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Champions League

Three talking points as Tottenham secured a hard-fought victory over APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League

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Tottenham

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.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Champions League

Ranking Liverpool’s possible Champions League semi-final opponents

The draw for the semi-final stage takes place on Friday 13th April.

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Liverpool
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool shocked the footballing world with a 5-1 aggregate dismantling of Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals, earning themselves their first semifinal appearance in a decade.

The draw to determine who they will play in the last four occurs on Friday, and here are Liverpool’s possible opponents ranked in terms of difficulty.

1. Roma

Fresh off a superb 3-0 second leg win over Barcelona, the Serie A side are certainly high on confidence and feel as if they can beat any team in the world.

Nonetheless, the Reds will be hoping they are rewarded with a matchup against the Italian side, as they are the most inexperienced team left in the competition.

The farthest Roma have ever made it in the UEFA Champions League were back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in 2006/07 and 2007/08; the semifinals mark uncharted territory for the Italians in the modern era.

Roma are also in poor league form, having recently lost to Fiorentina and drawing with Bologna, and currently sit 21 points off the pace in Serie A.

Liverpool would love to play the only remaining Italian side in the semifinals, as it would pit them against an inexperienced European club.

(Photo by Christof Stache/Getty Images)

2. Bayern Munich

One of the world’s best clubs and boasting a superstar collection of top players, the Bundesliga champions are a team to fear.

They have cantered to their sixth-straight league title this spring, winning the title in customary fashion with over a month still to play.

But although it has been all smooth sailing at home, they have shown signs of imperfection in the Champions League. They failed to muster a goal in their second-leg 0-0 draw with Sevilla, and were also thrashed 3-0 by Paris Saint Germain in the group stage.

Although the Bavarian giants are still a force to be reckoned with, they have shown signs of cracking this year; a fact that Liverpool can take heart from.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

3. Real Madrid

The back-to-back defending European champions would be the last club Liverpool want to face for a spot in the final.

Real Madrid possess the most dangerous player in Champions League history in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, gifting Los Blancos the ability to win a match out of nowhere.

Ronaldo’s uncanny scoring skills were on display in the quarterfinal battle against Juventus, where he scored three goals, including an outrageous overhead kick and a stoppage-time penalty to send Real through.

Madrid simply don’t get knocked out in Europe; the Reds should be praying they avoid the Spanish side in the semifinal draw.

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Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo provides spectacular reminder that he remains a dominant force in world football

The Portugal captain scored a sensational goal in Real Madrid’s midweek victory over Juventus.

Martyn Cooke

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Cristiano Ronaldo
Photo: Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo is no stranger to the spectacular.

The Portuguese superstar has been making headlines since he made his debut for Sporting Lisbon as a 17-year-old and he has since gone on to establish himself as one of, if not the, best player of his generation.

His record at both club and international level is remarkable, both in terms of scoring goals and winning titles, and there is little that the winger has not accomplished in a career that has spanned sixteen years and shows no sign of ending any time soon.

However, on Tuesday evening he produced a moment of magic that quite simply took the breath away.

Ronaldo had already put Real Madrid in control of their quarter-final tie in the Champions League against Juventus with an early close-range finish. It gave his side a vital away goal against Italy’s dominant club and also continued his own remarkable goalscoring record in the competition.

Then came one of the most spectacular goals in Champions League history.

Dani Carvajal clipped in a lofted cross into the Juventus eighteen-yard box and there seemed to be little danger as the ball floated towards the penalty spot.

Ronaldo dynamically leapt upwards, appearing to hang momentarily in the air, before producing a perfectly struck, acrobatic overhead kick. The ball flew beyond the astonished Gianluigi Buffon and into the far corner of the net.

(Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/Getty Images)

Spectacular. Astonishing. Jaw-dropping. It feels that words and superlatives can do no justice to the moment of skill produced.

The normally loud and raucous Juventus Stadium was stunned into silence. Zinedine Zidane, no stranger to creating magic on a football pitch himself, simply put a hand to his head and turned towards the bench.

And then applause broke out from the Juventus supporters – a demonstration of respect for one of the best players in the world.

The goal may have been a joy to behold, the perfect combination of technique and athletic ability, but it was also a fierce reminder that Ronald remains one of the dominant forces in world football.

At 33 years of age some onlookers have suggested that the Portuguese superstar’s powers may be beginning to wain and that his best years are behind him.

This was simply further evidence that such speculation is unfounded.

Ronaldo’s statistics this season are remarkable.

He has scored 23 goals in his last 12 games for Real Madrid and 39 goals in 36 appearances this campaign.

He has scored 43 goals in total for club and country this season.

He has scored in every Champions League tie this campaign, 14 in total, and is the first player to score in all six group games and in 10 consecutive ties.

(Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Furthermore, he is Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer (446) and the all-time leading goal scorer in Champions League history (119).

You would struggle to replicate those figures if you were playing on a computer game.

There is absolutely no sign the Ronaldo’s prowess is in decline and, if anything, he looks more prominent now than ever.

In addition to this, the common accusation that he fails to produce in the ‘big games’ has firmly been dispelled this season.

In the Champions League alone, he has scored against Tottenham Hotspur (both ties), Borussia Dortmund (both ties), Paris Saint Germain (both ties) and Juventus.

Ronaldo truly is a modern genius on the football pitch and his remarkable goal on Tuesday night was a reminder that the 33-year-old intends to remain at the pinnacle of the game for a long time to come.

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Champions League

Liverpool fans rave after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s superb defensive performance

The teenager marshalled Leroy Sane brilliantly throughout the match.

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Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool delivered the shock result of the Champions League season tonight, demolishing Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield.

Goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Sadio Mane sealed the deal for the Reds in the opening half hour, but perhaps the most impressive part of the match was the exceptional performance of Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The young fullback had been targeted by City as a possible weak link, given his shaky starts in other big matches this year. Just weeks ago against Manchester United, the 19-year-old was torn to shreds by Marcus Rashford, looking out of place and overwhelmed.

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

And Pep Guardiola set up to isolate the English youngster and attacked down his wing with purpose. Diagonal balls in the direction of Leroy Sane were a constant fixture of Manchester City’s play, but Alexander-Arnold stood firm, contributing to Liverpool’s vital clean sheet.

To keep a clean sheet in the quarterfinals of the Champions League is impressive on its own, but to do it against the champions-elect, the top-scorers in the Premier League, and without one of your first choice centre-backs, is sensational.

Alexander-Arnold was at the heart of the Reds’ valiant defensive performance, and observers on Twitter rightly applauded him for his efforts.

Fans also commented on Alexander-Arnold’s tender age, a factor that made his performance even the more impressive.

The ever-popular back pocket joke also circulated on the Twittersphere, many supporters couldn’t resist the classic banter when describing Alexander-Arnold’s domination of Sane.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, take a bow son.

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