Thomas Tuchel full of praise as PSG reach Champions League last 16

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Thomas Tuchel hailed his players’ efforts after Paris St Germain qualified for the Champions League last 16 as Group C winners following a 4-1 victory at Red Star Belgrade.

PSG were 2-0 up at half-time thanks to Edinson Cavani’s early finish and a fine goal from the fit-again Neymar, both of which were set up by Kylian Mbappe.

Red Star then reduced the deficit through Marko Gobeljic’s 56th-minute volley, before Marquinhos scored a header in the 74th minute and Mbappe, teed up by Neymar, slotted in PSG’s fourth in stoppage time.

While PSG, ending up with 11 points from their six group games, moved up from second to first, they were joined in making it through to the next round by Liverpool, who beat Napoli 1-0 at home.

Tuchel’s men lost 3-2 at Liverpool in their group opener, and were third after four games before beating the Reds 2-1 at home and then producing this win in Belgrade.

The PSG boss was quoted by L’Equipe as saying: “It’s super difficult to win here and the guys played magnificently.

“We started the match well. The opponent has played with a lot of risk. We made easy mistakes.

“I love our reaction after the goal, we controlled the match.

“We played with a lot of risk and sometimes forgot to close spaces.

“Now we are in the last 16. Congratulations to all the players and the staff. It was a difficult group with a lot of quality.

“It was difficult especially after our first match in Liverpool. The team showed it could play together.”

Red Star finish what is their first Champions League group-stage campaign in bottom place having taken four points from their matches, which included a 2-0 home win over Liverpool.

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Super Jasper Cillessen gets 8 but Munir just 4 in Barcelona v Tottenham ratings

Andy West 12/12/2018
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Lucas Moura was the hero as Tottenham sneaked into the knockout stages of the Champions League thanks to the Brazilian’s late equaliser against Barcelona.

But who else shone and who stank? Find out with our full player ratings.

BARCELONA (4-3-3)

Jasper Cillessen 8. Made great saves to deny Son and Moura, and also did well to keep out further chances for Son and Eriksen.

Nelson Semedo 5. Far from his best game, looking uncertain in possession and getting caught out defensively much too often.

Clement Lenglet 7. Solid in an unfamiliar right-sided central position. Strong in the air against Kane, and made a fine block to deny Ali.

Thomas Vermaelen 6. Struggled for pace at times but read the game well, making a string of clearances and blocks under pressure.

Juan Miranda 5. Made a good early intervention inside the box but lacked the confidence to express himself and was poor on the ball.

Carles Alena 7. Looks increasingly impressive with every performance. Dovetailed neatly with Arthur and was cool and classy in possession.

Ivan Rakitic 6. Made captain for the night as a rare senior starter. Tested Lloris with a rising drive from 20 yards. Replaced at half-time.

Arthur 7. Tidy and composed on his return from injury, dictating the flow of Barca’s possession and always finding space for a pass.

Ousmane Dembele 7. Scored a truly sensational opener and caused a few more incisive moments of danger, but drifted in and out.

Munir El Haddadi 4. Starved of service and struggled to link play when he did receive possession. Replaced by Messi after an hour.

Philippe Coutinho 6. Hit the post in both halves, but was inconsistent in midfield and could have contributed far more in general play.

SUBSTITUTES

Sergio Busquets 5. Came on for Rakitic at the interval and was below his usual level, often being bypassed as Spurs surged forward.

Lionel Messi 6. Entered the fray as a false nine after an hour, and produced some silky touches but was generally quiet.

Denis Suarez 5. Replaced Dembele for the last quarter hour but failed to make an impression, looking powder-puff and fragile.

TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1)

Hugo Lloris 6. Unable to stop Dembele’s shot from squeezing under him, and had little else to do. Shaky on the ball.

Kyle Walker-Peters 5. Robbed by Dembele for the opener and then got booked. Replaced after an hour as Spurs went more attacking.

Toby Alderweireld 7. Maintained a solid defensive partnership with Vertonghen against Munir, and used the ball well to spark possession.

Jan Vertonghen 7. Comfortable against Munir, more troubled by Messi but stayed solid. Well disciplined and organised.

Danny Rose 6. Progressive and dangerous down the left flank, sending a couple of good crosses into the middle. Generally solid defensively.

