Red-hot Harry Kane roasts Nicosia with perfect hat-trick
Striker scores with both feet before a header completes brilliant performance in Cyprus
Apoel Nicosia 0 Tottenham Hotspur 3
When Harry Kane was last in Cyprus, he scored in Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 win against AEL Limassol in the Europa League. It was August 2014 and it was his sixth goal for the club. This time, he left with the match ball, after sinking Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League with the perfect hat-trick – left foot, right foot, header; in that order – and the statistics show the striker has 108 goals for Spurs.
The superlatives are drying up for the club’s golden boy and, sometimes, it is better to let the numbers do the talking. In a little over three years, Kane has gone from youthful hopeful to one of the most feared players in Europe and this was his latest grand statement. He has seven goals in five career Champions League appearances and nine in his past five matches in all competitions.
Every time Kane zeroed in on Boy Waterman’s goal, the fans in this raucous 22,000-capacity venue knew what would happen. There was beauty in the predictability; the hard-edged ruthlessness. Apoel were adventurous and they had their moments but Kane squeezed the life out of them. He was the difference. Again.
Tottenham made light of the absence of seven players to injury and suspension to prolong their 100 per cent away record this season and a mouthwatering double-header now looms with Real Madrid. Kane versus Cristiano Ronaldo will be top of the bill.
Tactical flexibility has been the buzz phrase for Mauricio Pochettino; evolving bespoke formations for every challenge and the manager started here with a fluid 3-5-2. Son Heung-min worked off Kane up front, while the surprise was the use of Kieran Trippier at left wing back. Ben Davies played on the left of the defensive three.
Pochettino’s wing backs pressed high when Tottenham had the ball and Harry Winks was charged with spreading it out to them. The midfielder’s weight of pass is his greatest attribute and there were moments when he got his team moving. From one Winks pass in the early running, Trippier bent over an inviting cross for Son. He was all alone but he could not direct the header. Despite suspicions of offside, the flag stayed down. Eric Dier also caught the eye with some of his passing.
Apoel are this group’s minnows on every level. Their annual squad budget, for example, is €13 million. Their best paid player is Nuno Morais, the one-time Chelsea midfielder, who is paid €400,000 a year. It was a landmark occasion for Morais – his 100th European appearance in Apoel’s colours.
Apoel were bold, with the manager, Giorgos Donis, springing a surprise by starting with two up front and the evening might have been shaped differently were it not for a few near misses from his team in the first half. The chance that had this arena drawing their breath in one great gulp came on 19 minutes when the lively Stathis Aloneftis fed Igor de Camargo and, from an angle on the left, he lashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar.
From a Ghayas Zahid corner, Carlão outmuscled Toby Alderweireld – no mean feat – and headed wide while there was the moment on 37 minutes that suggested it might be Tottenham’s night. Hugo Lloris had left his line but his clearance hit Davinson Sánchez, who was too close to him, and the ball ricocheted towards the Tottenham goal. Roland Sallai chased after it for what would have been a tap-in but it was too quick for him and dribbled past the post and out for a corner.
At that point, Tottenham were wobbling but Kane soothed their nerves. The referee, Pavel Kralovec, and his assistants would be jeered off at half-time by the home support but they called the offside decision correctly. Kane was clearly onside, following Alderweireld’s low ball up from the back, having been played that way by Praxitelis Vouros on the far side. When he turned away from Jesús Rueda, there was an inevitability about what followed.
Apoel continued to push at the start of the second half. Sallai worked Lloris and, shortly afterwards, Aloneftis raced on to a through-ball, leaving Serge Aurier in his wake. The winger forced Lloris into an acrobatic tip over the crossbar.
Pochettino immediately substituted Aurier, which represented the latest set-back for the summer signing. On Saturday, he had been sent off at West Ham United. Fernando Llorente came on up front and Pochettino switched to 4-4-2. Trippier moved over to right back.
It was Trippier that set in motion the move for Kane’s second, chipping a ball up the inside-right channel for Moussa Sissoko, who cut back an inviting cross. Kane took one touch before shooting low into the far corner. The hat-trick came when Trippier took a pass from Kane and picked out his run into the box. The header flashed past Waterman. Pochettino introduced the 20-year-old midfielder Anthony Georgiou for his debut but the night belonged to Kane.