A recent swarm of injuries left Tottenham without five big players for their Champions League tie away at CSKA Moscow, as Mousa Dembele, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Kane all found themselves sidelined for the fixture. This meant that Wanyama, Janssen and Davies all kept their place in the side, aswell as a return to the first XI for Erik Lamela, and a deeper role for Dele Alli. Kieran Trippier also gained his second start of the season, as Pochettino seemingly rested Walker.
CSKA Moscow fielded their on-form, giant of a striker Lacina Traore, who faced Spurs last season in the Europa League whilst at Monaco. It was clear very early on how much of an awkward customer he was going to be for Alderweireld and Vertonghen as CSKA looked to feed him a variety of balls for him to deal with, and play off of the knockdowns and lay-offs.
Spurs saw plenty of the ball in the opening 25 minutes, dominating possession and controlling the match, but failing to make chances. The slow pitch didn’t allow for the quick, intricate passes that Spurs often use to create opportunities, and this meant that attacks would often stagnate and forced to start again. Moscow may have only had 32% possession, but they looked dangerous when they did win it. They won the ball off of Spurs’ midfield two or three times early on, and looked to break quickly when they did. The led to a couple of crossing opportunities that didn’t lead to much, but warned Tottenham of the potential threat they faced.
Tottenham’s first real chance came half an hour in, when Christian Eriksen fizzed an accurate ball through to Alli, who failed to control the ball as it skidded up off the surface inside the area. Had he done so, he’d have found himself 1-on-1 with the CSKA ‘keeper, Igor Akinfeev. Minutes later and CSKA Moscow had their first big chance, as Vertonghen’s headed clearance fell to Tosic on the edge of the area, who took a touch before attempting to find the top corner with his dangerous left foot, but his shot was fired just off target.
Dele Alli then came extremely close to giving Spurs the lead on 35 minutes when Wernbloom’s tackle on Eriksen fell to him just outside the area, where he promptly shifted the ball from left to right and cracked a stunning strike which had Akinfeev beaten as it smacked the crossbar and went out for a goalkick. Spurs then went close twice more before half time, firstly when Trippier’s floated cross found an unmarked Alderweireld, who couldn’t generate enough power on the header to trouble Akinfeev, and then a couple of minutes later when Christian Eriksen’s cross was met by Alli at the back post, but his close-range header looped over.
Spurs had a staggering 70% possession in the first half, but they were having trouble converting this possession into chances. At half time, Poch swapped Son and Lamela’s wings in order to try and improve this. This did have some impact, as Lamela seemed to be getting involved more frequently from the left, and Son continued to threaten on the right, but Spurs were still failing to give Akinfeev a great deal to do. However, the introduction of Georges-Kevin Nkoudou on the 67thminute did manage to make a difference. Nkoudou beat two men as soon as he got the ball and won a corner which put us on the front foot. His pace and trickery put us on the front foot from the minute he came on.
As a result the Nkoudou substitution, Lamela found himself playing more centrally to fill in for Janssen who went off for the Frenchman. This change turned out to be a clever one from Pochettino, as within minutes Lamela collected Alderweireld’s forward pass in a central position and threaded through Son Heung-Min who exploited the space left in-behind by Lamela and managed to squeeze his finish past Akinfeev to break the deadlock, and score his fifth goal in five appearances this season.
Spurs did well after this to kill the game off, partly due to the composure and maturity of Harry Winks, who came on to replace Dele Alli and kept and controlled the game with some calm, sensible passing in the last ten minutes. Eremenko did manage to threaten Hugo Lloris’ goal once towards the end, when he cut inside and hit a swerving shot that Lloris managed to collect, but apart from that, Tottenham were able to see the game out fairly comfortably.
Between the sticks –
Hugo Lloris: 8/10.
Distributed well, dealt with a couple of dangerous shots and crosses and kept a clean sheet.
Kieran Trippier: 6/10.
Got forward well and threatened with one or two crosses, but did get beat a couple of times when defending
Ben Davies: 7/10.
Solid down the left, made a vital block and overlapped on occasions. Slightly over-cautious with his passing however.
Toby Alderweireld: 9/10.
Played a good pass into Lamela for the goal and dealt with the threat of Traore extremely well.
Jan Vertonghen: 8/10.
Comfortable on the ball, made some good tackles and helped to nullify the threat of Traore relatively well.
Victor Wanyama: 6/10.
Was booked very early on which hindered his defensive work. Clumsy on the ball at times aswell.
Dele Alli: 8/10.
Got forward well and was a threat for most of the match. Unlucky not to score in the first half.
Erik Lamela: 7/10.
Set up Son for his goal and aimed created a few chances in the second half after a quiet first.
Christian Eriksen: 6/10.
Pressed well and worked hard, but a quiet game for his standards. Hit two longshots way off target in the first half.
Heung-Min Son: 8/10.
Threatened all match from both the left and right, and maintained his impressive run of form with a well-deserved goal.
Vincent Janssen: 6/10.
Worked hard and linked play well, but his suspect run-making may suggest he’s low on confidence.
Georges-Kevin Nkoudou: 9/10.
Done all he possibly could when he came on. Beat players, kept the ball and worked hard to retrieve it.
Harry Winks: 9/10.
Playing ahead of his years. Yet to be fazed in a Spurs shirt. Composure personified.
Man of the Match:
Could have easily have gone to Son, but Alderweireld played a big part in this win. Defended expertly against Lacina Traore to stop CSKA scoring, threatened with his range of passing to play a part in giving Spurs the lead and made himself ever-available to maintain possession at all times.
Manchester City at home in the Premier League. Sunday 2nd October. Kick off at 14:15.