Harry Kane can win a game in the space of 11 minutes, perhaps it is not so implausible that they could somehow find a way to get through.
There have been some great nights for Kane at Wembley over the course of his remarkable goal-scoring career, and although this one was not among the classics it lived up to the usual drama around the England captain. He scored twice in the closing stages, the second a twice-deflected header that may yet be chalked up as an own goal, to make Spurs’ daunting task to reach the second round just that little more feasible.
They still have to get two major results in their last two games, starting with a win over Inter Milan at Wembley on Nov 28. “You know me,” Mauricio Pochettino said afterwards, “I’m so optimistic.” It would be fair to say that he did not look very optimistic until Kane’s 78th-minute equaliser finally levelled the game after what seemed like an eternity chasing Luuk de Jong’s opener after 61 seconds. Pochettino will need certainly all his optimism for Spurs’ final Champions League group match on Dec 11.
That will be when – depending on whether they beat Inter and if so by how many – Spurs must then better or match the Italian’s result against PSV in their final game. Spurs will have to do so away to Barcelona who despite being held to a 1-1 draw with a late equaliser from Inter in Milan have secured qualification for the knockout round. It will be difficult if, in the Nou Camp, Spurs again concede another early goal. But with Kane in the side Pochettino has reason to hope – and overall this was not a poor performance.
It was a strange atmosphere, an evening on which Spurs’ support was largely subdued although they did boo Pochettino’s decision to replace Lucas Moura in the second half. The Spurs manager made light of it afterwards although it feels like the Wembley holiday mood is really waning now among the Spurs fans and the pitch was once again well below standard. Asked whether the playing surface was a factor, the PSV manager Mark Van Bommel replied, “No, it’s s—“ as if to say that it was no worse than he had expected.
It had been a night of scrapping for Kane, seeking out the occasional chances that came his way. He hunted down his two goal-scoring chances the first of which, Pochettino pointed out, was made for him with a knockdown from Fernando Llorente, one of his second half substitutes.
That was an instinctive finish when the ball dropped, the second a header that took two deflections before it rolled into the corner of the PSV goal – but then there is always a chance that Kane will be the right man in the right place at the right time. He has 13 goals in 14 Champions League games for Spurs and these next two games are when his side will need him more than ever – especially if they keep conceding so cheaply.
It was already a bad night for Spurs with 61 seconds played, when a corner won early by PSV’s 21-year-old Spanish full-back Angelino was nodded firmly past Paulo Gazzaniga by De Jong. The visitors were just that much sharper – Dele Alli adroitly blocked from following his man in the area by the run of centre-back Nick Viergever, a very nicely executed move.
On the touchline, Pochettino had the whole game to reflect on his team’s weakness defending at set-pieces, a problem that had surfaced earlier in the season and in particular the defeat to Watford. Spurs recovered themselves and created enough chances to score in the first half alone. They finished the game with 75 per cent possession. They should never have allowed themselves to be behind in the first place.
PSV are used to winning this season in their domestic league where they have 11 victories from 11 Eredivisie games although in the first half it was their goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet who was their outstanding performer. He stopped two in quick succession from Alli and Christian Eriksen when it seemed that all either needed to do was to direct their attempts fractionally away from Zoet, who stood his ground.
Pochettino had picked an attacking side with a front three of Kane, Heung-min Son and Moura, supported by Alli. He left it until just after the hour when he finally went for the change. It was Moura, who had embarked on one first half run that had taken him past four opponents before he was finally stopped by Daniel Schwaab, one of PSV’s centre-backs. A section of the 41,500 home fans in the stadium, who had made considerably less noise than their Dutch counterparts, booed the decision.
Erik Lamela took his place and later on Llorente and Kieran Trippier, as a replacement for Serge Aurier, would also come on. Spurs’ possession count had been overwhelming. Aside from Gazzaniga electing to Cruyff-turn his way out of the pressure applied by PSV’s striker Hirving Lozano there had been no moments of anxiety in the second half before the Kane goals.
Finally, Kane swung a left boot at Llorente’s knockdown and connected cleanly enough to dispatch his shot past Zoet at last. His winner came from a back post cross from Ben Davies and a header downward that struck Viergever and then the substitute Trent Sainsbury before dropping in the corner of Zoet’s goal. It had been a long and hard fight, with 30 attempts on the PSV goal. But Spurs are still alive in the competition, however tough the task ahead.