Fernando Llorente stars as second-string Spurs ease past Apoel
Champions League Group H, Wembley - Tottenham 3 (Llorente 20, Son 37, Nkoudou 80) Apoel Nicosia 0
As Tottenham had already guaranteed top place in the group, Pochettino made a mass of changes with the 32-year-old handed a rare start. And after 20 minutes, the Spaniard – on his 17th appearance - grabbed the opener with a clever finish as Spurs took control of the game.
Llorente then turned provider as he exchanged passes with Heung-Min Son who curled in Tottenham’s second as the hosts eased into a comfortable lead at the interval.
Tottenham’s Fernando Llorente celebrates scoring their first goalReuters
With the win a formality, Tottenham played at a much slower tempo in the second period but still managed a third through Georges-Kevin Nkoudou’s deflected shot on 80 minutes.
The draw for the last 16 takes place on Monday and there will undoubtedly be much sterner tests for Pochettino’s side after Christmas, with Bayern Munich and Juventus potential opponents in the knock-out stage.
Is it time to inject fresh faces at Spurs? Fringe players such as Llorente and Nkoudou impressed while Juan Foyth looked more than comfortable in defence and he helped his side keep their first clean sheet in six matches. Dele Alli played almost 90 minutes as he tried to rediscover his best form but the England international looked lethargic throughout, while Danny Rose's frustrating season continued. Could fresh faces help Spurs rediscover their form domestically?
MAN OF THE MATCH
Fernando Llorente (Tottenham): The Spaniard grasped a rare opportunity with both hands as he confidentially grabbed his first goal for the club - and how he enjoyed it. His aerial presence also caused havoc in the visitors’ penalty box and he linked up terrifically with Son. Llorente adds a new dimension to this Spurs team - and he should be considered to start against Stoke on Saturday.
Tottenham Hotspur's Spanish striker Fernando Llorente (C) celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Apoel Nicosia at Wembley Stadium in London, on December 6, 2017.Getty Images
8’ - OFF THE LINE! Winks' free-kick delivery causes major panic in the visitors' penalty box as his cross meets the head of Llorente. The goalkeeper makes a good stop and then it is simply brilliant defending by Rueda as the Apoel defender blocks N'Koudou's shot on the line! Sanchez then glances his header wide.
20’ - GOAL! Tottenham 1-0 Apoel. Llorente is off the mark for Spurs with a well taken goal. Aurier's low cross is slightly behind the Spaniard, but he controls beautifully with his right foot to kill the ball and stabs it home with his left.
37’ - GOAL! Tottenham 2-0 Apoel. A lovely goal from Son. He tricks his way past a couple of Apoel defenders on the edge of the box before passing to Llorente. The Spaniard plays a cushioned exchange pass and Son curls a first-time shot into the corner of the net.
63’ – OUCH! Aurier is the first player this evening to receive a booking for a nasty high challenge on Aloneftis. The replay shows he is perhaps fortunate not be shown a straight red.
80’ - GOAL! Tottenham 3-0 Apoel. Spurs grab another! Nkoudou bursts into the penalty area and hammers a shot at goal. It takes a deflection off the captain Morais and ends up in the back of the net to complete a productive night's work for Pochettino's fringe players.
- Fernando Llorente scored his first ever goal for Spurs, in what is his 17th appearance for them in all competitions.
- The Spaniard also scored and assisted in a single Champions League game for the first time in his career (23rd appearance).
- No Cypriot side has ever beaten English opposition in European competition, in 15 attempts (D3 L12).
- Tottenham have faced Cypriot opposition more times than any other English club in European competition, scoring 18 goals and conceding only three in those five games (W5 D1).
- Apoel are winless in their last 14 Champions League games (D3 L11). They have also failed to score in 10 of those 14 outings.
- Tottenham finished top of their Champions League group for only the second time after 2010/11.