Harry Winks 7. Did a tidy job in front of the back four, keeping possession simple and anticipating well to snuff out danger.

Moussa Sissoko 6. Couldn’t exert a consistent influence but occasionally strode forward. Moved to right-back with Lamela’s entrance.

Christian Eriksen 7. Tottenham’s best creator played a brilliant pass to release Son and came close twice in the second half.

Dele Alli 4. Insignificant and invisible in the first half, making no impact. Slightly better after the break but a weak showing.

Son Heung-min 6. Spurned a great first half chance by shooting too close to Cillessen and forced another save with a low strike.

Harry Kane 6. Crashed a free-kick into the wall and blasted a decent chance over. Increasing menace before delivering key assist for Moura.

SUBSTITUTES

Erik Lamela 6. Came into midfield after an hour and showed plenty of sharp creative touches around the edge of the box.

Lucas Moura 7. Replaced Son for the final 20 minutes, nearly scored with a far post header and then made himself a hero with the leveller.

Fernando Llorente 5. The last roll of the dice for Spurs as a late sub in attack, and barely had a touch as Moura scored instead.

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Carles Alena quietly excellent but rotated Barcelona throttled by Spurs

Andy West 12/12/2018
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It could be April before Spurs move into their new stadium.

Tottenham squeezed through to the last 16 of the Champions League by taking a point against a weakened Barcelona at Camp Nou on Tuesday night.

Lucas Moura was the hero, coming off the bench to net a late leveller and cancel out a spectacular early opener from Ousmane Dembele, but Barcelona will also be satisfied with a point after fielding a much-changed starting line-up.

Here are the three key takeaways on a memorable night for Tottenham in Catalonia.

Second-half improvement serves Spurs

Tottenham headed into the game knowing they had to match Inter Milan’s result against PSV, and the Dutch team’s early goal at the San Siro was a suitably unexpected backdrop to a dramatic evening which saw Spurs initially look timid before greatly improving after the break to fully deserve their draw.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino appeared keen to throttle Barca in the centre of the pitch, fielding a fluid 4-3-2-1 formation which saw Christian Eriksen occupy narrow central positions in support of Harry Kane and the only real width provided by full-backs Kyle Walker-Peters and Danny Rose.

It worked to a great extent, with Barca’s possession game forced back into deep areas while centre forward Munir El Haddadi – and later substitute Lionel Messi – receiving very little service as the ball rarely entered Tottenham’s final third.

Their defensive comfort and a greater sense of need allowed Tottenham to become a greater attacking force in the second half, with Christian Eriksen pulling the strings and Harry Kane leading the line. For a while it seemed a string of fine saves from Jasper Cillessen would deny Spurs, but then Kane’s precise cross was easily finished by Moura and the English side had the point they needed.

Valverde rings the changes

The big pre-match talking point from Barcelona’s perspective was how much manager Ernesto Valverde would rotate, torn between the desire to win the game and the knowledge that his team had already wrapped up first place in the group.

The delivery of the teamsheets an hour before kick-off delivered the answer loud and clear. No Messi, no Pique, no Alba, no Busquets, no Ter Stegen. Valverde had opted to ring the changes big-time, placing his trust in untested youngsters like central midfielder Carles Alena and left-back Juan Miranda alongside a handful of fringe performers such as Thomas Vermaelen and Munir.

Some fared better than others. Alena was quietly excellent in the centre of midfield, strengthening the growing feeling that he is a legitimate option as a starter for any game, while Vermaelen showed himself to be a reliable centre-back option when he stays fit and Cillessen made some great saves.

But deputy left-back Miranda looked well short of the standard required to compete at this level, and Munir made no impact whatsoever up front – although in fairness he had no service.

Dembele does it again

One player who was left in the starting line-up by Valverde was Dembele, who responded by scoring a truly memorable goal for the second successive game.

On Saturday night at Espanyol, the French forward’s special moment with a glorious curler into the top corner, and on this occasion he snapped into a challenge to dispossess the dithering Walker-Peters on the halfway line and raced forward to evade two challenges before sliding a low finish under Hugo Lloris.

In truth, that spectacular strike was followed by a typically frustrating performance, full of needlessly conceded possession and strange passing choices. But that’s par for the course with Dembele, a high-reward, high-risk player who is equally likely to win a game single-handedly or gift the opposition a chance to score with a sloppy mistake.

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