Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane scored second-half goals to spare Tottenham Hotspur's blushes in a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Cypriot side AEL Limassol on Thursday, in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League play-off at the Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca, Cyprus.
Hosts Limassol took a shock lead through Adrian Sardinero in the 14th minute and frustrated Spurs' attempts to make a comeback until the introduction of Erik Lamela shifted the course of the match. Lamela assisted both goals, first as Soldado equalised in the 74th minute and then as Kane won it six minutes later.
With the victory, Spurs will be heavily favoured to win the two-legged play-off and advance to the Europa League group stage. The Premier League side will host the second leg next Thursday at White Hart Lane.
First, however, Mauricio Pochettino's men will welcome Queens Park Rangers on Sunday in a Premier League London derby.
As expected, Spurs dominated possession early in the match, Kane having a shot saved in the fifth minute before Paulinho missed the target two minutes later. Kane then sent a free-kick just over the bar in the 13th minute, moments before AEL took a shock lead.
Sardinero did the honours for the hosts, racing clear on goal before finishing past Hugo Lloris in the bottom corner.
Stunned by the goal, Tottenham tried to respond instantly, but Soldado and Nabil Bentaleb both had shots blocked. Kane continued to pose a threat for the visitors, forcing saves in the 29th and 32nd minutes.
Two minutes later, though, Limassol had an opportunity to double their lead. But after Sardinero found space to shoot, Lloris came off his line to save.
Trailing 1-0 at half-time, Tottenham kept pushing for the equaliser after the break. Kane again came close in the 71st minute, hitting the underside of the crossbar following Soldado's knock-down.
Spurs' frustration wouldn't last much longer. Three minutes later, the visitors were level.
Kane was involved again, passing to substitute Erik Lamela, who lifted a pass toward Soldado. The Spaniard beat Karim Fegrouche with a powerful first-time finish to make the score 1-1 in the 74th minute.
The deadlock did not last long. Within six more minutes, Spurs went ahead.
Lamela served as provider again, slotting the final ball to Kane. After beating a defender, Kane finished high past Fegrouche to complete Tottenham's comeback.
There was still time for more, though, and Lamela came close to scoring a goal of his own in the 87th minute, but his shot from a Nacer Chadli cross went wide. One minute later, Lamela broke free in the box, only for his shot to be turned away by Fegrouche.
Erik Lamela, Tottenham: A
Lamela's introduction as a substitute, for Andros Townsend in the 72nd minute, turned the game for Tottenham.
Before Lamela's arrival, Spurs were misfiring and in danger of an embarrassing loss on the road to a European minnow. But the Argentine provided two fine assists to help Tottenham come from behind and secure victory.
Lamela even came close to scoring in the latter stages but was denied by the Limassol 'keeper.
Harry Kane, Tottenham: A-
Kane was Tottenham's primary attacking outlet for much of the game. In fact, before Lamela's arrival, one could argue that Kane was the sole bright spot for Spurs.
The young striker missed a few chances before scoring the winner, and those misses are the only reason he receives a slightly marked-down grade.
In a post-match analysis, B/R's Jerrad Peters noted:
Harry Kane was the only Tottenham player to put in a complete, 90-minute effort on Thursday.
From the opening whistle, the 21-year-old was his side's most consistently dangerous attacker, and after Adrian Sardinero's opener, it was he who looked to spark Tottenham's response.
Appropriately, he had a hand in Roberto Soldado's equaliser before netting the winner himself.
Tottenham Hotspur, Overall: B
In the end, Spurs won the match and will be overwhelming favourites to take the tie and advance to the Europa League group stage.
That said, Tottenham trailed for an hour and needed two late goals to avoid what would have been an embarrassing defeat.
Even so, the result is all that matters, and this is a good one for Pochettino's side.
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