Son stars in striker role with quickfire brace as Spurs overcome Qarabag in Europa League
Heung-Min Son scored twice in three minutes as a striker on his home debut as Tottenham overcame an early scare to beat Qarabag FK 3-1 in their opening Europa League group game.
Spurs appeared to have left themselves badly short of striker options at the end of the transfer window, having failed in their late attempt to sign West Bromwhich Albion forward Saido Berahino.
However, Mauricio Pochettino has stated that Son is capable of leading the line – and, with Harry Kane getting a rare rest, the South Korea international justified that assertion tonight with a quickfire first-half double that turned the game on its head after Azerbaijani outfit Qarabag had taken an early lead with a penalty.
Clinton Njie came off the bench for his debut in the second half, and Erik Lamela added the icing on the cake with a late goal as Spurs got their European campaign off to a winning start.
Pochettino made six changes from the side that had lined up against Sunderland on Sunday, with Kieran Trippier and Kevin Wimmer making their debuts and Danny Rose, Tom Carroll, Andros Townsend and Lamela also coming into the team.
Kane was omitted from the starting line-up for the first time since Spurs’ previous Europa League clash against Fiorentina on February 19, so Son was given the responsibility of leading the line.
Spurs suffered an early setback, going behind after six minutes as Trippier emulated fellow summer signing Toby Alderweireld by conceding a penalty on his home debut, bringing down Ansi Agolli. Referee Adrien Jaccottet pointed to the spot and Reynaldo stepped up to beat Hugo Lloris.
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Tottenham initially struggled to respond, but Son looked bright around the edge of the box, getting a shot off with either foot, seeing one blocked and dragging the other across goal.
However, the South Korea international levelled in the 28th minute, prodding home as Townsend’s low corner somehow found him unmarked in the six-yard box.
Two minutes later, the classy Dele Alli got in behind the defence and turned neatly before teeing up Son, who applied a simple finish into the bottom left corner.
Spurs were now oozing confidence and Townsend came infield before playing a neat reverse pass to free Alli, who looked to set up a team-mate and therefore delayed his shot, which was saved.
Alderweireld headed over from a Trippier cross as the hosts went close again, but Qarabag then had two chances of their own. Rose’s attempt to chest the ball back to Lloris on the edge of his own box went badly wrong, letting Afran Ismayilov in, but he missed the target.
The visitors then put together a quick passing move to dissect Spurs’ midfield and find Javid Taghiyev, whose cross from the left was headed just over by Reynaldo.
Tottenham had the last opportunity of the half though, and it was a good one as Townsend played Lamela in on goal – but the Argentine, who had had a poor half, failed to control the ball.
Lamela had an even better opening after the interval after neat interplay from Eric Dier and Alli, and a number of fans were already on their feet celebrating as he whipped the ball past Ibrahim Sehic – only to hit the post.
Son was withdrawn to a standing ovation, while Njie made his bow off the bench and, athough Qarabag provided some reminders that they were only one goal behind, with Quintana having a shot deflected wide by Wimmer and then a header saved by Lloris, they were unable to equalise.
Instead, Tottenham extended their lead in the 87th minute. Alli drove forward and, although he was tackled, substitute Kane won the ball back and freed Lamela, who dinked his finish over Sehic.
Tottenham: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Wimmer, Rose, Dier (Winks 76), Carroll, Townsend(Njie 67), Alli, Lamela, Son (Kane 67).
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs