Harry Kane to the rescue as Tottenham cling on in Europe
As with the visit of Man City, thousands of Spurs fans stayed away
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the winner at Wembley Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images
Tottenham 2 PSV 1
Mauricio Pochettino went for broke. The Tottenham manager had started with an adventurous line-up but now, with his team staring at a 1-0 deficit and almost certain Champions League elimination, he introduced the striker, Fernando Llorente, together with Kieran Trippier, and switched to a 4-2-4 formation.
Dele Alli played off the left. The full-backs pressed high. Spurs were open at the back but who cared? Harry Kane sculpted the lifeline, taking Llorente’s lay-off and finally broke the resistance of the PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper, Jeroen Zoet.
With Barcelona scoring late against Internazionale, Tottenham’s Champions League campaign still had a pulse, albeit a faint one. At that point, it felt as though the team’s previous stumbles, not least the 2-2 draw at PSV two weeks ago, would haunt them.
Then, fate intervened. Ben Davies’s cross from the left was made to measure for Kane and he thrust out his forehead, willing the ball into the net. It wriggled home off Trent Sainsbury. Although Inter came back to draw with Barcelona, Tottenham have retained hope.
The PSV fans had massed into their section in one of Wembley’s corners over an hour before kick-off and they set about injecting the atmosphere. With one minute and three seconds on the stadium clock, they descended into delirium upon Luuk de Jong’s breakthrough.
It was a header that brooked no argument, a towering leap from the tall centre-forward followed by a powerful connection. Paulo Gazzaniga, who had been preferred to Michel Vorm in the Tottenham goal, found that his first action was to bawl out his teammates. Dele Alli had been assigned to mark De Jong but let him go and the PSV captain also made light work of Toby Alderweireld’s attentions.
The tie had been framed by what happened in Eindhoven two weeks previously and, from a Tottenham point of view, the regrets were plentiful. If only Hugo Lloris had not bolted from his line to incur the red card that transported them from comfort to disaster. Late lapses had also been costly at Internazionale. It is little wonder that Pochettino speaks so regularly about mentality.
The manager smouldered on the touchline after the early concession. Yet again, it had felt avoidable. No manager is OK with conceding from a set-piece, let alone a former Argentina centre-half.
Spurs had to win and Pochettino’s starting lineup reflected a determination to force the issue. With injuries forcing his hand, he played without a specialist defensive midfielder, using Harry Winks in front of the back four with Christian Eriksen and Alli paired in front of him. Both had the licence to roam or bomb on and Alli’s movement, in particular, was a problem for PSV.
Spurs pushed to force the equaliser and they had the better of the first-half. They could count themselves unfortunate to trail at the interval but a combination of poor finishing and Zoet thwarted them. The PSV goalkeeper had also been excellent in the first game.
On another night, Alli could have had a first-half hat-trick. On six minutes, after Davinson Sánchez headed on an Eriksen corner, he fashioned a lovely back-heeled flick at goal only to see Angeliño clear off the line.
Alli was again at the heart of a glorious chance in the 28th minute, when he won possession and played in Eriksen, whose close-range shot was blocked by Zoet. Eriksen had put it straight at him. The ball broke to Alli and he did precisely the same thing. Zoet deserved credit for making himself big.
Moments later, Alli controlled a raking ball forward from Alderweireld and shot with disguise for the near corner. Zoet sprang low to his right to save. Tottenham could also point to the chance that Lucas Moura created for himself with a darting run past a posse of PSV defenders. Lucas saw his initial shot blocked by Zoet before he jabbed the rebound off target.
It has been easy to detect the battle fatigue with Wembley among the Spurs fanbase. They have not wanted to be here this season and, as the delays to the new stadium have mounted, they have wanted to be here even less. As with the visit of Manchester City last Monday, thousands of them stayed away. The attendance was capped at 51,000 and the official turnout was listed at 46,588, with 5,000 or so in the away enclosure.
PSV’s front line was fluid, with Gastón Pereiro floating in an attacking midfield brief and De Jong hardly a static presence in the middle. The visitors flickered on the break in the second-half, with Steven Bergwijn seeing a shot deflect over. From the corner, Pereiro forced a save from Gazzaniga.
Pochettino’s decision to replace the lively Lucas with Érik Lamela was booed by the home support but his double substitution paid off. Moments before the equaliser, Kane had worked Zoet and, after Gazzaniga had denied the PSV substitute, Donyell Malen, Llorente fluffed a free header. Kane, however, would drag Spurs over the line.