Tottenham took a vital three points from their Champions League Group E clash with CSKA in Moscow. We look at a the five key taking points.
1. Struggles up front continue.
Vincent Janssen really failed to influence the contest and was withdrawn on 65 minutes. Spurs completely dominated possession after an even opening and finished with more than twice as many shots at goal. Yet of their 22 shots, few of them were clear-cut and a miserable 2 were on target.
CSKA ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev should really have done better to stop Heung-Min Son’s 71st minute prod from trickling into the back of his net. If he had, then Spurs would seemingly have drawn a blank and left with just a point.
2. A really gutsy Spurs display
Tottenham were not at their best, and missing almost half of their starting XI. Yet unlike recent seasons in the Europa League where these issues have proven fatal, here they dug in and found a way to get the result. CSKA looked dangerous on the counter attack as sides that sit back against Tottenham often do, but this threat was mostly limited to a few shots from outside the box.
Eriksen, Alli and Son looked the most likely on the night to give Spurs the advantage they were after. The second half saw them continually pepper the goal from half-chances and semi-opportunities, and at times it looked as if the solid CSKA defence would prove too challenging to break down. But they did eventually get the ball and result across the line. It’s what good teams do – get the job done when required, despite apparently difficult circumstances. A professional performance.
3. Georges-Kevin N’Koudou
The Frenchman may not yet have the slightest grasp of the English language, but he made a world of difference to his English club when coming on. Brought on by Mauricio Pochettino for Vincent Janssen, he was an immediate threat on the left. With Son moving central, this pairing proved the decisive factor. Played a hand in Son’s winner by being heavily involved in the build-up.
N’Koudou retained the ball from challenging positions, looking speedy and composed. He tracked back to help Ben Davies and snuff out any threat on the left hand side as CSKA tried to revive their fortunes late in the piece. It seemed a brave move by Pochettino to bring off the only recognised striker when chasing a win. But it proved if not quite a masterstroke then a very nifty piece of in-game management. N’Koudou looked thoroughly delighted as the final whistle sounded, and rightly so.
4. Moscow crowd.
The crowd in Russia had seemed the greatest challenges that Spurs would need to overcome if they were to come away with the win. However, at least on the surface they appeared nothing but well-behaved. Loud yes, and so they should be. Interesting too, as a patch of male supporters behind goal braved the freezing cold to go shirtless throughout the match. How they managed to avoid frostbite or hypothermia is anyone’s guess, but the atmosphere – whilst certainly all in favour of the home team – was not quite that threatening. Tottenham handled it well regardless.
5. Qualifying from the group.
Moved from 4th to 2nd in Group E with this win and the draw between Monaco and Leverkusen. Should expect to have the better of CSKA back home later in the tournament. Before that though, will want to take at least 4 points from home and away fixtures with Leverkusen. It’s still early but Monaco and Spurs look the two most likely to go through, and Tottenham would not want to leave themselves needing too many points from their last two fixtures. Especially given Matchday 5 sees a trip to the principality.