Tottenham Hotspur 3 Borussia Dortmund 1
The Wembley hoodoo struck again. Borussia Dortmund simply cannot get things to go their way at the home of English football. For long spells during this Champions League thriller, they weaved their patterns and stretched Tottenham Hotspur to breaking point.
Mauricio Pochettino's team did not crack. Harry Kane did not crack. Tottenham rode their luck, with Dortmund complaining that Kane's goal for 2-1 should not have stood because of a foul on Nuri Sahin and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seeing what would have been an equaliser for 2-2 wrongly ruled out for offside.
In the end, it was a triumph not only for Kane, who bullied the Dortmund defence and ran himself to a standstill, but for Tottenham’s collective belief. They refused to wilt in the face of an imposing performance from their opponents and they finished as the stronger team.
In a group in which Real Madrid are the hot favourites, it could boil down to a head-to-head duel between Tottenham and Dortmund. What a tonic this was for the London club. Heung-min Son had put them in front and after Andriy Yarmolenko’s lovely equaliser, Kane bent the contest to the force of his will.
This was Dortmund's second visit to Wembley; their first had been the Champions League final defeat by Bayern Munich in 2013. And they were beaten when Kane ran on to Christian Eriksen's pass to shot low and unerringly past the erratic Roman Bürki. Jan Vertonghen was sent off in stoppage-time after he flung at arm at Mario Götze and the Dortmund substitute fell theatrically but, by then, the die had been cast.
Tottenham wanted to impose themselves on this tie and they did so with a glorious early team goal, which had begun deep in their own half when Davinson Sánchez stretched to make an important interception. His work was not done. It was his lofted ball forward that picked out Son, who nodded down to Christian Eriksen and the midfielder found Kane. Tottenham were on the move.
Kane spotted the run of Son and, when he ushered him in, the South Korean was confronted by Sokratis Papastathopoulos. He knew what he had to do. Son had the pace to beat him on the outside, which he did and, although the angle at the near post was tight, he smashed his shot high and hard. It ripped past Bürki.
Dortmund did not panic. Far from it. They enjoyed the soothing tonic of possession and they probed intelligently, making inroads up the flanks and getting in behind Tottenham. The visitors made their extra man in midfield count and even though the equaliser came quickly, it had been signposted.
Yarmolenko, the summer signing from Dinamo Kiev, came inside off the right flank and he swapped passes with Shinji Kagawa. The idea took hold immediately. He would try to curl one with his left foot into the far top corner, beating one of the Europe's top goalkeepers in the process. The execution was flawless. Hugo Lloris was powerless.
Dortmund brought the control and the finesse. Nuri Sahin looked like he was playing with his own ball, at times, while Kagawa was a snapshot in menace, ever alive to the killer pass. It was a mystery how they trailed at the interval, having repeatedly stretched Tottenham’s backline.
There was a last-ditch quality to some of Tottenham’s defending, which was epitomised by the moment on 31 minutes when Vertonghen snaked out a long leg and got a toe to Christian Pulisic’s low cross, touching it out of the path of Aubameyang, who was on for a tap-in behind him.
Before the interval, Pulisic strained every sinew to get on to Aubameyang’s low cross but he could not get there.
Tottenham's half-time lead had been provided by Kane and it felt like the counterpoint to Dortmund's sophistication. It was a blood-and-thunder effort, with the striker seeming to hurl Papastathopoulos and Sahin out of the way before stepping away from Omer Toprak and curling his finish past Bürki.
It was not a good look for the goalkeeper to be beaten, once again, at his near post but Sahin surely had a case for having been fouled by Kane. Sahin had felt Kane’s hands on him and he went down, expecting the whistle. To his horror, it did not come.
Tottenham's back three came to look more like a five, such was the onus on the wing backs, Serge Aurier, and Ben Davies, to dig in. Tottenham were on the ropes but they almost landed a counterpunch at the beginning of the second-half. First, Kane swiped high following Eriksen's prompting and then, Son did likewise, after jinking onto his right foot from Kane's cross. That was a bad miss and Son knew it.
Dortmund might have known it was not to be their night when Aubameyang had his goal ruled out. Sahin’s floated cross was a beauty and Aubameyang’s first-time half-volleyed finish was underscored by class of his highest order. He had been yards onside. Perhaps, the assistant referee had simply been dazzled.
Kane twisted the knife almost immediately with his second and even though Lloris was required to make a reflex save to keep out Aubameyang, after a corner had been flicked on, Dortmund were beaten.