Mauricio Pochettino hails Tottenham Hotspur’s reaction to ‘sloppy’ start against Juventus
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Spurs fought back from two goals down to achieve an excellent result in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino congratulated his players for their amazing reaction in Turin after they had initially made a horror start against Juventus on Tuesday night in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.
Gonzalo Higuain scored twice inside the opening nine minutes to give the Old Lady a dream start.
Spurs, after initially looking shaky and nervous, regrouped impressively and gained a foothold in the game before Harry Kane reduced the deficit in the 35th minute.
A poorly timed challenged by Serge Aurier on Douglas Costa handed Juventus the chance to go 3-1 ahead, but Higuain struck the crossbar with his effort on the stroke of half time and it would prove costly.
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With 19 minutes left, Christian Eriksen’s low free kick found the back of the net and it ensured Spurs salvaged a deserved 2-2 draw.
“It’s true we started in a sloppy way and we conceded two goals in nine minutes, but the character we showed was fantastic and first of all I want to congratulate the players,” Pochettino told BT Sport.
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“Two down, in Turin and against a team which is so difficult to break down, but in the end we deserved a victory more than a draw.
“It is so important to recognise and congratulate the players because the effort and character we showed was fantastic.”
Spurs’ comeback led to many pundits praising their increased maturity compared to previous seasons.
Tottenham, in the past, have struggled to cope in the big games, but over the last two weeks they’ve shown they belong at the top level.
Pochettino’s players have defeated Manchester United and Arsenal since January 31 and drawn 2-2 at Liverpool and now Juventus despite trailing in both away fixtures.
He added: “We are more mature and we have been talking in the last few weeks about how the team is growing and stepping up in this aspect.
“Of course against Juventus it is a very good example of how the team is more mature and the capacity we have in a difficult moment because the first minutes were difficult for us, but the team was amazing in the way they reacted.”
For Tottenham to comeback and level the scores, they needed a decent slice of luck with Higuain missing his second penalty and firing another excellent opportunity wide of Hugo Lloris’ goal.
But Pochettino felt his team deserved to get the rub of the green, adding: “It’s true you need some luck in football, always and 2-1 is not the same as 3-1, but I think we didn’t deserve in that moment to go down by two goals.
“We deserved more in the first half, but in the second half we played much better and in the end a draw is good. It’s good for us, but it is a little bit unfair because we were much better than them.”
After Tuesday’s thrilling European encounter, Spurs turn their focus back to domestic matters on Sunday when they visit Rochdale in the fifth round of the FA Cup.