The South Korean continued his hot streak with the winner to get Spurs Champions League campaign up and running
There is a quirky design feature at CSKA Moscows new stadium. In one of the corners, there is a skyscraper in the shape of the Uefa Cup, the trophy CSKA won in 2005 when they became the first Russian club to claim a major European honour. The tower cast a metaphorical shadow. Lose here, and Tottenham Hotspur knew they could well end up playing in the modern version of the tournament the Europa League.
The pressure was on after their 2-1 home defeat to Monaco in the opening round of Champions League fixtures and Mauricio Pochettino, the manager, had arrived in Russia without five key players because of injury. This was a test of his teams credentials. How they passed it, with a performance of nerve and style that not only not got them up and running in Group E but reinforced the feelgood factor that has been building.
Tottenham were the better team and they became stronger as the game wore on but they needed to make their supremacy count. Thanks to Erik Lamela and Son Heung-min, they did so. It was Lamelas pass that released the South Korea forward and he finished past Igor Akinfeev for his fifth goal in five appearances.
Pochettino punched the air, and relief was prominent among his emotions. He might have signed for the draw beforehand but once Tottenham had settled it was clear the three points were within their grasp. What made the winning goal even more satisfying for Pochettino was that it followed his first substitution and a redeploying of his resources.
Vincent Janssen had a frustrating time, working tirelessly but failing to get anything to fall his way and the striker made way on 67 minutes. Lamela moved up front he would later swap positions with Son on the flank and Georges-Kvin Nkoudou entered on the other side.
Pochettinos movements in the summer transfer window were aimed at putting a few game-changers on the bench but it was Lamela and Son who combined decisively. Lamelas pass got Son one-on-one against Igor Akinfeev and, with the destiny of the tie at his feet, the finish was too strong for the keeper. Akinfeev got something to it but it was not enough and the ball made it way over the line.
We tried to find more mobility in offensive positions; thats why we took off Vincent and sent on Nkoudou, Pochettino said. From the first ball [after the change], we found the link. Im pleased for Sonny, hes on fire. The victory was fully deserved. Our performance was about attitude and passion.
Pochettino reacted to the injuries that deprived him of Eric Dier, Mousa Dembl and Moussa Sissoko in midfield by switching to a 4-3-3 formation, with Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli pushed forward either side of Victor Wanyama. Alli, in particular, grew as a creative influence.
It was the stadiums first Champions League tie and the opening whistle was the prompt for the locals to launch into their songs. The drums sounded and the red and blue flags fluttered. By the end, the diehards behind one of the goals had even gone bare-chested. It was not intimidating, as some of the old-school Russian venues can be, but it was lively. The only moment of silence followed Sons goal.
CSKA carried a physical threat in the shape of the one-time Everton centre-forward, Lacina Traor, and there was a moment in the first half, after Alli had lost the ball to the slippery Roman Eremenko, when Traor was one-on-one with Toby Alderweireld inside the area. Alderweireld stood tall to ease in front of him. It was a snapshot of the robust physical duel between the pair one that Alderweireld would win by a unanimous decision.
Tottenhams best moment of an even and slow-burning first half had come after an incision from Eriksen. Pontus Wernbloom scrambled the ball away but only as far as Alli, who fired a rising drive from 25 yards that clattered against the crossbar. There was also a chance for Alderweireld after a corner had been recycled and Kieran Trippier, who was preferred to Kyle Walker at right-back, crossed. Alderweirelds free header lacked bite.
CSKA flickered before the interval. Zoran Tosic shot high from the edge of the area while a piece of flamboyance from Eremenko got him away from Lamela but Hugo Lloris saved his low shot.
Pochettinos team took control after the interval. Trippier and Ben Davies pressed higher up the flanks while Alli began to enjoy some space. His twinkle-toes threatened to make something happen. Son had his bursts, too.
Pochettino had watched Son curl a shot narrowly wide and Lamela go close with a deflected effort, and he simply wanted one killer pass for one clear-cut chance. Lamela provided it. Son can do little wrong at present and there was a certain inevitability about how he would beat Akinfeev. The sudden silence inside the arena was jolting. Eremenko would work Lloris in the 80th minute but CSKA were broken.