5 talking points from Tottenham’s 1-0 victory over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League
Heung-Min Son was on target again as Tottenham triumphed 1-0 against CSKA Moscow in Russia in their second Champions League group game. Here are five talking points.
1. Spurs are unhindered by absentees
Tottenham travelled to Russia without five first-team players – Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko, Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier and Danny Rose – leaving Mauricio Pochettino unable to rotate to any great degree.
There were only two changes to the side that had lined up against Middlesbrough three days previously, and there was a youthful, inexperienced look to the group of players sitting in readiness in the dug-out - Harry Winks, Josh Onomah and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou were the only midfielders and attacking players in reserve.
Nevertheless, Spurs secured a vital 1-0 away win in Europe’s elite club competition, and Nkoudou and Winks both made useful contributions from the bench.
2. Pochettino’s tactics
Tottenham may have been away from home but they were positive from the outset, lining up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen both pushing forward in the centre of midfield and Victor Wanyama being left alone to shield the back four.
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Spurs had used a similar system in their previous Champions League outing against Monaco and it had backfired somewhat, with the French side counter-attacking effectively and taking a 2-0 lead en route to a 2-1 win at Wembley.
This time, however, Pochettino’s plan worked well. With the powerful but pedestrian Lacina Traore up front, CSKA Moscow lacked the pace to really trouble the Lilywhites on the break.
Yet despite Spurs’ dominance and their extra creative player around the box, they struggled to find a way through their hosts’ massed ranks, so Pochettino made another change after the hour-mark, withdrawing Janssen, introducing Nkoudou and effectively playing without a frontman.
It made Spurs’ attacking players harder to mark and the breakthrough came just five minutes after the substitution as Erik Lamela freed Heung-Min Son.
3. Super Son’s hot streak continues
The South Korean, who struck both goals in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Middlesbrough, was the hero again in Moscow, netting the decisive goal in the 71st minute.
He has now scored five goals in his last five games, plus an assist at Stoke. With Lamela and Eriksen also in good form, Spurs have plenty of dangerous attacking midfielders who can find the net in Harry Kane’s absence and keep the weight off Janssen’s shoulders.
4. Nkoudou’s impact
The summer signing replaced Janssen in the 66th minute and made his presence felt on the left flank, immediately beating two men to win a corner and, moments later, tracking back to stop a CKSA counter-attack.
The 21-year-old Frenchman looks quick, tricky, direct and seems to have a good work ethic. The confidence he showed, in a key period of an important game so early in his Spurs career, was also encouraging to see.
While these are only the very first glimpses of Nkoudou, the initial signs are that he looks like an upgrade on Clinton Njie.
5. Tottenham are back on track in the Champions League
Spurs have undone the damage from their home defeat against Monaco, and there was good news in the other fixture in Group E as the French club grabbed an injury-time equaliser against Bayer Leverkusen, securing a 1-1 draw at the death.
That leaves Tottenham second in the table, one point behind Monaco, in a group which looks just as open and unpredictable as many anticipated when the draw was made.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs