Tottenham went into their opening Champions League game of the season against Borussia Dortmund with plenty of questions to answer, given their travails in last year’s competition and their general poor run of form at Wembley.
Dortmund were always going to be challenging opposition but Spurs hit their stride straight away, with Son Heung-min scoring a wonderful solo goal in the fourth minute.
The Germans hit back quickly with an even better goal, Andriy Yarmolenko scoring a beautiful curler, but it was the Harry Kane show after that, with the Englishman bagging two goals and coming close to scoring plenty more.
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Spurs rode their luck, with Dortmund creating plenty of chances and a few refereeing calls also going the home side’s way, but in the end Mauricio Pochettino’s men emerged as 3-1 winners.
Here’s a look at the talking points from the game.
WHAT WEMBLEY CURSE?
Given that all of Tottenham’s home games are at Wembley this season, that first win at the national stadium was going to come sooner or later, but this was a sweet way to break the curse.
Spurs would have gone into this game carrying the memories of last year’s poor European performances at Wembley, and it wasn’t going to get any easier this year with Dortmund coming to town as the first Champions League opponents of the season.
But a win in which they emerged from a chaotic first-half to look largely in control after getting a goal to go 3-1 up should banish all notions of a curse. Especially considering the way luck was on their side on Wednesday night – Dortmund had two goals disallowed for offside; the first call was debatable but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was definitely onside on the second.
HARRY KANE BACKS UP THE TALK
“I have said before I want to break into that world-class bracket. To do that you have to play well in the Champions League,” Harry Kane said in the build-up to this game.
Two high-class goals against one of Europe’s leading sides and traditional powerhouses – the England striker certainly knows how to back up his talk.
It wasn’t just the goals. His link-up play was as good as ever, and he didn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities – quite often it was the star striker who got his head on Dortmund set pieces to keep his side out of danger.
He put pressure on himself going into the game and then delivered against tough opposition on a grand stage. The “world-class bracket” isn’t far away.
DORTMUND LEARNING THE AJAX WAY
While the gegenpress is now embedded into the philosophy of just about every German team, Dortmund is arguably where it first became famous, under Jurgen Klopp. His successor Thomas Tuchel also used the press extensively, if perhaps not as intensely as Klopp, but new manager Peter Bosz comes from a different school.
The manager who led Ajax to the Europa League final last season has brought some of the classic Dutch philosophy to Dortmund. Bosz’s side is still as thrilling going forward as previous Dortmund teams, but there are also hints of a more measured build-up at times, and definitely more slick passing.
Most glaringly, the gegenpress has seemingly been reigned in. Spurs’ defence had a lot more time on the ball than Klopp’s or Tuchel’s Dortmund sides would have allowed. Bosz also has his defence playing a much higher line, a tactic which has served the Germans well so far domestically but was exploited by Spurs multiple times on the night.
VAR CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system is still ironing out a few kinks, as anyone who’s watched Serie A this season will tell you, but Wednesday night was another advert for why it’s needed.
Dortmund had one perfectly good goal disallowed for offside, and the wrong call was a turning point. It should have been 2-2 after Aubameyang’s superb finish early in the second-half. Instead, the goal was wrongly chalked off and Spurs scored soon after to extend their lead to 3-1, and saw out the game after that.
Real Madrid are expected to top this group and Apoel Nicosia are the favourites to finish bottom, which means Wednesday night’s clash between Spurs and Dortmund was, along with the return leg, vital to determining who finishes second and qualifies for the knockout stage. How crucial will that offside call be?