Dead rubber or not, makeshift lineup or not, Spurs needed this. A comfortable victory where they alternated between occasional brilliant play, sloppy or indifferent periods, and then considerable stretches where they toyed with APOEL as if they simply wanted to prove they could play keepaway in classic tiki-taka form. The result was pretty much preordained, and but for the contretemps over the nick to Danny Rose’s forehead or eye, nobody seemed any worse for the effort.
Fernando Llorente was my MOTM because in two brief first half moments he showed the Wembley crowd and, more importantly, his teammates just what a back to goal, holding striker is. Winks found Aurier who delivered a pitch-perfect cross into the box, where in one deft touch Llorente controlled, then turned for an easy left-footed goal. On the second goal, again it was his possession and lay-off to Son that produced the chance, a wonderful curler that was everything that Ronaldo and Coutinho for goal this night except, as Ginger Rogers once remarked about dancing with Fred Astaire (“she does everything he does. Except backward and in heels”), his was left-footed.
The final goal was a reward, however deserved, for Georges-Kevin N’koudou, who had been active if not particularly effective throughout. Poch had steamed back to his chair just before the half in obvious distemper over a failed opportunity by the Frenchman, who too often for my taste dithered and surrendered possession despite being given the ball constantly down the left flank in threatening position. The goal may have been baby steps toward a bigger role. As for the rest, Sanchez and Foyth left no Spurs fan mistaking them for our two favoured Belgians at Center-Back—each had moments of skill and effort, each had puzzling displays of weakness or poor positioning. Aurier was similarly frustrating and probably at least a little fortunate to avoid red for an ill-tempered challenge in the second half. Rose too was up and down and seemed none too happy at being given a quick hook in favor of Kyle Walker-Peters by Poch when his eye region had been cut—everyone is barking about the January window, but unless the relationship between the two or, more likely, Rose and his teammates, has been seriously fractured, I can’t see Spurs weakening their side at such a crucial position.
Harry Winks was generally solid, as was Mousa Dembele in relief of Son—yet both made some atypical mistakes. Dele was rambunctious throughout but still incomplete in his finishing—and seemed to want to have a go at the referee from the first whistle. Sissoko was pretty good overall, supplying several well-placed passes and generally bossing things well from central midfield. It was a sufficient performance and a chance to begin a winning run with two, one would hope, winnable home fixtures awaiting before a supreme test at the Etihad. And now we await a draw in which Bayern Munich and Juventus seem to be the chief bogeymen, but Shakhtar Donetsk, winners over previously unbeaten Manchester City tonight, might actually supply the biggest threat. But in which European Competition are Arsenal competing?
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