Mauricio Pochettino says his side are capable of winning the Champions League after they booked a semi-final spot for the first time in their history with a dramatic away goals victory at Manchester City.
Spurs lost an amazing quarter-final second leg 4-3 on the night, but ended City’s quadruple dream courtesy of Fernando Llorente’s 73rd-minute goal which made it 4-4 on aggregate.
That does not begin to tell even half of the story on a dramatic night at the Etihad Stadium – one which began with five goals inside the opening 21 minutes, creating Champions League history and ended with a double helping of VAR action as Spurs somehow made it through.
After referee Cuneyt Cakir allowed Llorente’s goal to stand following a lengthy video review, where the ball appeared to brush his arm before hitting his hip and going in, the real theatre came in stoppage time as City thought they had won it when Raheem Sterling fired home from close range to spark scenes reminiscent of that magical Sergio Aguero moment of 2012.
But another VAR check ruled Aguero offside and all of a sudden the Etihad felt silent as Spurs’ players, who were previously crestfallen on the floor, were now punching the air as they made history.
Ajax, who have dumped Real Madrid and Juventus out in the last two rounds, await in the semi-final giving Spurs an undeniable shot at reaching the final.
“I think today we show and last week against Manchester City that all is possible in football,” said Pochettino, whose reputation will only be further enhanced after this win.
“That is the most important thing. Sport always gives you the possibility to beat teams that no one believes or thinks we are capable of. Why?
“football is not only about talent but belief and to have the right mentality. This team has the personality, character and mentality to believe all is possible.
“With the quality, we can have this type of performance and achieve these big things. If not, it’s impossible.
“With only quality, it’s possible to achieve a semi-final in the Champions League.”
After Son Heung-min’s double either side of Sterling and Bernado Silva goals inside the opening 11 minutes, there was a sense that this was going to be a memorable night.
And after Sterling’s second and Aguero’s effort City were ahead in the tie for the first time midway through the second half and were heading through until the late drama.
Pochettino, whose side had one point at the halfway stage of the group stage of the competition, called his side “heroes”.
“The most important now is we are in the semi-final and we deserve to be in the semi-final,” Pochettino added.
“My players are heroes. I told you before the game, whatever happens, I am going to feel proud.
“To qualify for the semi-final and making history I am more than happy I am more than proud for them.
“It is unbelievable to be in Champions League in the quarter-final and beat Man City because in both legs it was very competitive and both legs were even.
“To score three goals here was not easy. In a game that is like a final, it is difficult to see Manchester City concede the goals they conceded today.
“One of the most important times in my career like a manager, of course, one of the best. To be in the semi-final was a dream before and now we are there.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels Manchester United must conduct “clever business” in the summer following their humbling exit in the Champions League.
Solskjaer admitted in the immediate aftermath of their 3-0 defeat in Barcelona, which sealed a 4-0 quarter-final win on aggregate for the Catalan giants, that he faces a major rebuilding job to re-establish United among the European elite.
In a previous era United were able to attract the world’s best talents but, despite their track record of spending big in recent years, that may no longer be the case.
They have a battle on their hands to finish in the Premier League’s top four but Solskjaer is already envisioning a scenario in the future where United are on an equal footing with their conquerors on Tuesday night.
“Yeah, that is the level we have to aspire to because that’s the level we have been,” Solskjaer told MUTV.
“We want to get there and we have to get there by hard work and attitude every single day, and of course some clever business we have to do and just keep on going.”
United made an enterprising start at the Nou Camp, with Marcus Rashford clipping the crossbar moments after kick-off, but were undone by Lionel Messi’s first-half double and Philippe Coutinho’s wonder strike after half-time.
Solskjaer and his troops have no time to dwell on the defeat with three pivotal clashes in the space of eight days coming up, starting with a trip to Everton on Sunday.
The Manchester derby at Old Trafford is then followed by Chelsea’s visit in a run of fixtures that could go a long way towards defining United’s campaign.
Solskjaer is seeking to finish the season with a flourish but added of the Barca setback: “We gambled and you can say that we gambled and lost but we had to go for the first goal.
“We had to be brave, we created two or three chances but unfortunately we just didn’t have that quality to finish them off.
“If we had got the first goal then it might have been different but when they score two goals in four minutes it’s just game over.
“To be fair to the boys, their attitude was good, they kept going.
“You have to lift them (the players). It’s a big week and we have to get ready for that week because (they are) three big games.
“We have five days until Everton, so we have got plenty of time to get ready and we will be ready.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Jurgen Klopp has promised his Liverpool players will not underestimate Porto in Wednesday night’s second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
Liverpool are firm favourites to advance to a semi-final against Barcelona as they go into the match with a 2-0 lead from last week’s meeting at Anfield, and having triumphed 5-0 at the same stadium in the same competition last February.
The feel-good factor is as strong as ever around Liverpool as they continue their pursuit of a league and Champions League double.
But after hearing opposite number Sergio Conceicao say they at times play as “the best team in the world”, Klopp told his players it is far too soon to be patting themselves on the back yet.
“We’re not here to celebrate our situation,” he said. “We are here to go to the next round.
“The season is not finished in this competition. We have to fight really hard.
“Porto have won all their home games (in the Champions League) so far, we know they are really dominating in the home games.”
Fourteen months ago Sadio Mane’s hat-trick helped Liverpool to a rout in the first leg of their last-16 clash against Porto, but Klopp dismissed the importance of what he called a “strange” match when it came to planning for Wednesday night.
“I didn’t like the last game because it was really strange,” he said. “Until we were 2-0 up it was a really open game. We don’t remember things like this, we only face the result, 5-0.
“But my players are not silly, they do not underestimate things like this. Porto are a good team.
“We were really good in the first leg and we will have to be really good tomorrow again. We will have to play at our limit, 100 per cent, and not try to (just) come through somehow because then you cannot stand the power they can create here.
“I was here for the derby, Porto v Sporting a few years ago. We think we only have derbies in Germany or in England but then you come to Portugal and they are loud here. They know how to influence a game and influence an opponent and we have to be ready.”
Dejan Lovren has not travelled with the Liverpool squad but Klopp confirmed Joe Gomez will be fit to feature from the bench, having not played for the first team since suffering a leg fracture in December.
“His fitness levels are getting better and better,” he said. “If he can start and play 90 minutes in the Champions League I don’t know, but can he come on when he is needed? Yes. That will be possible and that’s the most important thing.
“Having a player with the quality of Joe, remember the season he played before he got injured – that was incredible, so we’re really happy he’s back.”
Provided by Press Association Sport