Spurs made a nightmare start in Turin as Gonzalo Higuain scored twice in the first nine minutes, the latter a penalty, to put Juventus in charge.
But Harry Kane pulled a goal back and Higuain missed a second penalty, before Christian Eriksen’s free-kick ensured a pulsating contest finished 2-2.
Between their dreadful opening, and a moment of madness from Serge Aurier to concede the second spot-kick just before half-time, Tottenham were by far the better team at the Allianz Stadium and a draw was no less than they deserved.
“Only seven minutes were difficult to handle,” Pochettino said. “For 83 minutes we dominated Juventus and that is a thing to praise. Not many teams come here and dominate Juventus.”
Juve had conceded only once in their previous 16 games and the club have reached the Champions League final twice in the last three seasons. But this was a performance that showed Tottenham have not only the talent, but the strength of character to trouble Europe’s elite.
Pochettino admitted he was fearing the worst after Higuain’s early double.
“My feeling was so bad,” Pochettino said. “You never hope that happens, to concede the (early) goal. Maybe it was offside, but I don’t want to complain.
“We start a little bit sloppy. We need to be more solid. Then we concede a penalty, 2-0 down after seven minutes against a great team like Juventus with experienced players.
“Then it was to start another game and the team started to show the performances of the last few weeks. I feel so proud.”
Kane notched his seventh goal of the tournament with a typically cool finish but it was the imperious Mousa Dembele and, in particular, Eriksen that were the stars of the show.
“Christian had an amazing game. He was outstanding,” Pochettino said.
“He was fantastic but Christian, in my three years and nine months, has always been important for us, always stepping up, growing up.
“He represents our philosophy. He is a player who links the team and today he was great. The team was great but he was fantastic.”
Mal comienzo pero orgulloso de la actitud del equipo y para conseguir el empate 💪💪 Se define en Wembley. Vamos!— Erik Manuel Lamela (@ErikLamela) 13 February 2018
Bad start but proud of this team’s attitude to turn it around! It comes down to Wembley! ⚽ #COYS #THFC #UCL pic.twitter.com/zyzLsfr4wx
Tottenham will now take two away goals back to Wembley for the second leg next month and arguably stand as favourites to reach the quarter-finals.
In a passionate speech after the match, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri warned against an overly critical reaction.
“This really drives me nuts,” Allegri said. “The top priority of Juventus is (to win) the seventh league championships (in a row), which is a lot.
“We are making huge efforts and we are about to go through in the Coppa Italia, but if a draw like tonight you believe it could repress us that is something I don’t accept.
“We have a draw against Tottenham in the Champions League and it is like a big loss. It is not like this. Juventus has never been favourites in this tie. We had 50 per cent possibility before the match and we still have that after this match.”
Ilkay Gundogan scored twice and there were also goals for Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva as the Premier League leaders produced yet another commanding display in what is proving a remarkable season.
The result means the second leg of the last-16 tie at the Etihad Stadium next month should be a formality for City.
Their boss Guardiola said: “It’s an amazing result for the last 16 of this competition.
“The Champions League is (about playing) 180 minutes but we are almost there. I’m not saying it’s done because in football anything can happen but it’s an amazing result.
“We could have been 2-0 down but then we were 0-2 up. We were clinical and I am delighted with the performance.
“We kept our level, we fought hard and created chances to score. They were four amazing goals. Overall I’m delighted.”
Guardiola also paid tribute to Gundogan, who might even have claimed a hat-trick had Tomas Vaclik not saved from him in the closing stages.
Guardiola said: “He’s a guy with special qualities. He’s amazing with a good sense of goal.
“When I see him play I realise how we missed him last season. He is a special player with a lot of personality. He doesn’t feel pressure, he’s a top player.”
The emphatic nature of the victory means Guardiola may be able to rest players in the second leg but he is not looking that far ahead yet.
First City face Wigan in the FA Cup and Arsenal in the EFL Cup final, with tricky league games against the Gunners and Chelsea also coming before the Basel return fixture.
Guardiola said: “That’s so important but we have to be focused and it’s after Chelsea. It’s so important to focus on them and take another step in the Premier League.
“Vinny (Kompany) is back, Fabian (Delph) is back – a lot of players have come back from long-term injuries. That’s good for everyone and (Gabriel) Jesus and (Benjamin) Mendy are coming back. We’ll have almost the whole squad for this period when we will need everyone involved.”
Basel coach Raphael Wicky admitted his side were outplayed by a ruthless City side.
Wicky said: “They were very clinical, scoring three goals in the first half. We started well, we created chances and managed to win balls but, as I said yesterday, we needed a perfect night. We needed to take the opportunities and be clinical.
“But we conceded goals too easily and after we went 3-0 down I think the game was decided.”
It might well be Valentine’s Day on Wednesday but for football fans love will be in the air when the Champions League last-16 round continues with two key ties.
Whether you’re a neutral or a fan of Paris-Saint Germain or Real Madrid, it will be hard to not keep tabs on the Spanish capital as Neymar and Co aim to inflict more misery on the two-time defending champions on their home turf at the Bernabeu.
Wednesday will be the fourth time in Champions League history that matches have been played on Valentine’s day. We look at some of the matches which made it a day to remember or saw fans’ hearts sunk:
2017: PSG 4-0 Barcelona, last-16, first-leg
The Spaniards came into the match by breezing through their group with five wins out of six but in Paris they simply fell apart in extraordinary fashion. Spectators inside Parc des Princes and indeed around the world could not believe their eyes at what was unfolding in the French capital as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar looked anonymous with Angel Di Maria’s brace, Julian Draxler and Edinson Cavani sealing a famous 4-0 win to shatter the hearts of Barcelona fans.
2012: Bayer Leverkusen 1-3 Barcelona, last-16, first-leg
It was night when Alexis Sanchez struck his first Champions League goals in what was a dominant display at the BayArena. The Catalans were simply in a league of their own, enjoying 72 per cent of possession as they ran out comfortable winners. Sanchez slotted home in the first half before Michael Kadlec equalised for the Bundesliga side. Sanchez doubled his tally with a tap-in with Lionel Messi completing the 3-1 victory with a fine volley.
2001: AC Milan 1-1 Paris St-Germain, second group stage
By no means a classic but the stalemate at least ensured both sets of fans went home with a share of the spoils. For PSG fans, it was their first point of the second group stage although it was a game they really should have won considering AC Milan went down to 10 men after just 42 minutes when Roque Junior was dismissed.
Leonardo had put the home side in front at the San Siro before Nicolas Anelka fired in the equaliser soon after. Andriy Shevchenko could have won it for Milan but PSG held on for a point.