Striker Harry Kane says Tottenham have proved the doubters wrong by finishing top of one of the toughest groups in this season’s Champions League.
Spurs won at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday to secure their place at the head of the group with a game to spare.
That followed a 3-1 win against Real Madrid at the start of November which ensured their place in the last 16.
“The group we had, a lot of people doubted us and we wanted to prove them wrong,” said Kane.
“Hopefully we can build on this now for the rest of the campaign.”
It’s an impressive achievement for Tottenham, especially after they failed to progress from what could be perceived as an easier group last season.
“The season before, we were watching the draw and we thought: ‘Oh Monaco, Leverkusen and CSKA’ and we thought we had a chance to go to the next stage,” Mauricio Pochettino said.
“Then this draw we looked between us and thought: ‘OK we are going to compete and we say nothing’ – and look now we are first, top of the table.”
Dortmund needed a win to keep alive their slim hopes of progressing to the last 16 and they took the lead in the first half when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang swept in his 16th goal of the season.
However, Spurs turned things around in the second half as Harry Kane equalised with a clinical low strike from the edge of the box soon after the restart.
Son Heung-min’s curled finish wrapped up the win late on.
It was a much-needed result and performance for Tottenham after the disappointment of their north London derby defeat to Arsenal at the weekend.
They can now look forward to a potentially more favourable draw in the last 16 against a side that finishes runner up in their group.
Clinical display suggests Gunners defeat a blip
Tottenham rightly earned plaudits from around the world after their stunning 3-1 win over Real at Wembley at the start of November, a result which secured their progression to the knockout round of the Champions League.
But Pochettino’s side failed to carry the momentum from that performance into their next two games. They laboured to a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace before a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in the north London derby at the weekend raised question marks over their ability to beat the so-called bigger teams, especially away from home.
With Tottenham already through to the knockout round this was not a game they needed to win. However, Pochettino nevertheless picked a strong side, perhaps underlining his desire for his side to show that the lacklustre display against Arsenal was a one-off.
Initially, it looked like the hangover from Saturday’s defeat had not yet worn off. Dele Alli, particularly disappointing against the Gunners, was largely anonymous in the first half while Kane did not look fully fit.
That all changed in the second half as Spurs’ big players came alive. Alli was at his creative best, setting up Kane with a neat pass along the edge of the area and the latter showed that his mini-drought was just that, somehow finding space between two defenders to squeeze a shot in at the near post for his first goal in four games.
And with Dortmund tiring, Alli skipped between two defenders before finding Son inside the box and the forward – who scored six goals in eight games against Dortmund when he played in Germany – put a curling effort beyond the reach of goalkeeper Roman Burki.
Under pressure to prove that the Gunners defeat was just a blip Tottenham delivered with a clinical and mature away performance.
“The reaction after Saturday was perfect,” Pochettino told BT Sport.
“The team stepped up and after Saturday we were ready to compete here in a difficult game against a difficult team and we are so proud.”
Worrying times for Dortmund
These two sides last met in Dortmund in a Europa League last-16 first leg tie in March 2016. On that occasion Tottenham were the underdogs and were outclassed by their German opponents, who won 3-0.
But while Tottenham have been on an upward curve since that game, Dortmund have gone in the opposite direction.
The 2012-13 Champions League finalists had lost away to Spurs and at home to Real in their first two group games before claiming unconvincing consecutive draws with Cyprus minnows Apoel Nicosia.
Meanwhile, a run of four defeats in their last five Bundesliga games meant head coach Peter Bosz was under pressure to get a win on Tuesday night.
There were flashes of the old Dortmund’s quick, attacking football in the first half. A smart ball over the top of the visitors’ defence put Aubameyang through but the striker uncharacteristically stabbed wide.
However, Aubameyang made amends soon after with the opener, finishing off a delightful move that included a clever backheel by Andriy Yarmolenko to cut open the Tottenham defence.
But as soon as Tottenham equalised Dortmund’s confidence evaporated and Hugo Lloris did not have a shot to save in the second half.
Defeat means Dortmund have gone without a win at home in five straight games, the first time they have endured such a run in 11 years.
Man of the match was Son Heung-min