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Barcelona 1-1 Tottenham: Mauricio Pochettino's team get their reward
Spurs are through to the Champions League knockout stages
Last Updated: 12/12/18 12:00pm
Tottenham's positivity paid off as they earned a 1-1 draw away to Barcelona that takes them into the last 16 of the Champions League. They deserved this after taking the game to their illustrious hosts...
"I am so optimistic and we need to think like this," Mauricio Pochettino had said before taking his Tottenham team into their game against Barcelona. They played with that optimism in the Camp Nou and got their reward in the end, Lucas Moura's late goal securing the draw that was enough for Spurs to progress to the Champions League knockout stages.
It had seemed impossible. Mission impossible as Pochettino called it afterwards. "I remember after Eindhoven nobody believed in us," said the Spurs boss, referring to the draw with PSV hat left them with just one point from three matches. Somehow they have succeeded in turning it all around. "We are here in the last 16," he added. "We did it."
Spurs through after dramatic draw
Lucas Moura scored five minutes from time as Tottenham drew 1-1 with Barcelona to match Inter Milan's result and qualify for the Champions League last 16.
For Pochettino, this was a sort of vindication. His words about Kyle Walker-Peters in that pre-match press conference also proved prophetic. "You need to trust young players," he had said. "To play in the Nou Camp will make him stronger but, most importantly, we trust in him whatever happens. He will be a success in the long term for this club."
Walker-Peters was caught out to allow Ousmane Dembele to run through and score a brilliant goal for Barcelona in the seventh minute. At that stage, the risk was that Walker-Peters would be blamed for the defeat but he knew that his manager had faith in him and responded by going on to deliver a strong performance for his team in trying circumstances.
On the other flank, Pochettino's decision to play Danny Rose instead of Ben Davies paid off as the England international got through so much work in attack and defence to provide a willing outlet throughout. The bold decision to bring on Moura brought the goal but it was one of three - Erik Lamela came on for Walker-Peters; Fernando Llorente for Harry Winks.
The result was that Spurs finished a game away to Barcelona with the boisterous visiting fans being treated to a line-up that featured Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli as holding midfielders, Moussa Sissoko at right-back, and a front four of Lamela, Llorente, Moura and Harry Kane.
In some ways, it was easy for Pochettino to be so ambitious when his team needed a goal. But it was anything but easy to do what this Spurs side did even against a Barcelona that was less than full strength. How weak can any team be that includes Lionel Messi for the final half an hour?
Nevertheless, Barcelona did not have a single shot on target in the second half. Tottenham had four. Pochettino's men even dominated possession, making more passes than Barca.
The ambition, the optimism, that has epitomised this new Spurs was there for all to see and it would have been a pity if their wastefulness on the night had denied them the result they needed and consigned them instead to the Europa League.
Will it prove significant in time? The odds are that progressing to the Champions League has actually decreased Tottenham's chances of winning silverware this season. But whatever Pochettino's critics might argue, this Spurs project is not going to be defined by Carabao Cup wins or even a magical night in Europe's second-tier competition.
To see those players celebrate inside with the staff you feel for the first time in four-and-a-half years that something special had happened.
This was about securing a big result at one of the biggest teams when it really mattered and elevating Tottenham to another level. Into the Champions League knockout stages for the second year in a row. A watershed moment? It felt that way to those who were there.
"To see those players celebrate inside with the staff you feel for the first time in four-and-a-half years that something special had happened," said the manager. Strong words but this was a strong performance and the emotions were justified. Pochettino got his reward.