Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino insisted anything other than victory was unthinkable after his depleted side maintained their perfect Champions League record this term with success over Cypriot title winners Apoel Nicosia.
Striker Harry Kane scored his ninth Tottenham hat-trick – the first Englishman to hit a treble in the Champions League since Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck against Galatasaray in 2014 – from the north Londoners’ three shots on target.
The win saw Tottenham keep pace with Real Madrid, who beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1, at the summit of Group H. Spurs and Real have an identical record, while Tottenham’s next two European showdowns are against Zinedine Zidane’s outfit.
“It was important to get three points. It was must-win,” said Pochettino, who was without seven first-team regulars through a combination of injury, illness and suspension.
“We were fantastic. Today there were some performances from players who are not regulars and a hat-trick for Harry Kane. It was a fantastic performance.”
No Cypriot side had beaten English opposition in European competition in 12 attempts but Apoel worried Spurs in the opening period after Son Heung-min had wasted two presentable chances for the visitors.
After a low Serge Aurier cross had been cut out, Son saw an early effort from close-range blocked, while he failed to hit the target with a header from Kieran Trippier’s cross having evaded the attentions of the Apoel defence.
Apoel almost made Son pay for his profligacy on 19 minutes as Igor de Camargo struck goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’ woodwork from a tight angle, while the Frenchman’s calamitous clearance rebounded off Davinson Sanchez and rolled past the upright.
Tottenham calmed their nerves six minutes before the break as Kane collected a threaded pass from centre-half Toby Alderweireld, pushed the ball out of his feet and finished left-footed past Apoel stopper Boy Waterman.
Apoel, managed by former Blackburn, Sheffield United and Huddersfield winger Giorgos Donis, continued to threaten during the early stages of the second half as Lloris thwarted a goal-bound effort from Stathis Aloneftis.
Tottenham, however, took a sizeable stride towards maximum points shortly after the hour mark as Kane nonchalantly side-footed home from just inside the penalty area following Moussa Sissoko’s pass.
His hat-trick arrived moments later, arriving on cue to power a downward header beyond a rooted Waterman from Trippier’s centre.