Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Apoel Nicosia: Champions League – as it happened

Nick Ames on 6 December 2017

David Hytner's match report

Spurs get the job done, then. That was as low-key a second half as you could imagine, the only talking points being a potential red card for Aurier and a deflected goal by Nkoudou. But it was thin gruel. Llorente’s performance is probably the most encouraging thing for Pochettino, as strikers need confidence and he should have garnered some with a goal and an assist. Apoel had a little flicker just after half-time but, let’s be honest, really didn’t offer anything. This one has been ticked off and Spurs, at least, can go on to more exciting things. Thanks for joining me tonight – bye!

Full-time: Tottenham 3-0 Apoel

That was so, so easy.

90+1 min: Ah, we’ll have three minutes. Liverpool won 7-0, Man City have pulled one back at Shakhtar ...

90 min: I doubt we’ll see much added time.

88 min: But now they win a corner and on he comes – to replace Alli.

87 min: Spurs have been waiting to give Kazaiah Sterling a debut from the bench for ages but their pesky players haven’t given up possession for about three minutes.

85 min: It is 7-0 to Liverpool, meanwhile. Yikes.

83 min: Rueda is booked for a crude foul on Nkoudou near the edge of the area. Alli bends the free-kick straight at Perez.

82 min: Real are 3-2 up over Dortmund now but Apoel need three goals to make that matter.

Goal! Tottenham 3-0 Apoel (Nkoudou 80)

Oh, but there you go! Nkoudou scores his first Tottenham goal too! Alli passes to him outside the box, a nice change of direction allows him to trick his way inside, the shot isn’t great but it flicks off a defender and over Perez. The cheers around Wembley are very muted but a goal’s a goal. Apoel replace Pote, the shirt-seeker, with Antoniou.

Nkoudou score the third for Spurs.
Nkoudou score the third for Spurs. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA


78 min: It’s like a particularly through-the-motions friendly now. Literally nothing is happening.

76 min: Liverpool are 6-0 up over Spartak. That’s where the action is!

75 min: It’s almost a quarter of an hour since anything half-interesting happened on the pitch, football-wise. Can Igor De Camargo, who comes on for Apoel in place of their best player Aloneftis, change that?


72 min: Rose had a cut to the face, by the way. Wonder what exactly he said to his manager there. Perhaps not happy at having to play in this one at all ...

70 min: Pochettino and Rose seemed to exchange some rather frosty views as Rose went off there. Walker-Peters now replaces the left-back.

69 min: Rose has headed down the tunnel for some treatment, which must be a concern.

67 min: The pace isn’t high at the moment. Nobody would really mind if we called it quits here ... but hang on, Rose is now booked after his own bit of red mist, barging Sallai – also booked – after taking exception to being tugged back. Unlike in the case of Aurier, that’s probably a fair punishment.

65 min: Aurier is rightly yellowed for a studs-up tackle on Aloneftis – upon seeing the replay that should have been red, I think. He’s got lucky, that was pretty nasty. One Tottenham player does depart now, but it’s Son – replaced by Dembele.

62 min: Sissoko bursts through midfield and slides Nkoudou through on the left. His first touch allows the shot, which is decent and low but smothered by the busy Perez.


59 min: Son goes off target with a dipping free-kick. Not the worst effort, or the best.

58 min: It should be three as Llorente loses his balance when spinning to volley from close in after Rose’s cross loops off a defender. Aurier then sees a decent shot parried by Perez.


57 min: Hey, the Europa League might be where it’s at after Christmas. Dortmund, Napoli and Atletico among those coming down from the Champions League. I’m sold.

55 min: A really slick Apoel move ends with Ebecilio spooning one very high over from 19 yards. Could they not have tried playing like this from the start?

54 min: But Spurs break quickly and Nkoudou tries to weigh one into the far corner. It hits Morais and goes behind. Rose takes the corner but it sails beyond everyone.

53 min: Apoel win a dangerous free-kick and exert some pressure from it. They look, at last, like they mean a little business.

51 min: The horse has bolted but, for the record, Apoel have started this half well.

49 min: Oooooh, Apoel almost score! Vouros has time to size up a shot on the right of the area and arrow towards goal ... and it flicks off Rose and just wide! Sallai heads wide from the corner. Their best spell by a distance. Now Liverpool are five up, FYI.

49 min: Dortmund equalise in Madrid! Well, well. That’s going to be it for Apoel, then.

