London (AFP) – Tottenham rounded off a frustrating Champions League campaign with a 3-1 victory over CSKA Moscow that secured the dubious consolation of a place in the Europa League.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side were already eliminated from the Champions League before Wednesday’s final Group E fixture, but they finished on a high note with their first victory at Wembley at the third attempt.
After falling behind to Alan Dzagoev’s strike, Tottenham equalised through Dele Alli and Harry Kane netted in first half stoppage-time before goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev’s own goal sealed the points.
Tottenham ended third in the group and the north Londoners will enter the Europa League when the knockout stages begin in February.
Playing in the less glamourous of Europe’s club competitions, with its gruelling itinerary and far-flung destinations, might be something of an unwanted burden for Tottenham given the potential to damage their Premier League ambitions.
But the Europa League winners qualify for the Champions League so Pochettino’s men may yet end up taking it seriously.
CSKA’s failure to hold onto their lead meant boss Leonid Slutsky was unable to leave Moscow with the parting gift of prolonged involvement in Europe after revealing on Tuesday that he would quit the Russian champions after the Spurs match.
Defeats against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen in their other group matches at Wembley had played a major role in Tottenham’s exit and contributed to a negative feeling about the stadium among players and fans.
But with Tottenham likely to spend the whole of next season as tenants at Wembley while White Hart Lane is redeveloped, Pochettino was keen for his team to make themselves more at home by beating CSKA.
The swathes of empty seats at kick-off suggested many Tottenham supporters had already made up their minds about the Wembley experience.
But the stay-aways missed Tottenham’s only emphatic performance of the tournament.
– Extra gear –
Early on, Alli headed wide from Christian Eriksen’s cross before Son Heung-Min’s low strike was pushed out by CSKA goalkeeper Akinfeev.
Another flowing Spurs attack saw Kyle Walker feed Kane, whose instinctive first-time pass released Eriksen, only for the Danish winger to shoot straight at Akinfeev.
Alli wasted a good chance to open the scoring when his tame shot from eight yards barely forced Akinfeev to move.
Not for the first time in their strangely lethargic European campaign, Tottenham were punished for a lackadaisical mistake in the 33rd minute.