Harry Kane didn’t have a memorable Champions League campaign last season, so he knows the onus is on him to set the record straight this year.
With Tottenham handed the worst draw of the English sides, being placed alongside both Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, the pressure is on the Spurs talisman to produce the performances that would take his side into the knockout stages.
The 24-year-old ratcheted up the pressure on himself ahead of Wednesday night’s game against Dortmund, saying he wants to “break into that world-class bracket” and acknowledging that this meant playing well in the Champions League. And then, he delivered.
Two supremely well-taken goals in an all-action display saw Kane lead Spurs to a 3-1 victory over Dortmund, banishing memories of last year’s European performances and all talk of a Wembley curse.
Here’s an in-depth look at how Kane played on Wednesday.
Goals – 2
Assists – 1
Shots – 6
Dribbles – 2
Passes – 13
Key passes – 4
Pass Accuracy – 72%
Touches – 42
Aerials Won – 2
There was a hunger about Kane’s play on Wednesday. It showed in his goals, in the way he celebrated them – with a look of hunger and desire on his face – and in the way he took responsibility for his team.
The Englishman was everywhere. His movement and strength were too much for the Dortmund defence to handle as he dominated in the air, dropped back to set up team-mates, pulled the defenders wide, and found space to get in behind.
Not to mention, he was often the first line of defence during Dortmund’s set-pieces, a role he performed with as much relish as his goal-scoring duties.
15th min: A goal that epitomised Kane. He won the initial header, held off a defender to get a run in on goal, then caught Dortmund keeper Roman Burki out with an early strike.
60th min: Kane’s left is definitely his weaker foot, but he scores enough number of left-footed goals to make people temporarily forget that. Picking up a pass from Christian Eriksen, the English man hit a precise strike into the far corner to put Spurs in control.
87th min: A moment that showed exactly how much Kane wanted to put in a good performance in this game. He saw his number come up on the substitutes’ board and put up his hand almost as if to wave it away, then urged his teammates to play the ball forward quickly so that he’d have one last chance to score and complete a hat-trick. It wasn’t to be and Fernando Llorente replaced him at the next stoppage in play, but it showed that Kane was desperate to grace this occasion with a memorable display.
In all honesty, Kane probably should have had a hat-trick, as he missed a couple of chances to get a third goal. And that’s probably the only knock on his performance on the night. Otherwise, the Englishman was sublime, and went a long way in backing up his talk about showing that he wants to join the bracket of world-class players.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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?
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said he did not know how seriously Paul Pogba had injured himself after the France midfielder limped off during Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Basel.
Making his debut as United captain, Pogba lasted just 18 minutes of the Champions League group game before being forced off by an apparent left hamstring injury, with Marouane Fellaini taking his place.
Pogba abruptly pulled up in midfield, clutching the back of his left leg, and after being helped off the pitch by a United physio he showed his disgust by tossing his armband aside as he hobbled down the touchline.
“I don’t know obviously, but by experience, just by looking and feeling, it’s a hamstring,” Mourinho told reporters at Old Trafford. “Big, small, I don’t know.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with him.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 12, 2017
“Squads are for this, squads are for injuries, squads are for suspensions. We don’t cry with injuries. So if no Paul for Sunday, we have Herrera, we have Carrick, we have Fellaini and we have Matic.”
Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and substitute Marcus Rashford scored as United marked their return to the competition with a straightforward win.