Super Spurs trounce Dortmund with stunning second-half display
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Champions League round of 16 first leg: Tottenham Hotspur 3 Borussia Dortmund 0
An extraordinary performance from Tottenham Hotspur and in particular makeshift left-back Jan Vertonghen helped them enjoy another special Champions League night at Wembley Stadium by destroying Borussia Dortmund 3-0.
Spurs were the underdogs before a ball had been kicked and you could partially see why at half time of the round of 16 first leg tie.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team had struggled to create chances, but all that changed in 65 seconds of the second period.
Heung-min Son fired the Lilywhites ahead following a fine Vertonghen cross and the Belgian added a second late on.
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More was to come, though, as Fernando Llorente nodded home the third to ensure the north Londoners will take a three-goal advantage back to Germany on March 5.
Pochettino made four changes to the starting team which saw off Leicester City 3-1 in the Premier League on Sunday.
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Kieran Trippier, Oliver Skipp and Llorente dropped to the bench and so did Danny Rose, who was only fit enough to be among the substitutes because of a gash to his shin.
Replacing them in a change of formation was Serge Aurier, Toby Alderweireld, Juan Foyth and Lucas Moura.
Spurs enjoyed success with a back-three against Dortmund last season and they went with that tactic again, although it was a relatively inexperienced threesome at the heart of Tottenham’s defence.
Foyth was making his debut in the Champions League and a big onus was on Belgian Alderweireld to take stewardship of him alongside Davinson Sanchez.
Higher up the pitch, Moura was preferred to Erik Lamela and Llorente with the pair among the replacements.
While Harry Kane and Dele Alli were missing for the Lilywhites, Dortmund had lots of injury problems as well.
They were without key talisman Marco Reus (thigh), Paco Alcacer (should), Lukasz Piszczek (foot) and Julian Weigl (flu).
Nevertheless, Lucien Favre’s team still boasted a number of talented players, not least Englishman Jadon Sancho, who started alongside Mario Gotze and Christian Pulisic in a front four.
This was only the fifth meeting between the two clubs with each coming since March 2016 bizarrely.
Back then, Dortmund were streets ahead of Spurs and a 5-1 win on aggregate, which included two victories for the Black and Yellows, saw them reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League comfortably during the 2015/16 campaign.
Last season was the next time they renewed acquaintances and Tottenham showed the progress they have made under Pochettino with two triumphs over the German giants in Group H of the Champions League.
Now they meet again and plenty was at stake with both clubs desperate to reach the last-eight of the competition whilst maintaining a title tilt in their respective leagues.
Even though several at Spurs, especially supporters, had become tired with Wembley, a big crowd was out in force.
With Tottenham in their European all-white kit, fans were dreaming of a special night under the lights and an advantage to take back to Germany.
After a minute’s silence for Gordon Banks and Emiliano Sala, which poignantly turned into a minute’s applause, took place, Dortmund got proceedings underway.
The first opportunity of the game went to the hosts and Moura was a whisker away from a wonderful goal.
Eriksen found Vertonghen with a lovely pass and although his cross was cleared, it was headed back into the area by Sanchez and Moura controlled smartly, and then unleashed a brisk volley goalwards, but it flew just wide.
Winks had made a dominant start to the game, alongside Foyth, and Aurier was also getting into dangerous positions during the opening exchanges.
It was the other end where the Ivorian had to be on his toes and he unfortunately got an early booking, after 12 minutes, for a tactical foul on Pulisic, who was racing away on the counter-attack for the visitors.
Foyth, who had got out of a tight position moments early, saw his confidence slightly misplaced on the quarter of an hour mark.
The young Argentinian looked to get away from Gotze, but was disposed and Pulisic tried to beat Hugo Lloris from a tight angle inside the area, yet he was denied.
It was a warning to Spurs and Foyth and the incident appeared to give Dortmund confidence as they grew into the contest after Tottenham’s bright start.
A shot from Axel Witsel tested Lloris again in the 20th minute, though it was routine for the Spurs captain.
With the visitors increasing their foothold in the game, Tottenham’s supporters did their best to rally their team with the atmosphere much louder compared to normal at Wembley this season.
The first leg reached the half an hour mark with the Lilywhites yet to test Roman Burki in the Dortmund goal and patience seemed the key.
Following a slight lull, the tempo went up a notch in the 33rd minute when Eriksen and Son combined, but the latter saw a shot blocked on the edge of the area.
Seconds later Aurier’s back-heel sent Foyth away on the right and he cut back for Eriksen, yet he scooped over while off balance.
Tottenham were growing in confidence, although the threat of the Black and Yellows was evident with 35 on the clock when they spread play well and Lloris had to make a save to deny Thomas Delaney.
Crucially for Spurs, Son’s influence was increasing and he forced Burki into his first save in the 36th minute from a tight angle – similar to the position where he scored at home to Dortmund in September 2017.
