Clinical Spurs on road to recovery

Son Heung-min lashing in Tottenham's second goal in the 5-0 hammering of Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday night. The win lifted Spurs to second in Group B. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Son Heung-min lashing in Tottenham's second goal in the 5-0 hammering of Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday night. The win lifted Spurs to second in Group B. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Red Star thrashing the first step for crisis-hit side to reverse fortunes, says Pochettino

LONDON • For Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur, this was more like it.

After the trauma of the 7-2 humiliation in their previous Champions League tie against Bayern Munich and how it had affected them in the 3-0 loss at Brighton and the home 1-1 draw with Watford, they needed a tonic, something to steady the nerves and trample the prospect of an escalating crisis.

They got it on a Tuesday night when Son Heung-min ran riot, scoring twice and striking fear in the hearts of the Red Star Belgrade defenders whenever he touched the ball, and Harry Kane weighed in with two more goals in their 5-0 Champions League Group B win.

Erik Lamela got the other and the truth was that Spurs ought to have reached double figures. Their dominance was total and they certainly had the chances.

Pochettino suggested that Tottenham had remained calm in the face of a crisis and been rewarded with a big win - a result that has returned control of their Champions League destiny to their own hands.

The Spurs manager again talked about how his squad had started late in their preparations for the season because of various circumstances and failed to build the correct dynamic in time.

"In any club, if this situation happens, the most important is to stay calm," he said.

"Don't make a drama. Always be with a good face, smiling to the problems and being positive.

  • ENGLISH CLUBS' MEN OF THE HOUR

  • 16 HARRY KANE

    The Englishman's goals in the group stages of the Champions League. Only Paul Scholes, with 19, has more among English players.

  • 7 SON HEUNG-MIN

    The South Korean has scored more goals than any other player in all competitions at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which opened in April.

  • 8 RAHEEM STERLING

    He is the eighth English Champions League hat-trick scorer, after Michael Owen, Andy Cole, Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Mike Newell, Alan Shearer and Danny Welbeck. Only Brazil (12) and France (nine) have had more different hat-trick scorers.

"We are going to keep going in the same way and show that the problems are on the pitch, not outside of the pitch."

Spurs moved to four points in the group and vaulted over Red Star (three), whom they visit in two weeks' time. Bayern are top with three wins from as many games after their 3-2 win over Olympiakos.

Pochettino's main satisfaction was to have seen a more confident performance, after only three wins in 12 games in all competitions, and a timely one given they travel to Liverpool on Sunday to meet the side that defeated them in last season's Champions League final.

He said: "We need to go step by step and be solid again. This was the first step. We are in a better position in this competition now."

He was also asked whether he was now happy with the dynamic of his squad, who were unsettled earlier owing to contract issues.

"I'm not happy and I'm not unhappy," the Argentinian replied.

"I am facing the situation how it is. I am very realistic. At the same time, I think it's a massive experience for us. It's a great moment to grow, to be more mature."

Tottenham were back to their high-pressing style and Red Star were unable to handle the tempo as Kane and Son had early chances before Kane ghosted into space to plant a header past the visitors' goalkeeper Milan Borjan from Lamela's curling delivery.

Lamela was the provider again in the 16th minute, skilfully picking out Son to side-foot a volley home.

Red Star were surprisingly backed by a noisy contingent in the upper tier despite a Uefa punishment for racism which meant their fans could not buy tickets.

Both Spurs and Uefa will investigate how they got tickets. But these fans fell silent in the 44th minute when Son got his second.

The onslaught continued after the break with Lamela beating Borjan with a rising shot on the turn and Kane completing the rout with a clinical finish.

"We know we have had a tough run of results and that was the perfect way to respond," Kane said.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2019, with the headline 'Clinical Spurs on road to recovery'. Print Edition | Subscribe