Dembele hits stunning late winner as Spurs beat Anderlecht to move top of Group J
Mousa Dembele scored an 87th-minute winner with a 25-yard strike as Tottenham earned a valuable 2-1 home win over Anderlecht and moved to the top of Group J in the Europa League.
It appeared that Spurs were going to throw away a winning position and drop points for the third continental game in a row, as Harry Kane’s first-half strike – his fifth goal in three games - was cancelled out by Imoh Ezekiel in the 72nd minute.
However, Dembele came off the bench and scored for the third successive game, sending a rising strike into the top left corner with three minutes of normal time remaining - and also sending Spurs above Monaco in the table and into top spot.
There were only three changes from the Spurs side that had faced Aston Villa only three days previously, and which might be expected to line up against Arsenal in Sunday’s north London derby.
Mauricio Pochettino rotated both of his full-backs as usual in the cup competitions, selecting Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies, and Ryan Mason replaced Dembele in midfield.
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Tottenham made a slow, sloppy start and their visitors, who closed them down quickly while looking to play on the break, looked the more dangerous team for the first 25 minutes.
Trippier’s pass was intercepted and Erik Lamela was then caught on the ball, allowing the powerful and troublesome forward Stefano Okaka to get in behind, forcing a good sliding block from Jan Vertonghen.
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Okaka was then allowed to collect a high ball and held off Toby Alderweireld as the ball was worked to Steven Defour, who sent a fizzing effort at goal, with Hugo Lloris diving to tip it over.
Another low shot whistled just wide and Okaka then found Andy Najar on the right, resulting in an effort which flew wide of the near post.
Spurs were struggling to match the visitors’ intensity and quality. Trippier played a pass forward to no-one in particular, Eric Dier lost the ball in Anderlecht territory and Mason overhit his attempted pass to Kane. Lamela did create an opportunity, darting into the box and stretching to get a shot off, but it lacked power and rolled wide.
At the other end, Frank Acheampong attacked down the left and found Okaka, who rolled past Vertonghen and got his shot off. Fortunately Mason came out of nowhere and threw himself into its path.
Yet Tottenham suddenly found themselves ahead just before the half-hour mark. Mason played the ball in to Christian Eriksen, who prodded it on to Kane, and the striker turned on the edge of the box and sent a clinical strike into the bottom left corner.
Spurs consequently grew in confidence and kept Anderlecht in their own half. Dele Alli crossed for Kane, who managed to get a header on target under pressure, but it lacked the power to give goalkeeper Silvio Proto any trouble.
An open start to the second half followed. Olivier Deschacht fired over for Anderlecht and Defour’s low shot was palmed away by Lloris while, at the other end, Alli’s attempt to free Lamela in front of goal was cut out and Lamela then took too much time to get the ball out of his feet after being released by Kane on the edge of the box.
Pochettino withdrew Eriksen with a view to Sunday’s north London derby, introducing Heung-Min Son – who returned from injury – and the South Korean’s cross was half-cleared to Davies, who sent a dipping 25-yard volley against the crossbar.
But Anderlecht delivered a warning shot of their own as a Defour was allowed to control a ball forward on the edge of the box and shoot over, with Najar completely unmarked on his right-hand side – and they then equalised.
The visitors took a throw-in on the left side to Defour, and his inswinging cross was met by substitute Ezekiel, who prodded home off the post six yards out.
Pochettino was a picture of frustration as he kicked the turf disconsolately on the edge of his dug-out, and it nearly got worse as Davy Roef raced into the Tottenham box, seeing his shot deflected behind after a fine sliding challenge from Alderweireld.
Instead it was Spurs who secured all three points, with all three of their substitutes being involved. Eighteen-year-old Joshua Onomah held the ball up in the left corner and played it back to Dembele, who played a quick one-two with Davies. The left-back picked out Son, who teed up Dembele – and the Belgian lashed a rising drive into the top left corner to secure a third successive victory for Tottenham in all competitions and build momentum ahead of Sunday’s trip to Arsenal.
Tottenham: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Mason (Dembele 73), Lamela, Alli (Onomah 76), Eriksen (Son 58), Kane
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs