Tottenham fans recoiled when they saw the draw for this years Champions League group stage. They were drawn in Group H, “The Group of Death”, with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Pundits, commentators, and the like doubted that they would even be able to finish second and advance in the competition, but they proved them all wrong.
Spurs beat Dortmund 2-1 at the Westfalenstadion as they clinched 1st place in said “Group of Death.” It was another memorable European night in which they produced a professional performance against one of the continent’s most notable clubs.
And it was a familiar face who made the difference.
Harry Kane looked tired against Arsenal, but Mauricio Pochettino opted not to rest him in what turned out to be a very strong squad. Serge Aurier replaced Kieran Trippier, and Son Heung-min came back into the team. There was also a place in the 11 for Danny Rose, despite rumors that he may have fallen out with Poch after missing out on the North London Derby.
Dortmund were without two of their most important players this season, and it showed at times. Both Christian Pulisic and Sokratis were unavailable due to injury. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returned after missing BVB’s match at Stuttgart for “disciplinary reasons”.
After a slow start, the first real chance of the game fell to Aubameyang. Andriy Yarmolenko chipped a ball over the back-line and set Auba in on goal, but the Gabon international’s shot was scuffed wide.
It was a big miss, but Aubameyang soon made amends.
He opened the scoring in the 31st minute when Andriy Yarmolenko played him through with a deft backheel pass. Sanchez held Auba onside, and he slotted the ball past Hugo Lloris.
Spurs responded well and almost found an equalizer a few minutes before halftime.
Rose played a low cross dangerously back across the box for Christian Eriksen, but his shot was right at Roman Bürki. Bürki has really struggled this season, but he followed that save with a stunning stop on the ensuing corner kick. Eric Dier’s looping header was only kept out by the strength of the Swiss keeper’s fingertips.
Tottenham trailed at halftime, and may have very well gotten an earful from Pochettino in the dressing room. In response, they came out firing.
The Lilywhites began pressing higher up the pitch, and it paid dividends just four minutes into the second frame. Rose won the ball back, Dele Alli played a pass to Kane in a central position, and Harry did the rest. He cut inside the defender and put a low shot past Bürki for his sixth goal in the Champions League.
Tottenham firmly controlled the rest of the match. Their press allowed them to dominate possession and control the flow of chances.
Dortmund’s defense also reverted to the sloppy state it has been in of late. Bürki saved them on one occasion by rushing off his line, but he was eventually beaten for the winner.
Dele broke into the box from the left after some tight dribbling, and he laid the ball off for Son in space. Julian Weigl had lost Son in the box, and the South Korean made him pay by curling one into the corner of Bürki’s net.
It was yet another goal for Sonny against Dortmund. Dating back to his time in the Bundesliga he has now scored 8 goals in 10 career appearances against BVB.
Spurs brought on Mousa Dembele, Moussa Sissoko, and Fernando Llorente to help close the game out, and that’s exactly what they did. BVB upped their intensity in the final minutes of the game, but couldn’t find a second goal.
The 2-1 victory means that Tottenham have clinched the top spot in Group H, while Dortmund have been eliminated from the competition.
Spurs can take their foot off the gas when they face APOEL at home in a few weeks time, and they can look forward to being seeded in the draw for the Champions League Round of 16.