Tottenham proved doubters wrong by reaching last 16: Pochettino

By AFP
Published: December 12, 2018
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Tottenham Hotspur players celebrate their qualification for the next round during the UEFA Champions League group B football match between FC Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur at the Camp Nou stadium. PHOTO: AFP

Tottenham Hotspur players celebrate their qualification for the next round during the UEFA Champions League group B football match between FC Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur at the Camp Nou stadium. PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA: Mauricio Pochettino revelled in Tottenham defying what he said many had dubbed “mission impossible” on Tuesday as they drew away to Barcelona and qualified for the Champions League’s last 16.

Spurs needed to match Inter Milan’s result at home to PSV Eindhoven, which they did, thanks to Lucas Moura’s 85th-minute equaliser snatching a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou.

Inter were held to the same scoreline by PSV, sending Pochettino’s side through in second place in Group B, despite them taking just a single point from their opening three games.

“No-one believed in us,” Pochettino said afterwards. “People said it was mission impossible but we are here. It is a massive achievement for the club.”

Ousmane Dembele’s superb early goal looked set to put Tottenham out, as Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Moura all missed excellent chances.

Moura’s late strike, however, set up a dramatic finale, with Spurs players left to wait after the final whistle for the finish to be confirmed in Italy.

Victory, and progress to the knock-out stages, represents an impressive achievement for Tottenham, particularly given they have had to play home games at Wembley this term while their new stadium continues to be delayed.

“It is great for the club,” Pochettino said. “It gives us the possibility to play Champions League in our new stadium, which will be a massive boost for the club.”

With Barcelona already guaranteed to go through as group winners, their coach Ernesto Valverde took the chance to rest several key players, including Lionel Messi.

Messi came on in the 64th minute but was quiet, while the likes of Jordi Alba, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Sergio Busquets were also missing from the starting line-up.

On Messi’s introduction in the second half, Valverde said: “It’s good to keep him busy.” He added: “We qualified quickly and that speaks for itself.”

Dembele’s surging run and finish in the seventh minute was the perfect riposte from the 21-year-old to more reports of indiscipline this week.

“It was a great goal, the kind only players with his talent can score,” Valverde said.

“We are happy with him. Throughout the season, things happen with the players and we solve them internally, that’s it.”

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