First Spurs goal for Fernando Llorente a hopeful sign in UCL group finale
Spurs cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory against strugglers Apoel in their final Champions League qualifying game. With Tottenham having already guaranteed themselves a top-place finish in the group, manager Mauricio Pochettino made wholesale changes to his starting XI. Fernando Llorente opened the scoring with his first goal for the club, and Son Heung-Min doubled the lead before the interval. Spurs were thereafter in cruise control, and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou added a third shortly before the end.
If the main plus for Pochettino was the luxury of being able to rest some key players, the manager will also be delighted that Llorente finally opened his account with a cool finish that belied his lack of confidence. Spurs have often looked short of a backup striker, and the club will be hoping this goal sets Llorente up for the rest of the season. Nkoudou is a more peripheral player, but it was also good to see him score his first goal for the club.
Though Spurs have missed his pace down the left flank, it looks as though Danny Rose's days at the club might be numbered. Whatever conciliatory noises Pochettino might have made about Rose over the past couple of months, it now seems clear the left-back has not been forgiven. By choosing to play Rose, the manager was sending a clear message that he considers him to be second string to Ben Davies. Rose clearly got the hint and appeared to be sulking for much of the match. An attitude that will have done nothing to improve relations with Pochettino.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- A win-win for the Pochettino. He could afford the luxury of sending out a second-string XI with no downside if they underperformed. In the event, his team and tactics were more than good enough to see off a poor Apoel team. Now the manager needs to take the momentum of a comfortable victory into their Premier League form against Stoke on Saturday.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Michel Vorm, 7 -- A bystander for long periods of the game as Apoel rarely tested the Spurs defence. Was confident in his handling and distribution and will be pleased both with the game time and the clean sheet.
DF Serge Aurier, 7 -- A constant threat down the right flank and delivered a pinpoint cross for Llorente's opener. Showed few signs of the inconsistencies that have dogged many of his appearances and was a largely reassuring presence.
DF Juan Foyth, 7 -- Not the most demanding night he will ever have, but did most of what was expected of him with poise and precision. It still remains to be seen how he will cope when tested by players of greater ability.
DF Davinson Sanchez, 7 -- Only playing because he had been sent off against Watford at the weekend and thus sidelined for the next three Premier League games, Sanchez showed great character and was one of Spurs' best players on the night. Controlled in defence and came close to scoring with a header.
DF Danny Rose, 6 -- Gave the impression he didn't believe he should have been selected for what was effectively a B team and performed well below his best. Came close to getting sent off for a reckless challenge.
MF Moussa Sissoko, 6 -- Even against the weaker teams, Sissoko struggles to assert himself. A largely anonymous display in which he rarely managed to play a telling pass.
MF Harry Winks, 7 -- Was Spurs best player on the field. Kept the midfield under his control and was instrumental in most of Spurs' creative passage of football.
MF Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, 7 -- His goal might have been deflected, but Nkoudou won't care how it came as he got his name on the Spurs score sheet for the first time. Showed flashes of skill and attacking intent but is still to prove himself.
MF Dele Alli, 6 -- If Pochettino had picked Alli to allow him to re-find some form against mediocre opposition, it backfired badly. Alli looked uninterested for much of the game, rarely made an impact and got an unwanted 90 minutes of football in his legs for his pains.
MF Son Heung-Min, 7 -- Lively throughout and took his goal with a well-placed left foot shot. Was taken off midway through the second half with Saturday's game in mind.
FW Fernando Llorente, 7 -- Took his goal well and looked more comfortable in a Spurs shirt than in any of his previous 16 appearances. His one regret will be that he failed to add to his tally. An air shot with the goal at his mercy was a moment to forget.
MF Mousa Dembele, 6 -- Came on midway through the second half and appeared to have been given instructions to do the bare minimum. Which he followed to the letter.
DF Kyle Walker-Peters, NR -- A late substitution. Had little chance to make a significant impact
MF Kazaiah Sterling, NR -- A first, albeit short, first outing for the Academy graduate.
John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.