A comprehensive victory over Fiorentina at White Hart Lane on Thursday evening saw us ease into the last 16 of the Europa League.
Ryan Mason set the ball rolling with a first-half opener, before Erik Lamela doubled our advantage and Fiorentina’s captain Gonzalo Rodriguez put through his own net to make it 3-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate after last week’s first leg draw in Florence.
After the disappointment of exiting the FA Cup four days ago, this was a particularly commanding performance to keep our Europa League campaign on track and, in truth, we could have scored more against the Serie A visitors. And with Toby Alderweireld in imperious form at the back, we weren’t unduly troubled by Fiorentina’s attack on what was a positive night all-round.
Mauricio Pochettino made three changes from the first leg in the round of 32 contest, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris back in for Michel Vorm and captaining the team, Eric Dier replacing Tom Carroll and Erik Lamela coming in for Heung-Min Son. Young defender Cameron Carter-Vickers was among the substitutes, just the second time he had been on the bench for the first team.
There was a good tempo to the game with both sides looking to get forward at every opportunity, Fiorentina firing the first shot across the bows on eight minutes but Matias Vecino was high and wide with his effort.
We went close four minutes later when Dier flicked on Lamela’s corner to the far post but Dele Alli just couldn’t quite get a toe on the ball, while Lloris was called into action for the first time on 18 minutes, making a comfortable save from Josip Ilicic’s 30-yard low free-kick.
His opposite number Ciprian Tatarusanu showed good hands at the other end moments later, gathering in Christian Eriksen’s fizzing 25-yard drive after good build-up play from Lamela and Mason, while Lloris saved from Marcos Alonso as the game swung from end to end.
The opening goal came on 25 minutes and it was well-taken by Mason. Ben Davies aimed a pass to Nacer Chadli which he couldn’t gather but Alli slid in on Davide Astori to touch the ball into the path of Mason, bursting through down the left. The midfielder opened up his body and stroked a low shot into the far corner past Tatarusanu to put us in control of the tie.
Needing a goal to stay in the competition, the visitors went close on 39 minutes when Ilicic whipped in a free-kick wide on the left, awarded for Kieran Trippier’s foul on Alonso, but Borja Valero’s near-post header flew into the side-netting and we went in ahead at the interval.
Just a couple of minutes into the second half we might have doubled our advantage when Lamela released Chadli and he tucked the ball home under the goalkeeper, but the assistant’s flag was already up for offside.
Once again the game swung back and forth with both sides showing plenty of attacking intent, Alli seeing a shot from distance deflect off Gonzalo Rodriguez at one end and Lloris saving low at his near post from Borja Valero at the other within a matter of seconds.
The second goal arrived just after the hour mark and it was well-worked in its delivery. Eriksen won possession midway inside the Fiorentina half and played a lovely reverse pass to Chadli down the left channel. He cut inside and forced Tatarusanu into a good save, Gonzalo Rodriguez poked the loose ball away but only as far as the penalty spot, and Lamela swivelled and fired left-footed into the net.
That meant the visitors needed to strike twice in the remaining half an hour and they brought on former West Ham United player Mauro Zarate to help in their search for a goal. He did go close on 72 minutes, twisting and turning inside the area before firing in a low shot which Davies did well to clear inside the six yard box.
And when Nikola Kalinic was played through shortly after, Lloris had to be sharply off his line to smother the danger.
But the tie was effectively over when we added our third goal nine minutes from time. Chadli held the ball up out on the right before flicking it on to Trippier surging past him on his outside and the full-back delivered a superb cross which Gonzalo Rodriguez diverted into his own net, with Alli behind him ready to pounce.
There was almost a special goal to round off the night when Mason connected sweetly with a 20-yard volley from Chadli’s cross, only for Tatarusanu to tip over the bar. That was Mason’s last action as he was then replaced by another Academy graduate, Harry Winks, making only his third appearance for the first team.
Winks, fellow substitute Josh Onomah and Davies combined well down the left to set up Eriksen as the clock ticked over into stoppage time, the Dane bringing another fine save from the visiting keeper, but that was the end of the action on another great European night at the Lane.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Trippier, Alderweireld, Wimmer, Davies, Dier, Mason (Winks 87), Lamela (Onomah 76), Alli (Bentaleb 84), Eriksen, Chadli. Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Carter-Vickers, Rose, Son.
Fiorentina (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu, Tomovic, Astori, Gonzalo Rodriguez (c), Alonso, Badelj (Fernandez 82), Vecino, Bernardeschi, Ilicic (Zarate 61), Borja Valero (Blaszczykowski 74), Kalinic. Substitutes (not used): Lezzerini, Satalino, Pasqual, Babacar.
Goals: Spurs – Mason 25, Lamela 63, Gonzalo Rodriguez (OG) 81.
Yellow cards: Spurs – Wimmer, Trippier, Alli, Davies; Fiorentina – Tomovic, Alonso.
Referee: Ovidiu Hategan (Romania).