The Warm Down: Spurs frustrate Dortmund before killing on the counter
Photo: Getty Images/Jorg Schuler

The Warm Down: Spurs frustrate Dortmund before killing on the counter

Spurs had their backs to the wall but took the game beyond Dortmund with a killer Kane goal, writes Oliver Miller at Signal Iduna Park

oliver-miller
Oliver Miller

Some of the Borussia Dortmund supporters started drifting out with 20 minutes left to play, by full time the travelling Tottenham Hotspur fans sang ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to those that had left. This was Spurs wishing their hosts goodnight and goodbye.

This was a Spurs performance that Mauricio Pochettino can take great positives from. Over half of the job had been done at Wembley three weeks ago but nevertheless, an early Dortmund goal could have induced nerves. Especially given the frailties that Pochettino’s side have shown occasionally of late.

But what Tottenham offered was a ruthless and relaxed approach that sent them through to the quarter-finals with room to spare.

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Dortmund threw hammer and tongue at Spurs

Lucien Favre certainly didn’t want his team to go out thinking what might have been. He elected to start Paco Alcacer up front with Marco Reus and Mario Gotze in supporting roles centrally and Jadon Sancho driving in from the right flank. The intent was there but the composure was somewhat lacking.

The hosts had to show that they meant business and couldn’t throw too much caution to the wind even if a Spurs away goal would have put the tie to bed well and truly.  

Pochettino, on the other hand, started with five defenders, in anticipation of the Dortmund onslaught. In his pre-match media briefing, the Spurs manager urged his side to play the game as if it was all square and go out and win again.

Deploying three central defenders in Toby Alderweireld, Davison Sanchez and Jan Verthongen suggested otherwise, although ultimately it proved Pochettino got his tactics spot on.

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Dortmund squandered their first-half chances

The intent from the teamsheet transferred onto the pitch as Dortmund knocked hard on Spurs’ door. The back five was just that, a flat back five, for the entire half as the hosts pushed back their opponents and threatened Hugo Lloris’ goal on numerous occasions. Luckily Spurs had their own wall.

In a stadium that is famed for a yellow version, the visitors had an orange one in between the posts.

First, it was Alcacer with a poked finish – albeit that was offside – then came attempts from what seemed like the rest of the Dortmund team but Lloris repelled everything that was thrown at him.

Questions have been raised this season with regards to Lloris’ form and whether his time as Spurs’ No.1 is coming to an end, especially with Paolo Gazzaniga repaying the faith that is placed in him when chosen, but Lloris’ display in the first half showed that his reflexes are still in fine working order.

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Spurs withstood, then broke

What Spurs did have was a threat of the counter and, although it wasn’t exhibited too much in the opening period – Son being played through and shooting wide was the closest the visitors came – the opening goal of the evening came from a finely executed break.

Of course, it was Kane who finished it, and the tie, with a powerful strike from 20 yards out. It was clinical Tottenham at their best; backs to the wall – quite literally – for much of the first half and then within five minutes of the restart, the lead is up to four goals and the hosts needed five to go through.

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Defeat is latest in a poor run for Dortmund

Dortmund still saw more of the ball after the killer goal but the unassailable mountain got even steeper. Their recent form suggested as much with only one win in eight in all competitions showing that this is the wobbliest time of Favre’s time in charge at the club.

Not only have they gone out of the Champions League but also three days earlier they had succumbed top spot in the Bundesliga to Bayern Munich. A spot that they will find hard to regain.

One spot that Dortmund have now lost completely is a place in the quarter-finals of this competition. Spurs were well worth their progression; whether it was Verthognen marshalling a tight and cohesive back line or Moussa Sissoko driving forward and acting as a battering ram for Kane and Son, Pochettino got a perfect European away performance from his side in many aspects.

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Pochettino proud of his players’ performance

The Spurs manager highlighted how proud he was of what his team achieved, especially given that the visitors had to deal with a lot of Dortmund pressure in the first half.

He also congratulated Lloris for managing his 100th clean sheet and Kane for becoming the clubs record European goalscorer.

When questioned whether this was his biggest achievement as Tottenham manager, Pochettino was reluctant to admit it but for those Spurs supporters, positioned in the corner of this atmospheric stadium, it hasn’t felt this good for some time.

This was a victory with qualities not seen all too often from Spurs, sitting deep and absorbing pressure, showing they can win by different means.

Having emerged from a tough group and convincingly eliminated a strong Dortmund side, Spurs will feel that they can wave goodbye to whoever comes their way in the next round.

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