Kane’s double confirms place among the elite
Harry Kane craves the Champions League to be his stage, to be his proving ground, to show he is world-class, and he provided more compelling evidence that he is just that as Tottenham Hotspur thrillingly defeated Borussia Dortmund to banish their Wembley woes and give themselves an outstanding opportunity, already, of progressing in Group H.
It may only be the first tie of six but, with Real Madrid also in this group and with Apoel Nicosia expected to be the whipping boys, the head-to-heads against Dortmund were always going to be defining.
Afterwards, manager Mauricio Pochettino was clear on how important the result was for his team. “Massive,” he said, adding that it felt like more than just three points to “build the confidence and trust at Wembley and the perception we can get for the future”.
Kane scored twice, and created Spurs’ opening goal in an entertaining, open tie, although they were fortunate when Dortmund had a goal ruled out for offside, which would have made it 2-2. Moments after, Kane scored.
Spurs will believe they were due that luck having suffered at this stadium for so long but, even in victory, there was a setback, with Jan Vertonghen shown a second yellow card after it was deemed he had caught substitute Mario Gotze with a flailing arm in the face in injury time. He will receive a one-match ban.
This was only Spurs’ second win in 12 matches at Wembley and only their third victory in 10 Champions League games. It was an important win against one of the big European beasts, who serially reach the knockout stages and whose last appearance here was in the 2013 final.
Kane thrived against them. He has now scored 29 goals in 27 matches in all competitions for Spurs this year and this was the third successive Champions League match in which he has scored. He is getting better and better and is beginning to belong in that rarefied company of elite strikers, imposing himself for club and country. Europe is taking notice and, when he was substituted late on, he departed to a standing ovation.
There was much debate afterwards over Spurs’ tactics; that they have learnt from bitter experience to box a little bit more cleverly, to defend a little deeper and strike on the break and, while there was a variation in their approach, they were simply not as secure as that would suggest, although Serge Aurier was impressive on his debut at right wing-back.
Dortmund, depleted by injury, were dangerous throughout and there was an outstanding save from Hugo Lloris to deny Pierre-emerick Aubameyang after he met a flickedon corner at close range.
Aubameyang was again denied a goal when he slammed a crisp halfvolley around Lloris only for the striker to have – wrongly – been deemed offside. Before that, Dortmund had another effort ruled out after the ball was turned in by Christian Pulisic with Aubameyang, in an offside position, also attempting to score.
But that should not detract from Spurs’ performance and particularly the contribution of Kane. With Dele Alli serving the first game of a three-match ban, imposed for his dismissal in the dismal Europa League exit last season to Gent, even more responsibility fell on his fellow England international.
Kane seized it. In fact, he did not so much seize it as gleefully grab hold of it and refuse to let go. For all of Dortmund’s dominance of possession – 67 per cent over the game – Kane always provided the greatest threat.
Whenever he had the ball there was danger and none more so inside the opening four minutes, when his header found Christian Eriksen, who returned possession for Kane to slide a clever pass through for Alli’s replacement Heung-min Son.
Son surged down the left with Sokratis Papastathopoulos woefully slow to cover and struck a leftfoot shot, catching out goalkeeper Roman Burki, who stuck out an arm but was far too easily beaten at his near post.
But it was a short-lived advantage. Andriy Yarmolenko, acquired as Ousmane Dembele’s replacement after the French international’s extraordinary near-£100 million move to Barcelona, made his mark.
Dortmund pushed forward, with Yarmolenko cutting in from the right and playing the ball to Shinji Kagawa. He turned it back to the Ukrainian, whose superb first-time shot arced high beyond Lloris and into the net for his first goal for his new club.
It appeared ominous. How would Spurs respond? They did by retaking the lead, a goal that owed everything to Kane’s strength and determination as he held off one challenge and then another, brushing aside Papastathopoulos, to work his way down the left before striking a left-foot shot which, again, squeezed just inside the near post. Once more Burki appeared at fault, having failed to close down the space, showing far too great a corridor for Kane to shoot into.
Despite the protestations of Dortmund coach Peter Bosz, who argued vehemently that Kane had fouled his captain during his run, the goal stood.
Dortmund created more chances and there were last-ditch interventions from Vertonghen and Ben Davies, with Pulisic and Aubameyang threatening, before Spurs steadied themselves and fashioned opportunities of their own. Kane and Son both skied over and then, after Dortmund had that goal wrongly ruled out, there was a fine attacking move involving Mousa Dembele, who played the ball into Davies. His first-time pass found Eriksen, who turned the ball wide to Kane, and he drove a low shot back across goal, clipping off Lukasz Piszczek as the defender attempted to block to beat Burki.
Soon after and Kane departed – replaced by Fernando Llorente, making his debut – to a standing ovation. It was certainly deserved. This was Spurs’ night and Harry had lifted the hoodoo.
Sealing the deal: Harry Kane lashes in the third Tottenham goal