Harry Kane scored the only goal of the game to ensure Tottenham Hotspur’s safe passage to the next round of the Europa League.
The England international’s 10th goal of the season in all competitions was enough to secure victory for Tottenham in a frustrating match that saw few clear chances fall for either side. Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and Moussa Dembele were all rested, while Mauricio Pochettino placed his trust in the fitness of stars Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli ahead of Spurs’ game against Chelsea at the weekend.
Heading in to the game still uncertain of their future in the competition, only a win would cement their position in the Round of 32. But, after a six-hour flight, they were faced with a Qarabag side determined not to make it easy for the London team.
A monotonous first half saw Qarabag defend deep, looking to catch Tottenham on the break. It worked for the most part and the Azerbaijani side’s defence completely nullified Tottenham’s attacking threat over the first 45 minutes. Tottenham continued to come forward in the second half and goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic was called upon multiple times to stop Qarabag from going behind. But the keeper could do nothing to stop Harry Kane’s header from a yard out in the 77th minute.
The result sends Tottenham through to the next round regardless of their result in the next game, though coming away with any points at home to Monaco will see them win the group overall.
Ryan Mason stung the palms of Ibrahim Sehic from the edge of the box early on and Dele Alli could have given the visitors the lead a 15 minutes in to the match but the youngster shot over the bar from 10 yards out. A rare venture into Tottenham’s half for Qarabag saw Afran Ismaliyov force Hugo Lloris into a catch at his near post. Toby Alderweireld’s bobbling shot out of desperation from 45 yards highlighted how difficult Tottenham found it to create chances against a Qarabag side happy to defend deep and attack on the counter. Alli floated a header into Sehic’s gloves five minutes from time but the half, devoid of any real excitement, finished goalless.
And the second half carried on where the first left off. As Tottenham became more and more frustrated Qarabag began to grow in confidence and Dani Quintana saw his shot deflect wide of Lloris’ post. Spurs drove back up the pitch and Kane smashed a shot from a tight angle into the side netting. But Heung-Min Son came closest to opening the deadlock when his dipping shot was excellently tipped up on to the bar by Sehic and it dropped down inches wide of the post. Eric Dier’s deflected shot was only just fumbled away from goal by Sehic as the visitors continued to push for the first goal of the game.
But Qarabag were well aware that they still had a foothold in the match and Dani forced Lloris into another smart save from outside the box. But Spurs’ hunt for a goal continued. Alli caught Cristian Eriksen’s chip into the box on the volley only to see it rebound back off the post. And with 13 minutes left Kane’s shot was met by another excellent, point-blank Sehic save.
But Son’s near-post flick on from the resulting corner, Tottenham’s 14th of the game, was met by the head of Kane inside the six-yard box and he was able to nod Spurs 1-0 up. It was then Tottenham’s turn to defend deep and they saw out a result that ensures qualification into the next round. With no injuries to major players, Tottenham can now focus on putting themselves as many as 13 points clear of Chelsea in the Premier League when the sides meet on Sunday.