Headed into this evening’s game against Inter, Tottenham needed a win to have any chance of advancing from the group stage. A win is what they got, after Christian Eriksen scored a late goal and Spurs defeated Inter Milan 1-0 at Wembley Stadium.
Spurs lined up in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 with Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Winks, Sissoko, Lamela, Dele, Lucas, and Kane. Notably absent from the starting XI were Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son, while Jan Vertonghen made a much-awaited return and played a fine game. Pochettino spoke in a pre-match press conference about the importance of managing Son’s game time, so his being rested was not much of a surprise.
Inter fielded what was probably their strongest possible lineup, with Mauro Icardi in a striekr role above a menacing midfield three of Ivan Perisic, Radja Nainggolan, and Matteo Politano. Marcelo Brozovic and Matias Vecino played in a double pivot behind them, ahead of a solid back four of Kwadwo Asamoah, Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij, and Danilo D’Ambrosio. Samir Handanovic was between the posts.
Inter were ready to defend for the first half, packing numbers behind the ball during every Tottenham attack. Still, Spurs were on the front foot for almost all of the first half, but could not find the net.
The first ten minutes started strong, with Kane, Moura and Dele all finding their way into the Inter 18.
The first half was physical, with hard challenges coming in from both sides. Referee Cüneyt Çakır kept his cards in his pockets on most occasions, with Toby Alderweireld receiving the only yellow card in the 28th minute.
In the 36th minute, Kane almost snuck in behind the Inter back line, but Erik Lamela couldn’t play him through.
Harry Winks came closest to scoring for either side in the first half, striking the crossbar with a curling effort from distance at 37 minutes.
To close out the half, Tottenham took up a strong and dominant position in the Inter half, seeking the goal that they needed to keep their hopes alive, but it wasn’t to be. Kane hit the side netting at 42 minutes, and then Lucas Moura hit a header straight to Handanovic before being ruled offside. The first 45 ended without a goal for either side.
Radja Nainggolan came off just before halftime with an apparent injury that had been slightly slowing him down for much of the first half, and was replaced by Borja Valero.
Spurs had a few sloppy moments on defense in the first half. Late in the half, Harry Winks made a weak pass to Ben Davies that Matteo Politano beat him to, and it nearly turned into a breakaway for Inter. Aurier made another mistake shortly after, gifting Inter possession just outside the Tottenham eighteen. He redeemed himself in the 45th minute with a strong tackle inside the eighteen to deny Borja Valero a shot.
The second half resumed much as the first had ended, with Spurs pressing hard in search of a goal. Inter started strong, however, and the game was very open for the first twenty-or-so minutes. Both teams had half chances in a back-and-forth at the start of the half, with Kane taking a decent shot that Handanovic saved easily.
In the 51st minute, Lucas Moura, who wasn’t particularly magical for most of the match, worked some space on the right-hand side and ran into the Inter box, but couldn’t find either of his arriving teammates. Spurs continued to hold possession well in the Inter half.
Ben Davies played a competent, decent-enough game. He did well to block a low free kick from Matteo Politano just outside the Spurs box in the 55th minute.
At 57 minutes, an Inter counter-attack broke seemingly out of nothing, and Mauro Icardi had an open shot on goal right around the Tottenham 18, which he squandered spectacularly wide.
Just minutes later, Jan Vertonghen headed a corner towards the back post, but Harry Kane was muscled away from the tap-in by the experienced Stefan de Vrij.
Heung-Min Son came on for Lucas Moura in the 61st minute, which marked the change of Tottenham’s fortunes in the game. He immediately made two bursting runs into the Inter box, energizing the rest of the team for what would be an ongoing onslaught for the last thirty minutes.
A second Spurs substitution took place soon after, with Christian Eriksen replacing Erik Lamela at 69 minutes. With the deadly front four of Kane, Son, Alli, and Eriksen on the pitch, the team quickly looked far more threatening. Eriksen, like Son, made an immediate impact, floating a marvelous ball in from a free kick to Jan Vertonghen, who headed wide.
Through 75 minutes, Spurs still had not found the net, and then Ivan Perisic found the ball at his feet inside the Tottenham six yard box. Lloris produced a great save to deny an on-target effort and keep Tottenham in it.
Finally, with time nearly up, Christian Eriksen found the goal that Spurs had been waiting for. Sissoko, who continued to be in excellent form this match, strode powerfully forward from the right side into Inter’s box, then slid a short pass across to Dele, who managed an elegant turn and found Christian Eriksen to his left, who hammered home with a very professional left-footed finish.
At the 83rd minute, Hugo Lloris made another save to protect his clean sheet, this time from Danilo Ambrosio, who shot from outside the box.
Harry Winks gave way to Eric Dier at the 86th minute, clearly to shore up Tottenham’s defense.
The final action of the game was a terrifying rip from Kwadwo Asamoah in the 93rd minute. Asamoah received the ball after Inter’s corner was deflected upfield. He hit it first time and the ball travelled far into the box before bouncing off of an Inter player and Toby Alderweireld.
A few takeaways from the game: Tottenham looked excellent on the counterattack, with a variety of players making creative runs forward. Harry Kane was in excellent supporting form today, playing key passes at the right time and working hard to win the ball. Erik Lamela, too, worked hard, though mostly on defense. He didn’t contribute much to the attack beside some less-than-perfect corner kicks. Mousa Sissoko continued his run of good form with another dominant performance. He was responsible for the buildup to Tottenham’s goal and was immense across the pitch all game. The final whistle having blown with the scoreline 1-0, Spurs now need a win at Barcelona and they will be through to the Round of 16. On to Arsenal this Sunday!