Son Heung-min scored his first two goals for Tottenham to hand his new side a winning start in the Europa League with a 3-1 victory over Azerbaijani champions Qarabağ at White Hart Lane. The £22 million signing from Bayer Leverkusen was making just his second start for the London, and was starting in his less favored central striker role in place of the rested Harry Kane. But he earned an early ovation from his new fans and helped provide the firepower Spurs have so far sorely lacked this season.
Tottenham had been given an early scare when the visitors took a seventh minute lead through Richard Almeida’s penalty after Kieran Tripper, making his Spurs debut, was adjudged to have brought down Asni Agolli in the box. Qarabağ continued to look dangerous on their forward forays throughout the contest, but it was Tottenham and Son who made their chances count.
His first came in the 28th minute, and he surely could scarcely have believed how simple it was made for him. From Andros Townsend’s in-swinging corner, the visitors’ defense went missing to allow the South Korea international to turn the ball into the net on the half-volley from the center of the six-yard box. Two minutes later he had his second. Son initially fed the ball through to Dele Alli, who looked to have been in an offside position but was allowed to go on to execute a delightful turn in the box before rolling the ball back for Son to finish assuredly.
As well as Son, Ali was Tottenham’s star performer. And the 19-year-old will be a little aggrieved that he didn’t find the net himself. Indeed, he may have had a few words after the final whistle with Erik Lamela, after the Argentinean winger took the ball off his teammate with a clear sight of goal on the edge of the box, but struck the inside of the post. Son could also have made the win more emphatic for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, but chipped the ball straight into the opposition goalkeeper’s hands when he had a hat-trick in his sights.
Qarabağ again came on strong late on, and it certainly wasn’t’ a straightforward win against opponents playing in the Europa League group stage for just the second time. But victory was finally sealed when Lamela made amends for his earlier miss by coolly dinking the ball over Ibrahim Sehic from substitute Kane’s through ball.
With tougher tests likely to come against fellow Group J opponents, Monaco and Anderlecht, this was a welcome three points for Tottenham. And Pochettino will be happy, too, that it came despite him making six changes to his side ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace.