Kane header seals Europa League progression
Harry Kane’s late header ensured Tottenham a place in the knockout stages of the Europa League with a group game remaining as the England forward earned his a side a valuable 1-0 win over Qarabag.
Following a 4,000-mile trip, Mauricio Pochettino named a strong side for the penultimate Group J fixture on Thursday, despite Sunday’s impending Premier League clash with Chelsea, and was rewarded when Kane netted the winner and ensured Spurs a top-two berth.
With the likes of Dele Alli and Son Heung-min hitting the woodwork against a stubborn Qarabag side, Pochettino’s men looked set to endure a frustrating night in Baku.
The hosts – whose qualification hopes now look very slim – were largely content to frustrate their Premier League opponents but were beaten courtesy of in-form Kane’s goalscoring instinct.
The striker nodded in Son’s flick-on from a corner 12 minutes from time to send Spurs into the knockout stage and into the weekend’s London derby off the back of a win.
Qarabag need to beat second-placed Anderlecht for a second time in Group J to stand a chance of progressing to the last 32 alongside Spurs, who need a point in their final game at home to Monaco to secure top spot.
The hosts began brightly – keeping the ball well albeit without threatening too often – while Ryan Mason tested Ibrahim Sehic inside the opening five minutes.
Mason, whose introduction at the base of Spurs’ midfield allowed Alli a more advanced role, shot over soon after as Spurs found their feet.
Alli spurned a great chance to open the scoring when he turned Kieran Trippier’s cross over the crossbar from inside the area while Qarabag saw Maksim Medvedev fire over before Afran Ismayilov forced Hugo Lloris into a first save shortly before the half-hour mark.
Qarabag offered a reminder of their threat on the stroke of half-time – the home side breaking at pace only for Dani Quintana’s scuffed effort to be palmed away by Lloris.
Spurs were on the front foot early in the second period but found Qarabag’s back line difficult to break down as the hosts offered another reminder of their threat when Richard Almeida shot wide from distance.
Alli failed to connect with an effort from inside the area while Christian Eriksen flashed a shot across goal prior to Son’s effort being tipped onto the bar just after the hour mark by an impressive Sehic save.
The Qarabag goalkeeper was called on again to tip Eric Dier’s effort round the post as Spurs continued to produce the better chances.
And, after Alli turned Toby Alderweireld’s delivery onto the post, Pochettino’s men were rewarded for their endeavour through Kane’s winner.
The England international took his tally to nine goals in his last six club games when he got the final touch from close range after Son connected with Eriksen’s corner, extending Spurs’ European campaign into the new year as a result.