London, Feb 14 (IANS) Tottenham Hotspur got the job done in the first leg of the Champions League knockout stage tie against Borussia Dortmund, winning 3-0 to take a giant step toward the quarterfinals.
With Harry Kane and Dele Alli still sidelined by injury on Wednesday’s match, Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino again relied on Heung-Min Son up front and the South Korea international scored yet another key goal for the Premier League side, reports Efe news.
Dortmund coach Lucien Favre faced a similar dilemma. With Marco Reus and Paco Alcocer unavailable, he went with a front three of Mario Götze, Christian Pulisic and Jadon Sancho.
The hosts started the contest with five defenders, reflecting Pochettino’s healthy respect for the Dortmund attack despite the absence of the most prolific scorers.
The result of the chopping, changing and tactical adjustments was a dull first half that would have seemed more like a preseason friendly than a Champions League contest if not for the enthusiasm of the small, but animated contingent of Dortmund traveling supporters in the stands at Wembley Stadium.
A header by Dan-Azek Zagadou that forced a miraculous goal-line save by Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris provided the only drama in the first 45 minutes.
Despite expectations that he would make a change up front to start the second half, Pochettino stuck with Son and the decision bore fruit in the 47th minute.
Spurs’ Jan Vertonghen gathered the ball after a botched clearance by Dortmund defender Achraf Hakimi and delivered a perfect pass to the South Korean for the 1-0.
Falling behind left the visitors in disarray on a night where Pulisic, Götze and midfielder Axel Witsel all underachieved.
Once the deadlock was broken, Tottenham exploited the relative inexperience of the German side to nail down the first leg and make a start on the second.
Vertonghen doubled the lead in the 83rd minute. Standing unmarked at the far post, he scored off a great pass from Serge Aurier. The 3-0 came three minutes later courtesy of late substitute Fernando Llorente, who got his head to Christian Eriksen’s corner kick.
It has becomea commonplace that to be a great team a squad must be able to win even when playing at less than their best. By that standard, Wednesday night’s victory can be seen as a milestone of Tottenham’s development in the Pochettino era.