Worth the wait for Sterling, Nkoudou and Foyth!
07 December 2017|Tottenham Hotspur
Kazaiah Sterling had to wait that little bit longer for his Spurs debut, but the Academy striker didn’t mind in the slightest as he joined Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Juan Foyth in notching up significant milestones in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over APOEL at Wembley.
Goal-getter Kazaiah, 19, got the nod from Mauricio Pochettino to go on for his first competitive appearance in our colours in the latter stages of our final Champions League group stage outing, but was left loitering on the touchline for some five minutes as we enjoyed an extended spell of possession without the ball going out of play!
It was the 88th minute when he finally got to come on, with even the crowd recognising his predicament with an ironic cheer as the game finally paused.
For Kazaiah, though, he was just delighted to get his chance: “It’s a special moment and it’s something I’ve been dreaming of for quite a while, and for it to come in a competition like this makes it even better,” he said.
Winger ‘GK’ was equally thrilled to bag his first Spurs goal on his first start of the season, while centre-back Juan spoke of his pride at making his Champions League bow in a match which saw Fernando Llorente open his Spurs account and Heung-Min Son also on target. Captain for the night Michel Vorm and young full-back Kyle Walker-Peters also appeared in the competition for the first time.
Here’s what the players had to say after the game…
On waiting on the touchline for his debut
“I just wanted the ball to go out! I heard the crowd cheer when it finally did! To be fair, waiting on the side felt longer than when I was warming up and the game was going on. I was very focused on the game during that time, though, and thinking about what the manager said. He told me to be confident, be tough, keep it simple and when there’s a chance, express yourself.”
Your fellow Academy graduate Harry Winks managed to pick you out…
“Yes, Winksy told me beforehand that as soon as he was on the ball, make the runs and he will find me and thankfully he did. I think the team put in a solid performance tonight. It was great to see GK and Fernando get their first goals for the club and for Kyle to make his first appearance in the Champions League as well.”
On opening his goalscoring account
“I’m very happy to score my first goal for Tottenham – it’s a big moment for me because it’s been a long time coming. Today is a very special day and I hope to keep going like this, working hard in training. If I carry on like this, I hope to play more so this is a positive moment.”
You’ve got your smile back…
“Every day I will smile, this never changes, but naturally I’m very happy tonight! Of course, it’s been a long time since I have played so to find the pitch again, find the ball is great and very enjoyable. When you come onto the pitch and you see all the fans in the whole stadium, then when you score and hear your name (sung by the fans and read out on the tannoy) it makes you very happy.”
Thoughts on his Champions League debut
“I really enjoyed the game, my first one in the Champions League, so I’m really happy. You know, the Champions League is one of the best competitions in the world. In Argentina it was always a dream to come (to Europe) and play in the competition. I saw the Champions League on the TV and now it’s a reality for me. It’s amazing really. Before the game you are lining up, you listen to the music and it’s amazing – a very special feeling.”
On the outcome against APOEL
“We controlled the game, we controlled the ball and we were able to score the goals we needed. I think we played well. Maybe in the second half, in the first 15 minutes, they controlled the ball but we never allowed them into the game and we were able to score one goal more.”
On skippering the side on his Champions League debut
“For me, this was my first Champions League game, so that’s special and then to be captain of Tottenham Hotspur is so special as well. I’m 34 but when I hear the (Champions League) anthem it’s still very special. I’m delighted, very happy and I feel part of the team. To play a game like that means a lot. We need to stay focused now. We changed a few players but we showed we can rotate and a few guys showed they can be part of the team as well and that’s so important, especially when you see how many games we have over the next few weeks.”
More on the performance of the players who came into the side
“If you can rotate like we did today and still win 3-0 in the Champions League, it’s full compliments to the players. We've had a great run in the Champions League and now we have to take this form into the Premier League. It was a very big moment for Fernando (to score his first goal). He's had a few chances and you could see he was very happy with his goal. We're all happy for him, and GK Nkoudou as well. He got the opportunity and did well. I’m pleased for him.”
On his first Spurs goal
“It’s hard because in the last games in the Premier League I’ve had good chances. I’ve been a little unlucky. It’s been a difficult moment for me because I need to score for my confidence and I think this is the start, this is the moment I feel better and I want to work very hard to help my team.”
Thoughts on our Champions League campaign so far
“Unbelievable. We have to be very happy because it’s very difficult in the Champions League, but to be better than Real Madrid in the group is unbelievable. We have to believe in ourselves because we have demonstrated we are a very good team. In this moment we need confidence because the last few games in the Premier League have been difficult for us. Now we have to change this way in the next game against Stoke. That’s important for us.”