In a game of two halves, Spurs blew Borussia Dortmund to bits, winning 3-0 at Wembley.
The win was the first one that Spurs have ever managed at home in the knockout rounds of the Champions League and puts them on the verge of qualifying for the quarter-finals for the first time in almost a decade! It was especially impressive as the German league-leaders began the match in better form. What did we learn?
1. SuperJan saves the day
Spurs needed a hero to stand tall for them against Borussia Dortmund. With Harry Kane and Dele Alli sidelined by injury, someone had to be the main man. All eyes were on Christian Eriksen and Heung-min Son, and for sure both men were good, but the talismanic presence that lifted Spurs to an incredible victory at Wembley was Jan Vertonghen.
Playing out of position at left-back, at that. Well, according to Heung-min Son he could play anywhere. And watching this game play out, it’s hard to disagree with Son’s assessment. Vertonghen seems superhuman.
In a true superhero origin style, Vertonghen began the match struggling as Spurs couldn’t really get to grips with Dortmund’s pace and intelligent wide play. But at half-time a slight tactical adjustment transformed his fortunes defensively, and from this he exploded in attack.
First was his impeccable cross that he lifted and bent around the Dortmund defence for Heung-min Son to score, and second was his storming back-post run and supreme volley to double Spurs’ lead and put the tie beyond doubt, a finish even Harry Kane would have been proud to pull off. Truly superhuman stuff.
2. Sonaldo does it again
When it comes to playing Borussia Dortmund Heung-min Son is, quite simply, automatic. The Korean international bagged his first Champions League goal of the season in the opening minutes of the second half at Wembley.
Son Heung-Min’s last four appearances against Dortmund for Spurs:
Son Heung-Min’s last four appearances for Spurs:
Nice one, Sonny. pic.twitter.com/060dGVzzbw
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 13, 2019
Son came into the game having scored in every game he’d played since returning from the Asian Cup. Three in three. Meanwhile he had three goals in his last three games against Borussia Dortmund too. The stage was set but he spent much of the first half being denied service by a superb Dortmund display. That all changed when Jan Vertonghen bent a beautiful ball into the box and Son drifted away from his marker to finish superbly on the volley. An unstoppable shot to give Spurs a priceless lead that they never surrendered.
3. Foyth gives Spurs no fear
Given the age and contract status of Toby Alderweireld, Spurs fans would have been forgiven for being rather worried about the future of their defence. After all Davinson Sanchez is just one person, Jan Vertonghen always seems to get hurt, and Daniel Levy is so hesitant to spend money that bringing a replacement of even remotely similar quality would be impossible.
Enter Juan Foyth, the 21-year-old centre-back signed from Estudiantes in 2017. The Argentine has been brought through slowly by Mauricio Pochettino but now has the confidence of his coach to start in these kind of games. And against Dortmund he proved that he more that deserved that faith by delivering a superb display.
Foyth was constantly in the way, often acting as Spurs’ last line against the Dortmund attack that was otherwise giving the home side the run around. He was nerveless in the timing of his interventions and showed that the future of the Spurs defence is in good hands. Toby Alderweireld can leave, Foyth has got this covered.
4. Sancho shines despite defeat
Borussia Dortmund’s bright spark was Jadon Sancho. The young Englishman relished coming home and did not look overawed by the occasion. He ran Spurs ragged in the first-half with an incredible display of balance and dazzling dribbling. He looked superior to Mario Gotze and Christian Pulisic combined, and Spurs were utterly terrified of him as it was clear they couldn’t handle him.
This was genuinely incredible for Sancho. He didn’t have Paco Alcacer as a reference up-top nor did he have Marco Reus to shoulder the main creative burden. He had to do it all himself and he came close to doing so on several occasions. Dynamic movement, intelligent use of the ball… his side lost 3-0 but Jadon Sancho proved that this is a stage he belongs on.
5. Phenomenal Pochettino
Spurs won 3-0 in the Champions League knockout rounds without two of their four best players. They got here by qualifying out of the group of death despite losing their first two games to Barcelona and Inter. They’re comfortably third in the Premier League too, just five points behind the league leaders Manchester City and Liverpool.
All this despite the club signing a grand total of 0 players in the last two transfer windows. That’s right: no money spent. At all.
Mauricio Pochettino is the man who has made all this possible. A mastermind of a manager, a genius of a gaffer, a champion of a coach (well not literally he’s still not won anything). He set his side out with a unique formation to maximise his side’s skill-set, and when it wasn’t working he made some adjustments in the second-half to an incredible effect. Dortmund’s second half display was shambolic and they were barely clinging on to a 3-0 defeat because Spurs turned up the pressure so relentlessly, all through Pochettino’s tactics.
Then he brought Fernando Llorente on and he provided the dagger to make it three, which was one hell of a heat-check for the Argentine coach. One can imagine he will be in line for a huge wage increase this summer, whether he stays at Spurs or not.