47 min: Apoel have brought Sallai on for Vinicius. I’m fairly sure I didn’t mention Vinicius before now. Liverpool are 4-0 up through Mane.

Peeeep! Second half underway.

Alli is out there, so that presumably means he’s fine. Apparently Pote swapped shirts with him at half-time, which says a lot about the Apoel striker’s performance so far. He’s been useless but clearly had other things on his mind.

Nearly ready for the second half. Will we see Alli? He was struggling towards the end there ...

Half-time: Tottenham 2-0 Apoel

Pretty easy for Spurs – Apoel have offered absolutely nothing, to be honest. But Pochettino will be pleased with how his side have set about things, and they’ve scored two really nice goals through Llorente – his first for Spurs – and Son. They could have scored a few more too. See you in a bit!

45 min: A couple of Winks corners come to nothing. I think half-time will come right as we hit 45.

44 min: Son has a long shot battered away to his left by Perez. The second half of this game of this game will be a procession. It might not be that way at the Bernabeu though, as Dortmund have a goal back.

42 min: Alli went down under a challenge just now and isn’t moving too well, which was the same earlier too. A concern?

40 min: Could have been a riposte from Apoel though! Aloneftis does well again and puts a better ball in to the back stick for Pote ... who could jump and land a free header at goal, but instead fails to jump and the ball kind of pings away off his head. Then Aloneftis goes again and wins a corner after an Aurier error. Spurs defend that well.

Goal! Tottenham 2-0 Apoel (Son 37)

They made a noise there! Son spins and advances towards the edge of the box, a bit to the right. He plays a give-and-go with Llorente, whose one-touch lay-off screams “curl me past the static goalkeeper with your left foot!”. Son obliges. Lovely goal, and that’ll be that.

Son score the second for Spurs.
Son score the second for Spurs. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters


36 min: This is Spurs’ first quiet spell really, but they don’t need to be extending themselves overly here.

35 min: Better from Apoel as the lively-ish Aloneftis hares down the left, but his low delivery is cut out. That’s as good as they’ve offered.

34 min: Man City are now 2-0 down. You can tell who needs that one more.

31 min: A little flicker there as Apoel play a decent ball through to Ebecilio and he claims a tug from Rose. Nothing doing.

30 min: Apoel have not come close to mounting a meaningful attack.

28 min: Llorente provides a cross this time, chipping in to the jumping Sissoko, whose header is straight at Perez.

27 min: Man City are losing at Shakhtar. Not that it matters to them. Shakhtar look like going through though.

26 min: It’s worked short and then through to Rose, who has an incredible amount of space at the byline but sees his drilled cross cleared behind. The next corner is put straight in and Llorente can’t quite get his head onto it cleanly.

25 min: Alli has been quiet but performs a neat bit of skill to get out of a tight spot in his own half. Play switches to the Apoel area and Spurs win another corner ...

23 min: It’s only 1-0, I know, but this currently looks like a complete mismatch.

Goal! Tottenham 1-0 Apoel (Llorente 20)

He’s off the mark! That was coming, it really was. Winks finds Aurier with a drilled, radar-like pass and the delivery is again good – if slightly behind Llorente. The striker turns and drags the ball back beautifully, flummoxing his marker, and the finish is then simple. He needed that; Apoel definitely didn’t.

Llorente shoots past Perez to score the opener.
Llorente shoots past Perez to score the opener. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images


20 min: It’s 3-0 to Liverpool now. Klopp looks happy. Coutinho has two, Firmino one.

19 min: And that’s another close shave there, a fine Aurier cross towards Llorente bouncing off a defender and only just over Perez’s bar. The goalkeeper had committed himself. A corner results, which soon enough leads to another – and Foyth thunders a header over from that one!

18 min: I mean, Apoel could just play for the draw now but I have the impression they wouldn’t be very good at it.

15 min: Liverpool are two up. Barry has the details here.

13 min: Spurs have, in fairness, started well enough here and look sharp. We’ve seen nothing from Apoel going forward yet bar a couple of bursts that were quickly snuffed out. It’s now 2-0 to Real in Madrid though ...

10 min: How are Spurs not ahead?! Llorente’s header is pushed away by Perez to his left, and Nkoudou seems certain to gobble the rebound .... but the Apoel defender Rueda makes a quite heroic clearance off the line with his head! The ball stays alive and is crossed back in for Sanchez, who heads wide when he might do better. Three chances in a row but Apoel somehow survive!

