LONDON – Washing away the ache of final yr”s botched Champions League marketing campaign, Tottenham accomplished this group stage as Europe’s main staff.
A 3-0 victory over a timid APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday took Tottenham to 16 factors, the very best complete of any staff this time period, and first place in Group H forward of holder Actual Madrid.
That is main progress for a staff that might not even make the knockout section final season, and is just showing within the Champions League for the third time.
With high spot already secured, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino had the luxurious of giving fringe gamers a run-out at Wembley.
Fernando Llorente and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou seized their likelihood by scoring their first targets for Tottenham, both aspect of Son Heung-min’s strike.
“It is a large change,” Tot Pochettino mentioned. “Final yr we have been so dissatisfied about how we performed, about how tough it was for us to compete within the Champions League. This season we now have improved so much.”
Not on the home entrance, although. Runner-up final season within the Premier League, Tottenham has slipped to sixth and is already 18 factors adrift of chief Manchester Metropolis. The north Londoners’ look ahead to a primary English title since 1961 will lengthen into one other season until there is a speedy transformation.
And there is a hazard the one approach again into the Champions League is by profitable it for the primary time.
“We’ve spent a variety of vitality … and possibly it has affected us a bit within the Premier League,” Pochettino mentioned. “Now we now have to be centered on the Premier League and win video games there.”
That’s one thing Tottenham has not achieved in a month, amassing solely two factors from its previous 4 matches.
“We needed to get again to profitable methods and we did that tonight,” mentioned Dele Alli, considered one of solely three gamers retained from the aspect that drew at Watford final Saturday.
“It is essential that as a staff we keep collectively and hold constructing.”
Pochettino did have an opportunity to check the depth of the assets at his disposal within the buildup to the busy end-of-year program.
Llorente’s look ahead to a Tottenham purpose led to his seventeenth sport, on solely his fourth begin since becoming a member of from Swansea Metropolis as cowl for Harry Kane in August.
“It is tough when you do not have alternatives,” Llorente mentioned, “however you need to create them for your self.”
The 32-year-old Spanish striker scored on the flip after assembly Serge Aurier’s cross within the twentieth minute.
“It is essential for him,” Pochettino mentioned. “When you find yourself a striker it’s essential to really feel the web. In fact gamers want time to adapt, while you arrive at a brand new staff with no pre-season you want time to search out your finest stage.
“It is tough to play 20 or half-hour, it is essential for him to really feel he can cope for 90 minutes. He’s a participant who has been serving to so much, however now with extra confidence and perception he’s going to assist extra.”
Llorente went on to arrange the second. Son Heung-min performed a one-two with Llorente on the sting of the realm earlier than placing low into the web within the thirty seventh.
Nkoudou’s likelihood to get off the mark got here within the eightieth minute. The French midfielder, who joined Spurs in August 2016 from Marseille, netted with a deflected shot after waltzing via the Cypriot aspect’s protection.
“I am very completely happy, for various gamers had a unique alternative to play and present their high quality,” Pochettino mentioned.
“They’ll add high quality and put stress on the gamers within the first eleven. To have extra gamers with the boldness to compete for a spot is essential.”
The omens are good for Tottenham within the Champions League. The final two English groups to gather 16 factors within the group stage went on to succeed in the ultimate: Arsenal in 2006 and Manchester United in 2008. The furthest Spurs have beforehand reached was the quarterfinals in 2011.
However regardless of profitable its group, due to a victory and draw towards Actual Madrid, Tottenham may nonetheless face a tricky staff when the competitors resumes in February.
Bayern Munich and Juventus are among the many second-place groups who may await the English membership within the draw on Monday.
APOEL exited Europe after ending final within the group. Borussia Dortmund certified for the Europa League regardless of dropping 3-2 to second-place Madrid.