UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 6TH DECEMBER, 2017
(7.45pm Ė at Wembley)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3(2) APOEL 0(0)
Referee:- Slavko Vincic (SVN)
Assistant referees:- Tomaě Klancnik (SVN) & Andraě Kovacic (SVN)
Additional assistant referees:- Rade Obrenovic (SVN) & Roberto Ponis (SVN)
Fourth official:- Grega Kordeě (SVN)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Vorm(Capt.); Aurier, Foyth, Sanchez, Rose (sub Walker-Peters, 70); Winks, Dele (sub Sterling, 88); Son (sub Dembele, 65), Sissoko, Nkoudou; Llorente
Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Vertonghen, Davies; Amos
Booked:- Aurier (foul on Aloneftis), Rose (foul on Sallai)
APOEL (4-2-3-1):- Perez; Vouros, Rueda, Carlao, Lago; Vinicius (sub Sallai, 46), Morais (Capt.); Zahid, Ebecilio, Aloneftis (sub de Camargo, 75); Pote (sub Antoniou, 81)
Subs not used:- Gudino; Merkis; Farias; Alexandrou
Booked:- Sallai (response to incident with Rose), Rueda (foul on Nkoudou)
Zippy start, no bungles and even a goal for Georges!
The Rainbow laces campaign might have been and gone here in England, but in this dead rubber Championsí League Group H game against the bottom-placed team in our group Spurs made a zippy start; made no major bungles, and we even saw a second half goal for Georges! (Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, of course!) Mauricio Pochettino made 8 changes to his team with Juan Foyth playing beside Davinson Sanchez in a back four. Fernando Llorente made only his fourth start for Spurs; played 90 minutes for the club for the first time, and scored his first goal in our colours. He even got the assist for Sonís goal, so had a great day, leading the line in traditional centre-forward style. Nkoudouís goal came in a second half which looked more like a training game, and was also his first for the club in an official game.
In Cyprus, APOEL had looked quite a threat to Spurs at times, especially Stathis Aloneftis on their left flank. He and striker Pote had one or two moments, but nothing to cause alarm to Spurs. When we won in Nicosia the 3-0 scoreline might have flattered us a little as we scored with our first three strikes on target, but tonight we won comfortably and deservedly. Spurs played the game at a good pace in the first half, and there was very little sideways or backwards passing. Dele started beside Harry Winks, with Son, Sissoko and Nkoudou in front of him. The crowd was somewhat disappointing, but the Cypriot section (no doubt some of them even travelled from Cyprus!) was full and vocal almost throughout the game, clearly determined to enjoy their trip to Wembley.
Spursí first attack was a counter from their own half with Nkoudou and Son combining on the left and crossing through Sissoko who passed to Aurier on the right flank, and Aurier hit a shot/cross which passed just outside the goalkeeperís right post. A minute later Son received the ball in the middle and took it on, hitting a fine left footed shot which the keeper must have got a touch to, as it went for a corner. After 6 minutes a deep centre by Rose was headed down by Llorente for Son, whose shot was blocked and ran away harmlessly. Son was fouled about 28 yards out and Harry Winks floated in the free kick. Llorente headed it down, Sanchez failed to score and Nkoudouís shot was cleared off the line at point blank range by Rueda. Llorente returned the ball in and this time Sanchez pushed a shot wide.
Spurs built up a move from their own half after 17 minutes moving from left to right and the final cross from Aurier was cleared for a corner, with Llorente threatening. Spurs then had a second corner taken on the left met by Foyth who headed over across the goal. The deserved lead came with a stylish goal. Harry Winks is often the fulcrum of Spursí play with his fine passing game, and he started this move with a smashing long pass to Aurier on the right. Aurierís cross was met by Llorente who scored in style, taking a touch, before turning and firing home with his left foot. It was a much awaited and welcome first club goal for a player who has often been maligned this season. Personally, I saw enough of what he can do in Madrid to realise his worth to the team.
Following some good defensive play by Aurier against Aloneftis, Spurs attacked with Son passing out to Llorente towards the right. Llorente crossed and Sissokoís header was held by the goalkeeper.
Spurs went two up with another fine goal. Son received the ball on the right channel, and played a nice one-two with Llorente before hitting a powerful left foot shot into the net right of the keeper. I saw enough in the game to suggest that Son and Llorente have forged something of an understanding, which clearly has potential for the team in the busy Christmas and New Year programme to come.
APOEL did have an effort on goal but it was all too easy for Vorm, after Aloneftis crossed and Poteís header looped into Vormís hands. After 43 minutes, Aurier hit a good pass from a central position in his own half to Llorente. Llorente hit the ball to Son and was asking for it back as he had space on the right, but Son took an early shot with his right foot, well saved by keeper Perez, diving to his left to concede a corner.
APOEL coach Giorgos Donis made a second half change replacing defensive midfielder Vinicius (aka Oliveira Franco) with right sided attacker Roland Sallai. The Cypriots came out of the blocks well and it wasnít long before they had a good chance. It was right back Vouros who hit a shot which was deflected wide of the far post by Danny Roseís interception. Spurs weathered the mini surge by the visitors, and after 52 minutes Son and Dele fed the ball to Nkoudou who got into the box and hit a right footed shot which was deflected for a Spurs corner taken on the right by Rose. The corner came to nought. Five minutes later a Rose cross from the left fell for Llorente, but he could not fully connect with the ball. Aurier collected and tried a shot but this was cleared.
There was a break in play for treatment and I noticed Mauricio Pochettino seemed to be in conversation with Spanish left back Roberto Lago. Perhaps Pochettino knew him from his time in Spain, but Lago was with different teams to Mauricio.
Spurs had a free kick on the right and Son hit a shot which looked as if it might be going in, but it just dipped too late and passed over the net. Sissoko made a powerful run from near the half-way line and passed to Nkoudou, but his shot was saved and cleared. Aurier got the first yellow of the night for a foul, on Aloneftis, and soon after that Son went off early to be replaced by Dembele, which allowed Dele to move forward. In truth, Dele had been carrying a knock since early in the game, and it was a surprise to many that he stayed on so long. Sonís early substitution is an indication he will be starting on Saturday against Stoke.
Danny Rose went into the book for a foul on Sallai, who also went into the book in the aftermath. I am not sure if that is for something he said, or for an incident which led to Danny Rose having to go off for a blood injury. Apparently, he only needed a stitch, but Kyle Walker-Peters came on and performed most competently. Perhaps with an eye to their own resurging league campaign and the quest for Europe next season, Donis replaced Aloneftis with de Camargo. It didnít help though, as Georges-Kevin Nkoudou received from Dele got into the box and twisted left and right before firing a right footed shot which took a deflection to pass goalkeeper Perez across the goalmouth, hitting the net.
A subsequent free kick taken by Dele was held by the goalkeeper, and Kazaiah Sterling could be seen waiting to replace Dele. Sadly for him, the ball didnít go out of play for ages, with Spurs in possession most of that time. By the time he did get on, the game was in wind-down mode and many home fans (me included) were heading for their trains.
Now we wait with bated breath for Mondayís Round of 16 draw to see if we have to play Basel, Bayern Munich (no thanks!), Juventus, Porto, Sevilla or Shakhtar Donetsk. Iím hoping for Porto.
Group H Final Table
P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Spurs 6 5 1 0 15-4 11 16
2. Real Madrid 6 4 1 1 17-7 10 13
3. Dortmund 6 0 2 4 7-13 -6 2
4. APOEL 6 0 2 4 2-17 -15 2