudies.
A word for Sanchez. I wanted to tweet some praise for him during the game but didn’t want to put the kiss of death on him. Yeah he’s had a couple of moments since he came to the club but he’s slotted in like a seasoned professional, it’s hard to believe he’s only 12 and has really only played one full season, last season for Ajax, playing less than a season worth of games before that in his four years at Atlético Nacional in Columbia. He might have cost a club record £42m but it looks a snip.
The reigning Champions League champions. The third best team in Germany, who gave Spurs a chance? Who wants to face Spurs in the next round…