Today is a beautiful day. Tottenham are up and running in the 2016 Champions League after they beat CSKA Moscow 1-0 in Russia.
The win represents the first victory Spurs have picked up in the Champions League since they beat AC Milan in the Round-of-16 back in February of 2011, the last time they were in the competition.
Spurs dominated possession throughout the game, finishing with 67% on the night. But Leonid Slutsky’s men proved to be a tough nut to crack. Son Heung-min, as he has done so often recently, was the player who eventually made the difference.
Son tallied 7 shots on the night, but the one that got by Igor Akinfeev was one the Russian keeper would love to have back. Lamela played another clever through-ball, Son took a shot, and Akinfeev’s block could only slow the roll of the ball as it snuck over the goal line.
The Korean international may have been a hair offside when he was played in by Lamela, but Spurs won’t care. The goal was deserved and was a fair reflection of Tottenham’s dominance of the match. For Sonny, it was his 5th goal in his last five games in all competitions.
The Arena CSKA was loud from the opening kickoff, as the arena hosted it’s first Champions League match ever. Moscow’s new stadium only opened this past August.
Other than the players who stayed behind in England (Kane, Rose, Dier, Dembele, & Sissoko), Mauricio Pochettino chose to avoid rotation of much of his squad. Kieran Trippier started for Kyle Walker, but the rest of the lineup was as expected.
Spurs had the better of the first half. As they did in the second half, they held the ball well but didn’t create many clear-cut opportunities. The best chance of the half for either side was Dele Alli’s quick shot from outside the box which cannoned off the crossbar.
Pochettino made some key changes in the second half. Georges-Kevin N’Koudou came on for Vincent Janssen and immediately made an impact with a dangerous run. He helped keep Spurs in control of the game in the run-up to Son’s goal. The 22-year-old Frenchman also did very well tracking back and defending. Using his pace to recover, he snuffed out a couple dangerous Moscow attacks down the wing, and even put in a critical saving tackle in our own penalty box.
Tottenham looked assured defensively throughout the game, a big contrast from the loss to Monaco. After Son’s 71st minute goal they stayed resolute at the back, clearing the ball whenever there was the slightest hint of danger.
The whistle blew and Spurs fans around the world collectively exhaled. Son was all smiles walking off the pitch, but only after he’d gone through every secret handshake he has with his teammates.
Overall it was a brilliant result. Moscow is obviously a tough place to play, and Spurs really needed three points to keep pace with the others in Group E. The win sees Tottenham jump into second place in the group, a point behind Monaco, who managed a last-minute equalizer in their game against Leverkusen.
Focus for Pochettino’s men now turns to an important contest with Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday. But rest up first boys, you deserve it!