APOEL’s entire starting eleven was assembled for the decidedly modest sum of £2.7m and the Cypriot side have failed to keep a clean sheet at home in their past nine Champions League home fixtures, but they frequently tested Hugo Lloris in goal and rattled the crossbar in the first-half.
Ultimately however they lacked a player with the ruthlessness of Kane, who scored with three clinical finishes before departing to a standing ovation from all four corners of the ground, becoming the first English player to score a Champions League hat-trick since Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck ran Galatasaray riot in the 2014/15 season.
This match was the definition of a potential banana skin for Spurs, with APOEL’s players clad in suitably lurid yellow shirts for the occasion. Christian Eriksen’s untimely illness made it a total of seven first-team players who were unavailable for the match in Cyprus, which meant that Mauricio Pochettino was forced to name an unusual looking line-up with Ben Davies selected in a back three and Kieran Tripper shunted over to an unfamiliar role on the left.
It was a patched-up defence – and it didn’t take long for the European minnows to test it.
Roland Sallai took advantage of a lack of communication between Davies and Toby Alderweireld only to head wide, shortly before Igor de Camargo outpaced Davinson Sanchez and chanced his arm from a speculative angle. He hit the woodwork. Moments later, Carlão found himself completely unmarked from a corner, but couldn’t direct his header beyond the flailing Lloris.
Spurs were rattled and worse was to come. A long aimless APOEL punt forward was directed too close to the advancing Lloris, only for the French international to inexplicably decide against hoofing the ball to safety. Instead he side-footed it directly into the shins of Sanchez, the ball rebounding back towards goal and trickling agonizingly wide.
On the touchline, Pochettino began to nervously pace the length of his technical area, barking increasingly vocal instructions at his defence. Spurs needed a break. Naturally, it was Kane who provided it, shortly before half-time.
In the absence of the likes of Eriksen and Dele Alli, it was Alderweireld who turned provider, sliding a long, low pass forward into the path of Kane. Played on side by Jesús Rueda and afforded far too much space by Praxitelis Vouros, Kane took the ball into the box before rolling a composed finish into the bottom corner of the goal.
It was harsh on APOEL, who had until that point looked especially dangerous on the counter-attack and gone far closer to breaking the deadlock. Harsher still was Tottenham – and Kane’s – second goal, which came at the end of another spell of encouraging APOEL pressure.
After Efstathios Aloneftis and De Camargo both spurned presentable opportunities, Kane put the away side firmly in control when he confidently side-footed Moussa Sissoko’s perfectly weighted cutback beyond the despairing dive of Boy Waterman.
Just five minutes later he had completed his hat-trick, a goal that means, for now at least, he is the highest scoring player in the Champions League this season. He started the move too, rolling the ball out wide to the advancing Trippier – now restored to his usual position on the right after Serge Aurier’s early withdrawal – and nodding his cross past Waterman.
And with that, he was off, departing to a standing ovation from home and away fans alike, replaced by Georges-Kévin N'Koudou. It was to be the last moment of significance in a match that could have easily been a disaster for Tottenham. Instead, they travel to the Santiago Bernabéu next month with their 100% Champions League record intact.
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