Kane, Aurier and all Tottenham talking points from Spurs' 3-0 win over APOEL

Tottenham’s Harry Kane, second left, who scored three goals against APOEL goes with the ball between APOEL’s players during the end of the Champions League Group H soccer match between APOEL Nicosia and Tottenham Hotspur at GSP stadium, in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Tottenham won 3-0.(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Harry Kane scored a perfect hat-trick as Tottenham triumphed 3-0 away against APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League and moved six points clear of the bottom two sides in Group H.

Kane, continuing his post-August imperious form, bagged with his head and both feet as Spurs put APOEL to the sword.

Here are five talking points from the Champions League clash.

1. Mauricio Pochettino starts Kieran Trippier on the left side

Missing seven first-team players due to injury or suspension, Spurs were stretched just a little too thinly for comfort and their manager had to improvise.

He had various options including handing Juan Foyth his second start, playing Fernando Llorente alongside or in front of Harry Kane, using Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and/or switching to 4-2-3-1.

In the end, however, he opted to field Ben Davies as a left-sided centre-back and deploy Trippier as the left wing-back, rather than 20-year-old Kyle Walker-Peters.

The benefit was it allowed Pochettino to stick with the shape he has favoured recently – three at the back and a midfield diamond. That foursome of Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko and Heung-Min Son also looked perfectly competitive, despite the litany of absentees.

Meanwhile, Pochettino avoided throwing a youngster or the inconsistent Nkoudou into an important European clash.

On the other hand, it left Trippier playing on the wrong side – an experiment which had not really worked during the second half of the goalless draw against Swansea earlier this month.

Inevitably, the ‘left-back’ was forced to come infield onto his right foot every time he got the ball, which hardly helped Tottenham’s fluency as they sought to break down their hosts in the first half.

However, he created Spurs’ best chance of the opening 35 minutes, whipping in an enticing inswinging ball that was headed wastefully over the bar by Heung-Min Son.

There were concerns about the strength of Tottenham’s squad when they arrived in Cyprus but they got the job done.

AS IT HAPPENED: APOEL Nicosia v Tottenham

READ MORE: Kane bags hat-trick as Spurs stroll to victory

2. Champions League had a Thursday night stench

Spurs’ return to the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund was everything their fans would have dreamed of – high-quality, fast-paced and, ultimately, triumphant.

It was clear from the opening exchanges of tonight’s encounter in Cyprus that this was going to be a different affair.

APOEL, like so many of Tottenham’s opponents, settled in to contain them and, for most of the first half, the Lilywhites were unable to break them down.

A weakened side missing both Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen was lacking imagination and quality, in an unglamorous European outpost.

It felt disconcertingly like a Thursday night and one of those interminable Europa League group matches that give the competition a bad name.

3. Harry Kane continues to shine in the Champions League

With APOEL succeeding in frustrating Spurs for the vast majority of the first half, the visitors were going to need to be clinical when any chances came their way. Fortunately they have just the man for such moments.

Tottenham only mustered four shots on target – just one more than their hosts – but Kane made them count.

Strangely, given what had gone before in the opening 38 minutes and the home side’s discipline, Tottenham’s opener was all too easy – a simple pass forward from Toby Alderweireld left Kane through on goal as he broke the offside trap, and he finished coolly.

That dead-eyed finish before the interval provided the crucial breakthrough that turned a concerningly flat performance into a comfortable victory, forcing APOEL to come forward after the break and expose themselves to further setbacks.

Kane duly punished them in full, wrapping up a perfect hat-trick – left foot, right foot, header – before the 70th minute and then getting a useful rest on the bench.

First he slotted home from the edge of the box after Moussa Sissoko’s cut-back, the Frenchman finally getting a tangible contribution to go with some encouraging performances.

Kane then headed home from Trippier’s pin-point cross after his team-mate was switched to his natural position on the right-hand side. It was Trippier’s second assist in his last two starts, following his low cross to Dele Alli against Barnsley last week.

Spurs’ star striker has now scored nine goals in his last five matches for Spurs – five of those strikes coming in the Champions League – and if he continues to get varied sources of ammunition from the likes of Sissoko and Trippier, in addition to Eriksen and Alli, there is no reason why his strike-rate should drop.

Kane continues to excel in every challenge he faces, but the next one in Europe is probably the toughest there is – Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.

The same goes for his team-mates but Spurs are in good shape after two of their six group games, lying six points clear of both Dortmund and APOEL.

That breathing room could come in rather handy as they now look ahead to two showdowns with the reigning European champions.


4. Serge Aurier’s outing is cut short again

The Ivorian was recklessly sent off in the 70th minute at West Ham on Saturday and he found himself among the substitutes even sooner tonight. This time he was substituted, in the 57th minute, having failed to have the desired impact.

Offensively he was disappointingly one-dimensional. Although one low cross caused problems and created a chance for Son, he seemed too eager to just swing the ball into the box, making it easy for his marker to predict his intention and get his body in the way.

Given Aurier’s pace, it would be good to see him mixing up his approach play, taking on his man more often and keeping him guessing, thereby giving himself more space to get his cross away.

At the other end of the field, Aurier was caught out by a through ball when Spurs were 1-0 up, allowing Efstathios Aloneftis to run in behind him and force a diving save from Hugo Lloris.

That was virtually his last involvement as Pochettino brought on Llorente in his place, restoring Trippier to the right side and switching to something akin to 4-4-2 – at least until Kane’s departure.

In other circumstances it could be suggested that Aurier was actually being rested for the weekend – but he is suspended against Huddersfield on Saturday.

5. Hugo Lloris shows his skills and his weakness

Tottenham’s goalkeeper is one of the best – a fine shot-stopper, someone who is quick off his line and suits Pochettino’s system, and an excellent captain. His glaring weakness – his kicking – simply has to be accepted.

How Spurs’ full-backs must despair when their skipper aims those angled kicks to the touchlines, lofting the ball agonisingly over their heads and out for a throw-in – and every now and then there is a real gaffe, where Lloris’ commendable speed off his line and his lacking of footballing ability combine to create a hugely embarrassing problem.

So it was in the first half as he raced from his box to clear the danger, only to succeed in punting the ball into his own defender, Davinson Sanchez, and watch as the ricochet rolled, luckily, just wide of his left post.

Had it taken a slightly different course Spurs would have been 1-0 down and in real trouble.

Yet Lloris got a let-off and went on to deny APOEL with a few agile saves, keeping a clean sheet with the help of his colleagues.

Such a scare will happen again, and eventually there will be a clanger that ends up in the net. But how many sides would love to have Lloris in their side?

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs and visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BenPearceSpurs/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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