Harry Kane had spoken of Tottenham needing to show they can rise to the biggest challenges, the main events, the pressure occasions, and here they did just that. Nothing Spursy about this win; not so much as the slightest wobble, in fact. It was quite possibly one of the finest European performances by a Premier League side in recent memory: a magnificent example of game management and big match finishing. Not just Kane’s goal, but the whole team display, keeping Borussia Dortmund at bay in the first-half, killing them off smartly in the second.
What needs to change, perhaps, is the view that Tottenham are a work in progress, and this Champions League campaign has a glass ceiling of achievement. Any team that can beat the current Bundesliga leaders 4-0 on aggregate, any team that can see out a match and not concede in these circumstances, should not be subject to artificial limitations. Yes, there are better teams in Europe; yes, many of those in the quarter-final draw will have considerably more experience. Yet across the last two seasons, Tottenham have defeated Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and got a draw at Barcelona when required. It can no longer be said they do not have the pedigree. That is pedigree, right there. This was a pedigree performance, too. If a European team had progressed in this fashion, we would dub it a masterclass.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Borussia Dortmund: Burki, Wolf (Bruun Larsen 62), Akanji, Weigl, Diallo, Sancho, Reus (Delaney 73), Witsel, Gotze, Guerreiro (Pulisic 62), Alcacer.
Subs not used: Hitz, Zagadou, Hakimi, Schmelzer.
Manager: Lucien Favre
Tottenham: Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies, Winks (Dier 55), Eriksen (Rose 83), Sissoko, Son (Lamela 71), Kane.
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Wanyama, Llorente, Moura.
Goals: Kane 48
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Holland)
Mauricio Pochettino set Tottenham up to defend knowing Dortmund had to be aggressive, and they did so magnificently. Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris carried on where they left off against Arsenal at Wembley on Saturday. They were outstanding.
Then, given one chance to end the game as a contest shortly after half-time, Kane did not disappoint. He is now Tottenham’s leading European goalscorer – an accolade he takes from Jermain Defoe and not, for once, from Jimmy Greaves – and this showed why. It was the perfect finish, from a perfect finisher – had Dortmund possessed one like him, they might have stood a chance.
Christian Eriksen’s pass in the heart of midfield was cut out, but the ball ran loose to Moussa Sissoko. He saw Kane’s sublimely judged run and reacted quickly; Kane, free of his markers, lashed a right foot shot past Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki. It was Tottenham’s first shot on target, only their second opportunity of note all game, but nights like this are not necessarily about dominance, but intelligence.