Tottenham Hotspur have advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League as a narrow away victory expanded their aggregate triumph over Borussia Dortmund.
The English side already led the tie by a three-goal margin following a comfortable win over the German outfit at Wembley Stadium three weeks ago and navigated a tricky first 45 minutes unscathed before Harry Kane killed all doubt of progression with an emphatic second-half strike.
Spurs will now await the quarter-final draw on Friday 15 March, while Dortmund are eliminated at this stage for the first time since 2015.
Story of the game
The first chance of the match fell for Dortmund, who enjoyed a considerable amount of possession in the opening stages. Jadon Sancho hopped past Ben Davies into a dangerous position on the right flank before crossing for Paco Alcácer, but the Spaniard’s flick proved no trouble for Hugo Lloris.
Dortmund patiently probed Tottenham who kept a great number of bodies behind the ball, but this didn’t concern the away side who knew they already held a three-goal advantage heading into their trip to Germany.
The first serious threat to Lloris’ goal came 11 minutes in. Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass in his own box and Marco Reus pounced on the loose ball, but Jan Vertonghen — the standout performer in the first leg — remarkably slid in to hook the ball away from the German and prevent the shot.
It was proving to be an enforced backs-to-the-wall showing from Spurs. Christian Eriksen, usually hailed as the creative spark in Tottenham’s attack, tracked back into his own area to clear a threatening cross from Reus. Three minutes later, Manuel Akanji lofted a pass over for Alcácer in behind the opposition defence, but the Spaniard poked the ball over the bar — an apparent let-off for Spurs, but the flag was eventually raised for a marginal offside.
Reus was involved once again on the 20-minute mark as he played a one-two with Raphael Guerreiro on the left flank. The German then took aim at goal, and his effort deflected off Sanchez making it an awkward save for Lloris, but the Frenchman was nonetheless able to keep the scores level.
A storming run from Abdou Diallo saw him weave into the Spurs box and tee up Mario Götze 20 yards from goal, but the shot was blocked by Eriksen who was once again fulfilling his enchanted defensive duties for the evening.
Spurs were struggling to gain any meaningful possession on the ball. Effective counter-attacks were impossible due to Dortmund’s aggressive pressing, but Spurs were reluctant to commit too many bodies forward anyway. On the flip side, for all of the home side’s domination there was no scoreboard reward for the German outfit as Tottenham’s five-at-the-back formation was incredibly hard to break down.
On the half-hour mark, Eriksen finally had the opportunity to show his attacking impetus. The Dane sent Son Heung-min through on goal but the South Korean’s right-footed effort was wide of the post. Son appealed for a penalty as he believed he had been shoved by Marius Wolf, but referee Danny Makkelie waved the claims away.
Then came a frantic two minutes for Spurs in which their goal, and its keeper, were under unrelenting siege. First, Reus crossed for Julian Weigl lurking at the near post — the German’s flicked header was well-saved by Lloris before Ben Davies leapt across to block the follow-up.
The subsequent corner was lofted to Reus who was unmarked on the edge of the area. The 29-year old attempted an audacious first-time volley, which only whistled wide of the post due to a brave block from Sanchez. Seconds later, Götze ghosted his way into the box and unleashed a curling shot towards the far post, but Lloris stretched spectacularly to keep Dortmund at bay.
Spurs survived the remainder of the period without a great deal of threat to their goal, and half-time brought a much-welcomed rest to Spurs’ beleaguered yet unbroken back line as well as their fine shot-stopper Lloris.
As far as Dortmund were concerned, their passing and movement had been of the ilk of a truly supreme Champions League side, but the only missing component from their performance — and a crucial one at that — was a goal.
The home side began the second-half brightly, again fashioning the first real chance. Reus and Guerreiro played a one-two similar to that which they produced in the first period and Reus lashed the ball across goal, but it found neither the net nor a teammate.
The breakthrough was achieved in the 48th minute and, firmly against the run of play, it was Spurs who opened the scoring. Moussa Sissoko played through Kane who let the ball run across his body before dispatching the ball past the helpless Roman Bürki. Tottenham now led 4-0 on aggregate, effectively killing all doubt that they would progress to the quarter-finals.
As a result of the goal, the game’s previously powerful intensity appeared to die down. Dortmund were disheartened by the slashing of any realistic hopes they held regarding the tie, while Spurs no longer had any incentive to attack and were content to restrict their opponents to aimless passing which produced little threat to their unassailable lead.
Kane, brimming with confidence having notched his fifth strike of this Champions League campaign, attempted to lob Bürki from just inside the attacking half, but the bold effort fell fairly far away from goal, but this was the only attempt in a tranquil spell of limited chances.
Spurs earned rare possession of the ball and decided to attack through Sissoko. The Frenchman surged forward before slipping a pass through for Son, but a tame effort from the South Korean was deflected out for a corner.
With just under 15 minutes to play, Dortmund substitutes Thomas Delaney and Christian Pulisic linked up but the American, unmarked in the area, failed to direct his header goalwards.
Jacob Bruun Larsen then weaved his way towards goal before laying the ball off for Götze who lifted it for the Dane to volley, yet the effort was deflected and effortlessly saved by Lloris.
Spurs thought they had doubled their lead when Kane had the ball in the net after an 86th-minute counter-attack, but the linesman’s flag was raised. Lloris was called into action on one final occasion at the end of regulation time, denying Alcácer from close range following an intelligent through-ball from Bruun Larsen.
However, the score remained in Spurs’ favour. Mauricio Pochettino’s men had overcome a nervy first-half to capitalise on their lead from the first leg and deservedly progressed into the quarter-finals.
Takeaways from the match
Gritty performance from Spurs
Something different was required of Pochettino’s men on the night. Normally associated with incisive attacking football, Tottenham had to rein in their forward-thinking urges and were tasked with the deceivingly difficult task of defending their three-goal lead from the first tie.
All in white and blue fulfilled their roles to perfection. Vertonghen’s sliding challenge on Reus in the first-half epitomised both the task at hand and Spurs’ willingness to meet the challenge.
Fully deserving of their passage to the quarter-finals, Spurs will now eagerly anticipate the next round of the competition. Even the very elite of European football will find them to be stern opposition if they can replicate a performance such as this.
Goals desert the otherwise impressive Dortmund
A resilient, well-drilled Tottenham side were pushed to the limits of their capabilities, particularly in the first-half as Dortmund created an abundance of chances to edge their way back into the tie.
Reus and Guerreiro were menacing on the left side, while Götze patrolled the central pockets in midfield and Sancho attacked from the left. Alcácer found himself outnumbered by three Spurs central defenders, but nevertheless fashioned chances to score.
Perhaps Dortmund lacked a clinical edge, or perhaps Lloris was simply supreme — either way, Lucien Favre will be contemplating how it is possible that his side failed to find the net at some point during the tie.
Both sides look forward to winnable encounters at the weekend.
Dortmund return to Signal Iduna Park to face 16th-placed Stuttgart, while Tottenham travel to a struggling Southampton side.