Harry Kane scores a brace as Tottenham beat Borussia Dortmund for Maurico Pochettino's first big win at WembleyHarry Kane scores a brace as Tottenham beat Borussia Dortmund for Maurico Pochettino's first big win at Wembley
Mauricio Pochettino’s side finally claimed that first big win at Wembley to instantly banish so much debate about the stadium, even if there will be so much more debate that this otherwise impressive 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund ultimately came down to the assistant referee’s inaccuracy as much as Harry Kane’s accuracy.
The ultra-prolific England international got his second of the game and Spurs’ game-clinching third just moments after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a goal that would have made it 2-2 wrongly ruled out for offside in the second half.
Pochettino and his side could justifiably say more than most that that’s just football - especially given Jan Vortonghen’s contentious late red card. When they suffered such setbacks in their opening two league games here against Chelsea and Burnley, their argument was that it would have been so different had it not been for the basic fortune of the bounce of the ball, especially when Kane hit the post against the champions.
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This was the flip side, and saw the ball go the other side, and into the net. It was that kind of borderline night, but also meant that Pochettino’s more calculated gameplan just about paid off.
One of the more interesting things about this match was that they are two of the most intense teams in Europe when playing their natural game, capable of overwhelming opposition to the point they can barely think - so it was to Pochettino’s credit that he decided to step back and have a think, consequently deciding to have his team step off.
That in itself reflects progress, and was also productive.
One common criticism of Spurs’ recent European under-performance by those close to the squad was that they didn’t adapt their game sufficiently for more patient continental sides, but that was far from the case here.
Pochettino so obviously got his side to sit deeper, allowing Dortmund to push further up, but it meant that the Germans often lunged forward like a boxer overcommitting. Spurs effectively side-stepped them in that regard, and were then left to take full advantage of the expanses of space in mind, leading to Heung-Min Son sidestepping both Lukasz Piszczek and goalkeeper Roman Burki for the opening goal after a mere four minutes.
The Korean just had so much space to run into in the Dortmund half. Although it seemed to ensure he actually took the ball too far once he had embarrassed Piszczek, it merely allowed him to also embarrass the poorly-positioned Burki by catching him at his near post.
The flip side of this was the invitation for a Dortmund with talent like this to attack, meaning there was a constant danger of moments like Andriy Yarmolenko’s sublime 11th-minute equaliser, as he curled the ball over Hugo Lloris from the edge of the box.
The match was developing into an exhilarating exchange of Dortmund compression and Spurs counters, and that became explicit on 15 minutes when Kane took advantage of the exact same problems that Son did.
The England striker might have got a fortunate that a foul on Piszczek wasn’t called, but he was similarly left with the entire Dortmund half to eat up, and an out-of-position Burki to beat. Kane did beat him with utter brutality, it must be said, as he thundered a swerving effort inside the goalkeeper’s near post.
It continued like this for so long, Dortmund having a strike ruled out for Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng drifting offside close to the goal just before half-time, Kane and Son then squandering two inviting counters with blazed shots over the bar just after it.
The England international was left with his hands after he so enticingly set up Son with a swerved pass for the second chance, but he was just as culpable with a very similar sort of strike just before it.
It looked like it would cost them on 56 minutes, as Dortmund again had the ball in the net through Aubameyang, but he was again adjudged to have drifted offside.
This was much more questionable, and would have left the Germans feeling much more aggrieved, especially when Kane almost immediately made up for that miss.
This was when the game really swung, after that swing of an assistant referee's flag. On 62 minutes, again given that bit more space than a guarantee of goals like him should be allowed, he showed exactly that: that he is a guarantee of goals. Kane slid the ball past Burki with his much more typical precision.
It was certainly more precise than the assistant referee.
Spurs could yet properly suffer from the same type of errors, given the suspension Vertonghen will now receive for what seemed a very soft stoppage-time red card after a collision with Mario Goetze. He was ruled to have elbowed the Dortmund substitute late on, and received red.
Spurs had at least done enough on the night, and potentially for the season given the significance of at last getting that win at Wembley. They put down a marker here, and maybe for the Champions league group, even if it had a lot to do with the linesman raising his flag.