Harry Kane’s sublime hat-trick helped Tottenham record a second consecutive victory at the start of their Champions League campaign as they saw off a dogged APOEL Nicosia side on Tuesday.
It was the hosts who came closest to scoring in the opening exchanges with Igor de Camargo’s shot cannoning back off the crossbar, before Carlao sent a back-post header wide from just six-yards out.
The hosts were made to pay for their wastefulness in front of goal shortly before the break when Kane fired in his third goal in two European matches after Toby Alderweireld’s superb piercing ball.
And the England international filled his boots in the second-half, completing a perfect hat-trick in five minutes as he found the bottom corner with a right-foot effort before planting a header home.
The result sees Tottenham move level on points with Real Madrid at the top of Group H ahead of their double-header with the reigning champions, opening up a six-point gap on Borussia Dortmund.
Pochettino’s make-shift squad does the job
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was facing something of a crisis heading into Tuesday’s clash against APOEL with Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Danny Rose, Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele all ruled out of contention due to varying degrees of injuries and suspension.
The Argentine had little choice but to ring the changes then, with young Harry Winks coming in to the midfield, Kieran Trippier moving to the left-wing and Ben Davies slotting inside as a centre-back.
Whilst the line-up had more than just a little ‘square peg in a round hole’ feel it to it proved effective as the visitors ground out a vital three points against a spirited APOEL side, making it six from six for Spurs.
It perhaps could have been a different story had they been facing up to Real Madrid, with APOEL coming close to capitalising on some sloppy defending more than once, but it’s onwards and upwards in Europe.
APOEL defy their ‘minnows’ tag
Any illusion that Tuesday evening’s encounter with so-called ‘minnows’ APOEL Nicosia would be nothing more than a romp to victory was shattered when De Camargo hit the woodwork early on.
The Cypriot side had shown in round one that they’re a disciplined and gritty side, not disgracing themselves in the 3-0 defeat away to Real Madrid, and they refused to sit back and let Tottenham bring a siege to their goal and should have arguably taken the lead after a string of good first-half chances.
Hugo Lloris could only watch De Camargo’s effort strike the upright before Carlao was left completely unmarked at the back post with the goal gaping, only to somehow send his free header wide of the mark.
APOEL’s wastefulness proved their downfall as, moments after Carlao’s effort, Kane gave the hosts a lesson in how to be clinical as he scored with Tottenham’s first shot on target in the 39th minute.
However, to their credit, they certainly didn’t lie down after the break, coming out firing and going in search of the equaliser, and they made Tottenham work hard for their second Group H win in a row.
Kane reigns supreme in Cyprus
Was a Harry Kane goal ever in doubt?
In the absence of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, Tottenham’s two creative hubs in the heart of the pitch, the England forward harboured almost all the visitor’s hopes in front of goal and he certainly delivered.
Five minutes before the break he managed to peel off his marker and after being beautifully found by Toby Alderweireld he only needed one touch to set himself before coolly slotting into the corner.
He needed no invitation to continue his fine goal-scoring form after the break, finding space on the edge of the area to slot into the corner again before a glancing header completed his perfect hat-trick.
It took his tally to five Champions League goals in just two games so far – and 11 goals in all forms of football since the start of September – cementing his reputation as one of the world’s best strikers.
If anything it also underlined his importance to Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who hadn’t been at their flowing best against APOEL, and Kane will be key to their hopes of going far in this year’s competition.