Fernando Llorente earns his Spurs at last

It may have taken him 17 games but Fernando Llorente is finally off the mark for Tottenham and beginning to look at home in north London.

When the Spaniard was signed from Swansea City in the summer for around €16m, it was hoped he would finally be the man to ease the burden on Harry Kane.

Until last night, however, that had not been the case.

But, with Kane rested, Llorente finally showcased what he has to offer by helping Tottenham defeat Apoel Nicosia 3-0 at Wembley.

The Spaniard was the perfect focal point for Spurs’ attack on a night when both he and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou got their first goals for the club.

That was no more summed than with his assist for Tottenham’s second goal, when Llorente set the ball for Heung-Min Son to score one of his classic curling efforts.

Before that, Llorente had already got on the scoresheet himself courtesy of a neat turn and finish inside the six-yard box.

While Apoel are perhaps not the greatest litmus test for judging Llorente, the fact is this was exactly the sort of game the 32-year-old was signed for.

With top spot in Group H already secured ahead of defending champions Real Madrid, the match was a dead rubber and Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino consequently made eight changes from the team that drew with Watford last weekend.

The change in personnel made no difference, though, as from the off Tottenham instantly dominated proceedings.

Within minutes, Serge Aurier had fired a shot just past the post and Son had called Nauzet Perez into action in what would be a busy night for the Apoel goalkeeper.

The visitors were already under intense pressure and, when N’Koudou struck the post on nine minutes, it looked like only a matter of time before the deadlock was broken.

And, after 20 minutes, the goal finally came as Llorente demonstrated why Tottenham fought so hard to beat Chelsea to his signature on deadline day back in August.

Aurier’s cross picked out the Spaniard in the six-yard box and, with his back to goal, he turned sharply before prodding the ball home.

It was no more than Tottenham deserved and you sensed more goals were to come on a night when the hosts were essentially taking part in a game of attack v defence.

Unsurprisingly, eight minutes before the break Spurs did double their lead as this time Llorente turned provider. Again, it was another beautiful goal as Son played a one-two with Llorente before curling a left-footed strike from outside the box into the far corner.

Wary that they needed to somehow force a miracle comeback to book a place in the Europa League, Apoel came out on the attack in the second-half.

However, like a skilled boxer who knows he has his opponent’s number, Tottenham were able to keep their visitors at arm’s length as they continued to totally dominate the game.

A third goal duly came for Spurs, though, as with 10 minutes to go N’Koudou got in on the act by jinking in from the left and firing a deflected effort past Perez.

It was no more than the winger deserved on a night when he, like Llorente, staked a claim to be more involved in Pochettino’s plans.

There will, of course, be greater tests ahead for Tottenham, namely one of Basel, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Porto, Sevilla, or Shakhtar Donestk in the last-16.

But, after remaining unbeaten in a group which contained Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, Spurs should fear no one.

TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1):

Vorm 6; Aurier 7, Foyth 7, Sanchez 6, Rose 6 (70 Walker-Peters 5); Sissoko 6, Winks 7; Son 8 (65 Dembele 6), Alli 6 (88 Sterling 5), Nkoudou 8; Llorente 8.

APOEL NICOSIA (4-2-3-1):

Perez 5; Vouros 4, Rueda 4, Carlao 5, Lago 4; Vinicius 5 (45 Sallai 5), Morais 5; Zahid 4, Ebecilio 5, Aloneftis 6 (75 De Camargo 5); Pote 4 (81 Antoniou 5).


Slavko Vincic (SVN)

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