MOSCOW — Tottenham coped well despite injury problems to put its Champions League campaign back on track Tuesday with a 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow.
Son Heung-min scored the winning goal, his fifth of the season, in the 71st minute to keep up his good form in the absence of injured Harry Kane.
Tottenham — missing five first-team regulars — bounced back from its opening loss to Monaco in Group E. Coach Mauricio Pochettino criticized his players’ outlook following that defeat, but was full of praise after Tuesday’s win made it four victories in a row since then.
“After Monaco, I think that our performance (is) about attitude, about passion, about playing how we need to play and how we feel,” he said. “It was fantastic.”
Goalscorer Son was frequently a substitute last season but has found himself elevated this campaign due to Kane’s injury. With Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Moussa Sissoko also having missed the trip to Russia, Pochettino praised the team’s strength in depth.
“Now you can see that all the players are key in the squad,” he said. “You never know when a player will become key for the team … In some specific moment, that player who doesn’t play too much can be decisive.”
Defeat was a blow for CSKA, which was celebrating the first European game at its new stadium, the 30,000-capacity Arena CSKA, ending six years spent at a temporary home in the Moscow suburbs.
Goalkeeper and captain Igor Akinfeev has not kept a clean sheet in the Champions League for 10 years and got a foot to Son’s low shot, but couldn’t stop it trickling over the line. Erik Lamela also deserved credit for his incisive through-ball to send Son clean behind the CSKA defense.
The goal came shortly after Pochettino had moved Son up into a center-forward role after taking off Vincent Janssen. CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky suggested Son may have been offside, saying the pass was, at the very least, “on the edge” of legality.
Dele Alli threatened to score for Tottenham in the first half, hitting the bar with a shot from range and heading off-target from a good position.
Slutsky typically favors defensive tactics in European games and Tuesday’s fixture was no different as Spurs were allowed to dominate possession. After a quiet first half from CSKA, however, Zoran Tosic could have put the Moscow team ahead shortly after the break when he shot over Hugo Lloris’ bar following a low cross from Lacina Traore.
CSKA pushed forward after Son’s strike, but Mario Fernandes’ shot across the face of goal was the closest the Russian team came to scoring. CSKA has a single point from its first group game, a draw against Bayer Leverkusen.
Despite the match being the first visit by an English club to Russia since violent clashes between fans from the two countries at the European Championship in June, there were no obvious signs of disorder in or around the stadium. Pochettino didn’t address the issue directly but praised Tottenham’s roughly 200 supporters for traveling to Moscow at a “very tough and a very difficult moment.”