|Tottenham Hotspur's South Korean striker Son Heung-min, left, comes on for teammate Spanish striker Fernando Llorente during the English Premier League football match between against Huddersfield Town at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Saturday. AFP-Yonhap|
By John Duerden
Son Heung-min has played in some big games in his career. That career includes, for example, two World Cups. Few soccer fans on the planet will forget his goal in the dying seconds of that famous 2-0 win over Germany last June.
Then there is the 2015 Asian Cup final in which he scored ― once again ― in the final seconds to take the game into extra time. Add in all the English Premier League and Bundesliga clashes over the years and there is a lot of experience.
Yet Wednesday could be the biggest yet. It is the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter final as Son's Tottenham Hotspur travel northwest from London to take on Manchester City in an all English Premier League clash.
Neither club has won the most prestigious club competition in the world ― and some say the most elite tournament there is in soccer, even more than the World Cup ― and Spurs have never been past this stage. To get to the last four, one step away from the biggest game in the world this year, would be something special and confirm that the Whites are growing in stature.
In order to do so, Son is needed. The reason that Spurs go to Manchester, to face a star-studded team coached by the leading tactician in the world, Pep Guardiola, with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg is down to the South Korean. The first leg, played in front of over 60,000 fans at Tottenham's beautiful new stadium, was heading for a 0-0 tie. Yet with 12 minutes remaining, Son picked up the ball in the area, skipped past a defender and sent a low shot into the goal of the English champions to send the home fans wild.
That it came after an injury to the club's star striker Harry Kane was even more important. England's number one striker, and the top scorer at the last World Cup, may not play again this season and will certainly play no part in the second leg. Fortunately for Spurs, when Kane has been injured before, that is when Son has stepped up to make a difference and that was the case in the first leg.
"He's one of the best players in Europe, in the world… but other players are ready for their chance," Son said after the game. "It's not just me and I trust the other players here, they are all good enough."
But there is still work to do with the second leg still to come. "It is half-time really and we have to go there like it is 0-0 and with a winning mentality."
Should Tottenham make it to the semifinal then there could be the biggest game in the history of both club and Son. And if the South Korean scores once again he will once again make headlines, not just in England and South Korea but around the world.