Son puts Tottenham's campaign back on track

Players for Tottenham Hotspur pose for a group portrait prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League Group E soccer match between CSKA Moscow and Tottenham Hotspur at the CSKA Arena stadium in Moscow, Russia on Sept 27, 2016.
Players for Tottenham Hotspur pose for a group portrait prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League Group E soccer match between CSKA Moscow and Tottenham Hotspur at the CSKA Arena stadium in Moscow, Russia on Sept 27, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

MOSCOW • The pressure was on Tottenham Hotspur after their 2-1 home defeat by Monaco in the opening round of Champions League fixtures and manager Mauricio Pochettino had arrived in Russia without some of his key players owing to injuries.

This was a test of his team's credentials, and they passed it, with a performance of nerve and style that not only not got them up and running in Group E but reinforced the feel-good factor that has been building.

Tottenham were the better team against CSKA Moscow on Tuesday and they became stronger as the game wore on but they needed to make their supremacy count. Thanks to Erik Lamela and Son Heung Min, they did so to win 1-0.

It was Lamela's pass that released the South Korean forward and he finished past Igor Akinfeev for the winning goal - his fifth goal in five appearances.

Pochettino punched the air, and relief was prominent among his emotions. He might have signed for the draw beforehand but once Tottenham had settled it was clear the three points were within their grasp.

  • 5 in 5 Son Heung Min's winner at CSKA Moscow was the South Korean forward's fifth goal in five games.

What made the winning goal even more satisfying for the manager was that it followed his first substitution and a redeploying of his resources.

Vincent Janssen had a frustrating time, working tirelessly but failing to get anything to fall his way, and the striker made way on 67 minutes.

Lamela moved up front - he would later swap positions with Son on the flank - and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou entered on the other side.

"We tried to find more mobility in offensive positions, that's why we took off Vincent and sent on Nkoudou," Pochettino said.

"From the first ball (after the change), we found the link. I'm pleased for Sonny. The victory was fully deserved. Our performance was about attitude and passion."

The Tottenham manager reacted to the injuries that deprived him of Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Moussa Sissoko by switching to a 4-3-3 formation, with Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli pushed forward either side of Victor Wanyama. Alli, in particular, grew as a creative influence.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Son puts Tottenham's campaign back on track'. Print Edition | Subscribe