Tottenham Hotspur booked their ticket in the Champions League quarter-final after an emphatic 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund.
The match began in typical fashion, Dortmund attacking from the off with the club in need of three goals to level the tie, but Spurs demonstrated an iron nerve, keeping the match a stalemate and goalless at half-time.
Dortmund were increasingly knocking on the door after the interval, but it was the travelling north London club who eventually broke the deadlock; a defence-splitting Moussa Sissoko pass carved open the German club’s defence and Harry Kane fired past Roman Burki in the 48th minute.
And so, with Dortmund now needing five goals to progress, Spurs held firm, winning 4-0 on aggregate. But what did we learn from events at the Westfalenstadion?
1. Clinical Kane
With the match heavily poised, Dortmund ramping up the pressure and the decibel levels rising, Spurs needed a goal to just settle the nerves: step up Harry Kane.
The England international has come under the spotlight since returning from injury, with the club’s slight dip in form coinciding with his restoration to the starting XI, but he produced an exceptional No. 10 performance in Dortmund.
Harry Kane has now scored 24 goals in European competitions for Spurs, more than any other player in the club’s history.
One-season wonder strikes again. ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/VUfoMeZEAF
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 5, 2019
His hold-up play helped alleviate the mounting pressure growing on his side’s defence, but it also brought his side up the pitch, while his positional movement made it far easier for those behind him to find the right pass in tight situations.
But Kane’s true crowning moment came in the second half after he netted a clinical finish to take the tie beyond Dortmund’s reach, ensuring he has now scored 24 goals in European competitions for Spurs, more than any other player in the club’s history.
2. Defensive defiance from Spurs
The Westfalenstadion can be a melting pot of apprehension and unease for travelling teams, but Spurs defended with defiance and kept their nerve amidst the cauldron of noise that was consistently reverberating around the ground.
This was a defensive masterclass from the north London club, particularly from stalwart Jan Vertonghen who timed every challenge with precision, not least his world-class tackle on Marco Reus who looked clean through and destined to score in the first-half were it not for the Belgian’s Paolo Maldini-esque exploits.
Dortmund threw the kitchen sink at Mauricio Pochettino’s side, but their relentless attacks were often decimated by the bulwark that was, a formidable Spurs defence. Ben Davies also deserves an honourable mention for his sensational block in the opening 45 minutes, but every defender earned their stripes this evening.
3. Reus return too late for Dortmund
The return of Marco Reus was always bound to ensure a more potent and ferocious Dortmund side would turn up against Spurs, and that is exactly what happened with the Schwarzgelben sorcerer on the pitch – he once again showcased just why he is so highly rated among the football community.
Reus was a constant thorn in Spurs’ backside, dovetailing in the final third with a vim and vigour reminiscent of his pre-injury days, looking to pick the ball up at every opportunity and drive at the heart of Spurs’ five-man defence.
On Tuesday, the 29-year-old was Dortmund’s release valve; everything positive about the German club’s play came through Reus. Lucien Favre will certainly be lamenting the loss of his talisman for the first-leg.
Ultimately Reus failed to drag his side back into the fixture, but it was always a tall order, and were he playing in the reverse fixture, you would have backed the Ruhr district giants to net an away goal.
4. Mauricio ‘tinkerman’ Pochettino
Everyone knew the pattern of play before the match: Dortmund would throw absolutely everything at Spurs, while the London club would look to soak up pressure, weather the yellow storm, and catch the hosts on the break.
As such, Pochettino opted for an initial 5-3-2 formation, with Kane and Son Heung-min operating as a front two, but having come under a barrage of attacks from Dortmund, the Argentinian tweaked his system to a 5-4-1 with Son reverting to the left-wing, and it nearly paid dividends straight away after the South Korean darted from the byline and found himself in a one-on-one with Burki.
Harry Kane is the first player to score a Champions League goal against Borussia Dortmund at Westfalenstadion this season.
You just got… pic.twitter.com/ekObYQHSUb
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 5, 2019
The Spurs forward failed to capitalise on that golden opportunity, but Pochettino’s side started to grow in confidence with the system change, and the club soon broke the deadlock shortly after the restart with a fine Kane finish.
With Son moving out wide, he was able to stifle Sancho defensively, while simultaneously stretching the Dortmund defence. Kane was able to hold his own through the middle, while Son could wreak havoc on the wing during counter attacks.
5. Subdued Sancho
This was an uncharacteristically quiet performance from the prodigiously talented Dortmund winger – in terms of his potency in the final third – but coming up against a defence as resolute as the one Spurs put out tonight, this was always likely to be the case.
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Anyone with even the slightest sense of football knowledge can see just how good the teenage tyro is, with his slick gait, exceptional turn of pace and first touch all first class attributes – he has all the earmarks of a future world class player.
Unfortunately he was unable to turn the screw, and after the 18-year-old was recently dubbed a £100m player, there will naturally come backlash, but this was not the type of match Jadon Sancho would prove his worth – the tie was always beyond Dortmund’s grasp – and he will certainly learn from the occasion.