Tottenham complete mission impossible with Barca draw and helping hand from PSV
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Champions League Group B: Barcelona 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Tottenham Hotspur made it through to the Champions League knock-out phase after a dramatic night of European football where Mauricio Pochettino’s team produced one of their best performances to date at the Camp Nou.
Spurs received a big favour from PSV, who held Inter Milan to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro, but the Lilywhites still had to stop Barcelona on home soil.
It seemed too much of an ask and with time running out, Pochettino’s brave players were heading out of the competition – trailing the La Liga champions by a single goal.
But in the 85th minute, Lucas Moura levelled to make it 1-1 and Tottenham, who had dominated the second half, managed to see out the rest of the group fixture to spark memorable scenes in Catalonia.
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Pochettino, as expected, recalled Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane for the pivotal clash at the Camp Nou.
Kyle Walker-Peters and Danny Rose also started with Serge Aurier absent due to a groin injury while Ben Davies, Eric Dier and Lucas Moura were on the bench.
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The inclusion of Walker-Peters, alongside Harry Winks and Kane, meant Spurs had three academy graduates in their starting XI plus highly-rated teenager Oliver Skipp on the bench.
It was a simple equation for Spurs – win and they were through to the round of 16 or they had to match Inter Milan’s result at home to PSV, and Barcelona had decided to rest Lionel Messi in addition to Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and others.
Unfortunately the home side still had Ivan Rakitic, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele involved from the off and the latter opened the scoring after seven minutes.
Walker-Peters wanted too much time on the ball, following a Tottenham attacking free kick, and Dembele nipped in near the halfway line, then raced into the area and cut inside Winks before curling into the corner.
It was a terrible start for Spurs and yet they managed to regroup and slowly grow into the contest.
Rose almost produced an equaliser for Heung-min Son in the 30th minute, but his cross just evaded the South Korean and then Tottenham went even closer with 32 on the clock.
Son nipped in ahead of Thomas Vermaelen, but with only Jasper Cillessen to beat, the Netherlands goalkeeper made himself big and saved impressively.
Coutinho almost put the game to bed on the stroke of half time, but he hit the post and it gave Spurs hope.
At the interval, the players may have discovered PSV were leading in Italy and so as it stood, they were still heading through as runners-up to Barcelona.
Tottenham stepped things up after the break and Eriksen and Kane went close before Erik Lamela was summoned in the 61st minute with Walker-Peters making way.
Moussa Sissoko moved to right-back and another substitution was made with 71 on the clock as Moura replaced Son.
News began to filter through Inter had equalised against PSV and so Spurs were once again heading out of the Champions League.
Substitute Moura also made an immediate impact in the 76th minute when he firstly saw a header superbly saved by Cillessen before he curled the rebound wide.
The final roll of the dice occurred with seven minutes left as Fernando Llorente came on for Winks and then the travelling contingent erupted with joy as the clock struck the 85th minute.
Eriksen, who had been pulling the strings all night, was involved and the ball came for Kane, who crossed in for Moura to fire home.
Spurs were back on level terms and now needed to survive the final few minutes at the Camp Nou and hope PSV could do the same in the San Siro.
Tottenham, buoyed by the goal, seeked to take matters into their own hands and an excellent opportunity occurred with two minutes left.
Kane’s brilliant reverse pass sent the excellent Rose through on goal, but he blazed over and Spurs were back to relying on PSV.
Four minutes of stoppage time was added on at the end of the 90 and Pochettino’s side saw the rest of the game out comfortably and it left a nervous wait to find out the score in Italy.
Soon after the full time whistle was blown in the Camp Nou, the news filtered through and it was good for the Lilywhites.
Tottenham had done it. Despite the odds being against them and not actually winning their ‘must-win’ game, they will be part of the Champions League round of 16 in February and March time.
It is an incredible achievement by this group of players - considering they started the campaign with back-to-back defeats and a three-match winless run.
Spurs will now be waiting eagerly for the knock-out phase draw which takes place on Monday, December 17 at 11am in Nyon, Switzerland.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Walker-Peters (Lamela 61), Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Winks (Llorente 83), Sissoko; Eriksen, Alli, Son (Moura 71); Kane.
Unused substitutes: Gazzaniga, Davies, Dier, Skipp.