Llorente off the mark as Spurs easily beat Apoel in the Champions League
07 December, 2017 — By By Paul Cowling
Spurs 3 (Llorente 20, Son 37, Nkoudou 80)
Apoel Nicosia 0
THERE were a couple of satisfying firsts, as Spurs ended their hugely successful Champions League group stage with another three points as they brushed aside Apoel Nicosia at Wembley.
Tottenham had long since finished first in the group, and this win at a canter merely cemented that accolade.
But, Fernando Llorente opened the scoring and with it his Tottenham account, while hugely promising teen striker, Kazaiah Sterling came off the subs bench for his first team debut.
Coach Mauricio Pochettino admitted it had been ‘nerve wracking’ for Llorente to have to wait so long to score his first goal:
“I am a happy for him (Llorente). Now he will have more condidence and belief, so he can compete , echoed the Argentine boss.
Pochettino started with only three of the side who ground out a point at Watford on Saturday, with the red-carded Davidson Sanchez, lining up alongside Heung Min-Son and Dele Alli, who was playing to get his confidence back after a barren spell that had coincided with Tottenham’s recent malaise.
There were also rare starts for Juan Foyth, and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou who notched up the late Tottenham third.
The early stages were pre-season friendly lite, with only the drums and chants of the Greek Cypriot fans accounting for any crowd noise and any indication a competitive match was talking place.
On nine minutes a chaotic scramble in the Nicosia goalmouth saw a Sanchez effort hacked off the line, but his follow up header after a bit of calamity pinball, weakly drifted well wide of the goal.
Then almost surprisingly, on 20 minutes, Spurs were in front.
Llorente showed everyone how it is done when he neatly swivelled on a cross field pass from Aurier and buried the ball in the far left corner of the net.
It was a very neat finish from the towering Spaniard, for his first in Tottenham colours.
Spurs fans who this week had taken to social media to plead with Llorente to finally open his account, will have been made up for ‘El Rey Leon’.
“Llorente has not had a full pre-season, so needed time to adapt. It is important for all strikers to ‘find the net’, said Pochettino.
Spurs unearthed another gem of a goal for their quiet fans on 37 minutes when Son doubled Tottenham’s lead.
The South Korean jinked and sashayed his way towards the Apoel penalty area, and exchanged passes with Llorente, before curling the ball beautifully past a statuesque Nauzet Perez in the visitors’ goal.
This was the type of sumptuous finish that has become the hallmark of the former Bayer Leverkusen forward.
Llorente and Son’s telepathy almost brought a third goal on the stroke of half time, but Llorente’s drop down header was fired just wide of the goal by his striking partner.
Spurs merely had to fulfilll the second half to scoop up the three points.
Llorente could even afford to embarrassingly air kick a shot at goal, and nobody in the home seats seemed to mind.
On 76 minutes, Michel Vorm had to remind everyone he was in goal and on the pitch, when he picked up a listing scuffed shot from the visitors.
With the game won, and more and more red seats sending their owners off to public transport, Spurs added a third.
On 80 minutes, Nkoudou weaved his way into the goalmouth and onto the scoresheet, when his goalbound shot took a slight deflection off Praxiteles Vouros.
Youngster Sterling stood on the touchline, patiently waiting for the ball to go out of play to make his first team bow.
It finally did and the Anglo-Jamaican came on to replace Alli, as this largely forgettable match inched its way towards three minutes of injury time, and its conclusion.
Asked whether Spurs had a chance to lift the Champions League, Pochettino gave a measured reply:
“It’s a long way to go, but we can dream. “I hope we keep up the level we have been playing at in this massive competition, but all opponents we get (in the knockout stages) will be difficult and strong.”
Spurs: Vorm; Aurier, Foyth, Sanchez, Rose (Walker-Peters 69); Sissoko, Winks, Nkoudou; Alli (Sterling 88), Llorente, Son (Dembele 65)
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Vertonghen, Davies, Amos
Apoel Nicosia: Perez; Vouros, Carlao, Rueda, Lago, Morais, Vinicius (Sallai 45); Aloneftis (De Camargo 75), Ebecillio, Zahid,; Pote (Antoniou)
Subs not used: Gudino, Alexandrou, Farias, Merkis