Englishman Sancho was a constant threat, however, and he should have won a free kick minutes later, but Moussa Sissoko’s slight touch was missed by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz.
On the stroke of half time, another excellent chance was created for the away side, but Lloris came to Spurs’ rescue.
A short corner allowed Sancho some time and space and he picked out Dan-Axel Zagadou with a fine cross.
The defender got up high and diverted a header towards goal, despite Foyth’s best efforts, yet Lloris stuck out a hand and saved on the line to ensure it remained level at the break.
Spurs got the second period underway and it took them barely 60 seconds to open the scoring at the national stadium.
Vertonghen and Eriksen won the ball back well and the former produced a sensational ball into the area which Son kept his eyes on magnificently to volley home.
Abdou Diallo was so close to heading it clear and this made the finish by the Tottenham number seven all the more impressive.
Having struggled to create opportunities during the first half, Spurs now had the lead and how crucial would it be?
All of a sudden there was a different feel to this match. Favre’s men had to gamble a fraction more now and the subconscious step forward provided space for Moura and Son.
This was highlighted in the 53rd minute when Eriksen sent Vertonghen away and he cut back for Son, who turned Delaney neatly and won a free kick.
Eriksen’s effort hit the wall, but Spurs were now forcing Dortmund to increase the space between their lines.
It was Vertonghen who seemed to profit from this more than most as he began to get plenty of joy down the left.
Playing out of position, the Belgian bombed forward superb with 59 on the clock and beat two players before he curled well over with his right foot.
Eriksen then got in behind, after Alderweireld’s quick free kick, but his centre for the unmarked Son was crucially cut out by Diallo.
Tottenham had raised their game to another level by now, but Dortmund’s attacking prowess remained and Pulisic was about to pull the trigger in the 62nd minute, yet in came Sanchez to win the ball back.
More pressure occurred from Pochettino’s side, though, as they scented blood and both Vertonghen and Sissoko had dangerous crosses cleared.
The home fans were full of noise, like the visitors had been for the whole match, and were trying to suck the ball in.
After a frantic opening 20 minutes to the half, the tempo again settled down and a 25-yarder from Mahmoud Dahoud forced Lloris into a routine save with 69 on the clock.
It was a sign of things to come in a sense with the Bundesliga leaders pushing for a way back into the contest, but Tottenham’s makeshift and inexperienced defence continued to remain in shape and thwart danger.
Spurs then actually found a second wind and Eriksen saw an effort deflected wide before Delaney produced a brave block to deny Moura from a corner.
The first substitution of the tie happened with 13 minutes left as Marcel Schmelzer came on for Zagadou.
It was meant to boost Dortmund, but they needed to get the ball off Tottenham first as the Lilywhites kept possession well with an increased level of maturity compared to this time last year.
As the visitors’ frustration increased, their concentration dipped and it was taken advantage of in the 83rd minute.
Sissoko won the ball back, Aurier received possession out wide on the right and he spotted the committed run of Vertonghen, who had raced past Hakimi, and found the Belgium international, who finished like a striker!
It was a carbon-copy of Son’s opener, but had been scored by the usual centre back and now Spurs supporters were in dreamland.
Surely things couldn’t get any better that this? Wrong, as Llorente, introduced after Vertonghen’s volley, scored a third with 86 played.
Eriksen’s corner just evaded Alderweireld, but Tottenham’s substitute got a touch on the line to divert the ball in and take the roof off Wembley.
In an unbelievable turn of events, Spurs had gone from being shaded in the first half to now in complete control of the tie.
More substitutions were made, but this game was over and the full time whistle was met by a sea of noise from the home fans with the visiting faithful silenced for once.
While this encounter was a mismatch in the end in terms of scoreline, the tie is not over just yet.
Dortmund at home are a different kettle of fish and Tottenham will need to be on their game in Germany to make sure they do reach the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time since 2011.
A positive is they should have Kane and Alli fit by then, but given the form of this team, do they even need them?
Of course they do, but what an effort it has been by this squad over the last couple of weeks and they can now enjoy a deserved 10-day rest until their next game away to Burnley in the Premier League.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris ©; Foyth, Sanchez, Alderweireld; Aurier, Winks, Sissoko (Wanyama 90) Vertonghen; Eriksen; Son (Lamela 89), Moura (Llorente 84).
Unused substitutes: Gazzaniga, Trippier, Rose, Skipp.
Borussia Dortmund: Burki, Hakimi, Omer Toprak, Diallo, Zagadou (Schmelzer 77); Witsel, Delaney; Sancho (Guerreiro 88), Dahoud, Pulisic (Larsen 87); Gotze ©.
Unused substitutes: Hitz, Balerdi, Philipp, Wolf, Bruun.