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Spurs undefeated in group stage with Apoel victory

Spurs undefeated in group stage with Apoel victory

Fernando Llorente scored his first Tottenham goal in his 17th appearance for the club as Mauricio Pochettino's side rounded off their Champions League Group H campaign with a routine victory against Apoel, reports BBC. Spurs had already secured first place in the group before Wednesday's game and Pochettino opted to give some of his fringe players a start. Llorente, a summer signing from Swansea, was one of those to come in and he opened his Tottenham account midway through the first half, turning smartly inside the box before hooking the ball into the net. It was a deserved goal for Spurs after a dominant start to the match, with Georges-Kevin N'Koudou having had an early effort cleared off the line. Son Heung-min added a second before the break, curling in from the edge of the box after playing a one-two with Llorente. Cypriots Apoel, who needed to avoid defeat to have a chance of claiming a Europa League spot ahead of Borussia Dortmund, offered very little throughout. Praxitelis Vouros had the visitors' best chance early in the second half when his deflected strike flew just wide of the far post. Instead, Spurs added a third late on through N'Koudou's deflected finish. Tottenham, who finished with the highest points tally in this season's Champions League group stage with 16, can now look forward to Monday's last 16 draw, which takes place at Uefa's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland at 11:00 GMT. Llorente, 32, joined Tottenham on transfer deadline day after an impressive debut campaign in the Premier League last season, scoring 15 goals to help Swansea avoid relegation. The Spanish striker, a World Cup winner in 2010, was the first player Pochettino had signed over the age of 30 since the Argentine became Spurs boss three years ago. Llorente has largely failed to justify Pochettino's decision to go for experience over youth - a terrible close-range miss against Leicester last week a particularly low point - but his goal and overall performance on Wednesday could prove a turning point in his Tottenham career. He looked anything but like a player who had gone almost seven hours without goal when he opened the scoring, trapping Serge Aurier's low ball superbly before turning and finishing in one move. Pochettino will no doubt be delighted to see the striker get off the mark but also encouraging for the Spurs boss was the way Llorente linked up with Son. The two combined for Tottenham's second and generally showed a good understanding throughout. With Tottenham's Premier League form faltering - they are without a win since 5 November - and with progression to the knockout round already assured, Pochettino opted to give some of his key players a rest for this game. Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier and Hugo Lloris were all absent but notable for his inclusion was Dele Alli. The midfielder scored 18 goals in 37 Premier League games last term but his form in the opening few months of this season has been mixed. This game represented an opportunity for him to shine in a relatively pressure-free environment. This was Tottenham's first Champions League game at Wembley since they impressively beat Real Madrid 3-1. Alli was arguably the best player on the pitch that night, scoring twice as Spurs fans chanted "we've got Dele Alli" while he tormented the Spanish giants throughout. There were no such chants during this game as Alli struggled to make an impact, although the England international appeared to be struggling after taking an early knock to his knee. Pochettino took off Danny Rose in the second half after the full-back received a cut above his eye. Rose had gone straight down the tunnel and Pochettino was asked after the game if the 27-year-old, who has been linked with a move away from the club, had been unhappy with the decision. "Players are never happy when they are going out," Pochettino told BT Sport. "He had a big cut and the doctors said he needed a stitch and it was impossible to play on. Of course the player was frustrated because it was Champions League, but nothing wrong."

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