Spurs avoid slip-up in Cyprus as Lamela helps fell Limassol
Tottenham come from behind to win in Europa League qualifier against Cypriot minnows
AEL Limassol 1-2 Tottenham. As banana skins go, it was a big one, but Mauricio Pochettino managed to keep his balance – just – in his second competitive match as Tottenham manager.
The 42-year-old Argentine, Tottenham's fourth manager in two years, has a heavy weight of expectation on his shoulders after arriving in the summer from Southampton. With Arsenal back winning things after a nine-year hiatus, the Tottenham faithful are desperate to break their silverware drought that stretches back to their League Cup success of 2007-08.
An away trip to Limassol in late August is normally reason to be cheerful but Pochettino would have arrived in Cyprus aware that defeat in the first leg of Spurs' Europa League play-off tie would be as welcome at the Lane as a Theo Walcott salute.
And for an hour it seemed Pochettino's worst fears were going to be realised. Adrian Sardinero's strike on 14 minutes gave Limassol the lead and the home side, last season's runners-up in the Cypriot league, were the dominant side in the first period.
Spurs found the 30c heat a factor but in the end the strength of their bench told as Pochettino made a raft of second half substitutions that turned the tie in their favour.
Robert Soldado equalised for the visitors on 74 minutes when he volleyed home Erik Lamela's lofted ball, and six minutes later Lamela played the provider once more, this time teeing up Harry Kane for a thunderous strike into the top corner of the Limassol net.
"In the end it was an important win and another victory," said Pochettino, whose side beat West Ham at the weekend in their opening Premier League fixture. "It was a difficult game and I'm happy with the players. Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli and Mousa Dembele had an impact when they came on, which is important."
The victory should ensure Tottenham progress to the Europa League proper, provided they avoid complacency when they host the Cypriots in the return leg on Thursday.
Hull, however, have it all to do in their second leg after losing 1-0 away to Belgian side Lokeren in their first season of European football. The goal came courtesy of a howler by Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who inexplicably passed straight to Lokeren midfielder Hans Vanaken. His cool finish left Hull manager Steve Bruce hot under the collar: "We've made a stupid mistake and it's cost us the match," he lamented. "Allan won us the match on Saturday [against QPR] and then he makes a mistake like that. That's the life of a goalkeeper for you."