Tottenham 3-1 CSKA Moscow: Alli and Kane Strike to Secure Europa League Football for Pochettino

Despite reservation from sizeable sections of Tottenham’s fanbase, Mauricio Pochettino insisted it was important that his side were involved in the Europa League having failed to reach the knockout phase of the Champions League. Well, he’s got his wish. Spurs crushed their Wembley woes by beating CSKA Moscow 3-1 with a commanding performance and ensuring Thursday night football after Christmas. 

Alan Dzagoev opened the scoring before Alli and Kane both struck before half-time to deliver the required three points and ensure that Spurs’ three games at Wembley can’t be considered a total write-off. 

​Yes, Wembley has been a thoroughly miserable home away from home for Spurs over the past three months, but they made a marvellous start here. After only seven minutes, Dele Alli spurned a wonderful chance with a header after a whipped cross from Christian Eriksen.

Tottenham Hotspur FC v PFC CSKA Moskva - UEFA Champions League

 Then, two minutes later, Son Heung-Min forced a decent stop from Igor Akinfeev before Eriksen wasted another glorious chance. Kyle Walker surged forward in signature style, playing it infield to Kane. The England striker’s first-time reverse pass was perfectly judged and measured for the onrushing Dane, who eluded the CSKA defence only to conjure a weak effort that was comfortable for Akinfeev. 

Quite simply, CSKA had not shown up and, with players scattered all over the shop, Spurs were free to pick apart a dishevelled defence as they wished. Indeed, with a playmaker of Eriksen’s clout roaming the channels, that was ominous for the Russian side. 

The Dane is often liberated by space in front of him, and he utilised it well once again to free Alli with a beautifully weighted pass that sliced the CSKA defence wide open down the middle, only for the midfielder to miscue his effort. With Eriksen dropping deep and constantly influencing the game, and Alli a delightful bolt of energy, an opening Spurs goal had a distinct air of inevitability. 

That obviously meant CSKA proceeded to score. A long ball from Natcho was met with a cushion header by Zoran Tosic, setting up Dzagoev who was happy to do what Alli couldn’t: slide the ball into the back of the net. Pochettino puffed out his cheeks in exasperation.


Luckily, Alli redeemed himself just six minutes later, controlling a looping Eriksen cross before curling a screaming effort into the top corner. The sense of relief was palpable, and a bit of joy even crept in when Kane tapped in after Eriksen found Danny Rose, the left-back rolling back a cross for a simple finish. It was a record-stretching 39th consecutive game in which Akinfeev failed to keep a clean sheet (a remarkable stat made unremarkable when you watch CSKA’s defence). 

There was little to report in the second-half: Spurs continued to knock on the door and Akinfeev’s misery continued when he unwittingly converted Alli’s header into his own net to put some gloss on the scoreline for the hosts. In the end, they bagged three goals and three points, dropping into European football’s secondary competition, which is exactly what their manager wanted. As for CSKA’s manager, Leonid Slutsky, it’s on to pastures greener, although after watching tonight’s display it’s not difficult to imagine why he and club are parting company. 

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