9 min: In this group’s other game Real Madrid are ahead against Dortmund – so if it’s all like this an hour and a half from now, Apoel take third.

7 min: Almost a chance for Son, who anticipates Llorente’s cushioned header from a Rose diagonal but can’t quite get the ball under his spell in the box.

7 min: Liverpool are beating Spartak Moscow. It’s really not a great group stage for nailbiting matchday six tussles, is it?

4 min: The flag kick is half-cleared and then Sissoko sees a shot blocked. The cameras pan to Giorgos Donis, who you’ll remember played for Blackburn and Sheffield United and is now Apoel’s manager. He used to be really quick!


3 min: And then Son does something very similar after a nice little burst between the lines. A corner is awarded, generously as the goalkeeper Perez didn’t touch it ...

2 min: Decent first sighter there from Aurier, raking a bouncing effort a foot wide from 25 yards.

2 min: It’s a small crowd, less than half-full I reckon, but the Cypriot fans – a number of whom may be based in north London, you’d fancy – are in good voice.

Peeeeeep! Off we go.

Apoel kick off. They play all in yellow and from right to left.

Email from Pete Corbett, timely too given the subject matter: “Hope you’re keeping warmer than we are at Wembley. Looking forward to seeing Georges N’Koudou. We sometimes need some pace in the side and it would be good for him to prove himself a viable option. Away fans are in fine voice.”

Meanwhile, the teams are on the Wembley pitch and solemnly taking in the anthem ...

Couple of others with points to prove: can Fernando Llorente, making only his fourth start for Spurs, score his first goal? And can Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, making just his third in a year and a half, show anything of substance?

Pochettino speaks on his eight changes: “For everyone it’s a great opportunity there. The players that are not consistently in the starting XI every week ... we’re going to take it very seriously, being first in the table is a great achievement but to play a Champions League game is very important.”

He also says it’s a big chance for “very talented player, great character and personality” Juan Foyth.

Apoel shouldn’t pose many problems, even to this Spurs team, and lost the home game 3-0. But! Harry Kane, who scored three in that game, isn’t around tonight. And! They drew both matches with Dortmund, which basically nixed BVB’s campaign, and the chief dangerman is Mickael Pote – a 33-year-old striker from Benin who scored in both of those games and has been on prolific form.


Spurs fans, what would you like to get out of tonight? “The simple enjoyment of watching my team play football without pressure” is a fine and valid answer. But anything else? Are you worried by the recent dip or is it just something that had to happen sometime? Is it all down to Mauricio’s book? Anything else? Email or tweet me. We’ve time to chat.

Pochettino rings the changes then, as expected. The likes of Nkoudou, Foyth and Llorente get a start. Spurs’ recruitment of squad players has not always been on point really, has it ... will they make a splash today though?

Tonight's teams

Tottenham Hotspur: Vorm, Aurier, Foyth, Sanchez, Rose, Sissoko, Winks, Nkoudou, Alli, Son, Llorente. Subs: Gazzaniga, Vertonghen, Dembele, Davies, Walker-Peters, Amos, Sterling.

Apoel Nicosia: Perez, Vouros, Rueda, Carlao, Lago, Zahid, Vinicius, Morais, Aloneftis, Ebecilio, Pote. Subs: Gudino, de Camargo, Alexandrou, Sallai, Antoniou, Farias, Merkis.

Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)


Good evening everyone. Now, I don’t mean to be a buzzkill but on the face of things there’s not a huge deal riding on this. Spurs have won their group – a brilliant achievement, by any measure, even if Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund are both off-key this season – and have little clear reason to go hell for leather. Apoel, meanwhile, are bottom of the group and are out, done, finished.

Well, not quite. If Apoel better Dortmund’s result at Real Madrid then they’d end up in the Europa League, which would be no mean achievement in this quartet I guess. And that, in turn, would deeper the pall of uncertainty that has enveloped Tottenham in recent weeks. On paper this is the kind of fixture that can give everyone a bit of a bounce again – a big win tonight could beget similar in kind-looking home league games against Stoke and Brighton. But if what will, presumably, be a skeleton lineup falters then the questions will remain. It’s a delicate one for Mauricio Pochettino, really: he needs to rest a few players who are, quite clearly, trudging through quicksand at the moment but not so many that Spurs get caught short.

Well if that hasn’t whipped up the dramatic tension, what else possibly could? It’ll be interesting to see how many people turn up at Wembley for this one – you’d expect a League Cup-style crowd perhaps. Join me in the warmth to find out. Enjoy!


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