Heung-Min Son scored a quick-fire double on his home debut and Erik Lamela opened his account for the season as we began our Europa League campaign with victory over FK Qarabag at the Lane on Thursday evening.
Our South Korean international produced a fine performance in front of our fans, netting twice on 28 and 30 minutes to turn the game in our favour after Qarabag had taken an early lead through a Richard Almeida penalty.
There were plenty of chances at either end in what was an entertaining contest which we mostly controlled, and we secured the points four minutes from time when Lamela added a third goal.
While Son made his first appearance at the Lane, there were Spurs debuts for Kevin Wimmer and Kieran Trippier in defence as Head Coach Mauricio Pochettino shuffled his pack from Sunday’s win at Sunderland. Lamela, Tom Carroll and Andros Townsend were in the starting line-up for the first time this season, while Clinton Njie made his bow as a second half substitute.
It was the visitors who made the brighter start to the match, testing Hugo Lloris after just two minutes when Lamela’s pass to Carroll fell short, the ball ran to Reynaldo who advanced on goal but his shot was comfortably saved by our French stopper.
And they were ahead five minutes later. Trippier upended Ansi Agolli inside the area and Swiss referee Adrien Jaccottet pointed to the spot. Almeida stepped up from 12 yards and drove his spot kick into the bottom right corner, Lloris diving the right way but unable to get a hand on the ball.
We slowly grew into the game and on 16 minutes Son saw a shot well blocked by Gara Garayev for a corner and Toby Alderweireld headed the set-piece over, while Qarabag went close again six minutes later, Almeida firing goalwards after a patient build-up.
It was an entertaining half with both teams providing dangerous moments and we found a deserved equaliser on 28 minutes. Trippier’s centre was blocked for a corner, Townsend swung in a low teasing cross which bounced inside the six-yard box and Son stuck out a boot to poke the ball into the back of the net.
And he swiftly doubled our – and his – tally two minutes later when he added the finishing touch to a wonderful move. He started it, playing a pass in behind the defence to Dele Alli, who turned on a sixpence to leave Rashad Sadygov on the floor and then cut the ball back for Son to drive into the far corner from 10 yards.
It probably should have been 3-1 10 minutes before the break as we carved out two great chances within seconds of each other. First Townsend beat the offside trap with a pass to Alli, right-side of the area, he advanced on goal but Qarabag’s keeper Ibrahim Sehic made himself big to block his effort. Moments later, a short corner saw Townsend lay it off to Trippier, whose cross was met by the unmarked Alderweireld but he headed over.
The Azerbaijani champions were always dangerous going forwards though and almost drew level when Danny Rose attempted to chest a cross-field pass back to Lloris but left it short, Afran Ismayilov nipped in but sent his effort just over the crossbar.
And they were perhaps unlucky not to score just before the interval, a swift one-touch move down the pitch ending with Javid Taghiyev sending over a cross from the left which Reynaldo headed just over.
Once again it was the visitors who began the best following the restart, Alderweireld needing to be in the right place to prevent Ismayilov’s dangerous cross reaching its target in front of goal. But the end-to-end nature of the contest continued, with Son playing a pass inside right-back Maksim Medvedev for Rose, who rode a couple of challenges before seeing his shot blocked by Sehic.
The goalkeeper was beaten on 53 minutes, though, when a delightful counter involving Lamela, Alli and Dier ended with Lamela lifting a shot over Sehic - only for the ball to hit the post and rebound to safety. Shortly after, Lamela laid a neat pass in to Son, who attempted to chip Sehic but put the ball straight into the keeper’s arms.
Just before the hour mark, Qarabag went close again when Dani Quintana pounced on a loose ball 20 yards out, his fierce drive taking a nick off Wimmer and going just wide.
We made a double substitution on 68 minutes, Son coming off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Harry Kane, while there was a debut for Clinton as he took over from Townsend. But it was the visitors who went closest to scoring next, Quintana bringing a diving save out of Lloris with his header.
Carroll saw a shot blocked before Dier tested Sehic with a low drive - and that was his last action of the game as he made way for young midfielder Harry Winks for only his second ever appearance in our colours. Winks was soon in the action, clipping a delightful ball out to Rose who controlled and let fly from inside the area from the left channel, but it fizzed wide of the far post.
Qarabag still carried a threat and substitute Samuel Armenteros should have done better when put through, while Wimmer made a fine tackle to prevent Reynaldo breaking clear.
But we added a third four minutes from time to seal the victory, Kane winning possession back 30 yards out before releasing Lamela through on goal and he lifted his effort over Sehic and into the net, reward for a hard-working performance from the Argentine international.
Alli almost added a fourth deep into stoppage time when he cut inside three defenders but was just off target with his effort, the final whistle blowing just seconds later to confirm three points in our Group J opener.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris, Trippier, Wimmer, Alderweireld, Rose, Dier (Winks 75), Carroll, Lamela, Alli, Townsend (Clinton 68), Son (Kane 68). Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Davies, Fazio, Onomah.
Qarabag (4-5-1): Sehic, Medvedev, Huseynov, Sadygov, Agolli, Ismayilov (El Jadeyaoui 79), Quintana (Michel 79), Garayev, Almeida, Taghiyev (Armenteros 67), Reynaldo. Substitutes (not used): Veliyev, Gurbanov, Yunuszada, Diniyev.
Goals: Spurs – Son 28, 30, Lamela 86; Qarabag – Almeida 7 (pen).
Yellow cards: Spurs – Alli; Qarabag – Medvedev, Sehic, Sadygov, Michel.
Referee: Adrien Jaccottet (Switzerland).