Tottenham Hotspur got a late goal from Harry Kane and it was enough to dispatch Qarabag 1-0 in Europa League group stage action. The win clinched Spurs' progression out of the group stage and into the knock-out rounds of the competition.
Tottenham started a very strong lineup in Baku, with Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min, Christian Eriksen, and Eric Dier, along with Hugo Lloris and the league tandem of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld in central defense. Ryan Mason started in the pivot beside Dier, and Dele Alli was in the #10 role, since he's suspended for the Chelsea match.
The first half was a mostly dull affair, with neither side generating much in terms of offense. Qarabag seemed content to pack men behind the ball and try and absorb pressure, and for the most part it worked. Spurs' dominated possession, but the midfield tandem of Dier and Mason didn't really generate a whole lot in terms of offense, and when it did get the ball to Son or Kane, Qarabag had enough defenders to usually cope well enough with the chance.
Spurs' primary attacks came thanks to speculative long-range efforts from Ryan Mason. Their best chance came thanks to a headed ball from Dele Alli off of a Kieran Trippier cross, but the effort went wide. Meanwhile, Qarabag had one good opportunity on a counterattack, but Hugo capably deflected the wide shot away.
The first half ended 0-0.
The second half was mostly more of the same. No changes at halftime meant more turgid play with a few half-chances here and there but nothing consistent by way of offense. Son smacked a gorgeous shot off the crossbar, and Dele Alli put one off the post shortly afterwards as Spurs pushed for the go-ahead goal. Around the 75th minute, Spurs made their first substitution, with Tom Carroll coming on for Ryan Mason, and Spurs immediately started playing with more intensity
The breakthrough came in the 78th minute off the 13th Spurs corner of the night: Son flicked the ball into the middle of the box by the near post, and Harry Kane was there to head the ball into the back of the net. It was Kane's 10th goal in all competitions, and put Spurs, finally, up 1-0.
And that was all it took. Spurs eventually brought on Clinton N'Jie and Josh Onomah and Spurs held on to take all three points in Baku. Spurs now head home to rest before taking on Chelsea at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
- I'm going to be accused of #narrative masthead groupthink for this, but Ryan Mason had a terrible match. Sloppy with the ball, not pressing, losing his positional awareness... Christian Eriksen had to routinely drop back to center circle to collect the ball. Don't understand why Poche didn't start with Mason at the #10 where his defensive frailties are less likely to hurt Tottenham, and start Alli beside Dier.
- Kieran Trippier also had a bad game and it was reflected by how Toby Alderweireld really didn't want to pass him the ball. Toby was in effect playing RB and CB for much of the first half. I'm not liking what I'm seeing with Trippier, which is at odds from what we all saw out of him last season at Burnley. It's distressing.
- I'm not saying that it's not a coincidence that Spurs started playing immensely better and scored once Tom Carroll came on for Ryan Mason, but... well, okay, that's what I'm saying. Tom Carroll was fantastic today. Right after coming in he trucked a guy, and was lively and solid with the ball. He didn't do anything to cause or impact the goal, but he seemed to be the catalyst for Spurs' resurgence late in the half.
- A pretty good defensive effort overall from Spurs, who never really gave Qarabag many decent opportunities on goal. I just wish we could've given Kevin Wimmer a chance instead of gassing our starting central defenders three days before Chelsea.
- The fact that Andros Townsend didn't make it into this match implies to me that we might have seen the last of him at Spurs. I wouldn't be shocked if he's sold or loaned in January.
- The win and Anderlecht's 2-0 win at Monaco means Spurs need only to draw Monaco at home on December 10 in their last match or Anderlecht to drop points against Qarabag to win the group outright and avoid any parachuted Champions League drop-outs.
- Let's kick the crap out of Chelsea on Sunday.