Late drama as Moura goal sends Spurs through in Barcelona
Mauricio Pochettino 'so happy for our fans who are here, in London and around the world' as club go through to knockout stages of the Champions League
12 December, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
BARCELONA 1 (Dembele 9)
SPURS 1 (Moura 85)
AS the final whistle went at this final Champions League group stage game between Spurs and Barcelona, there was still a chance that something would go all Spursy and it would be a heartbreaker instead of an unlikely progression into the last 16.
Having secured a battling 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp, secured via a late Lucas Moura equaliser, Mauricio Pochettino’s players had to wait to confirm that PSV Eindhoven had managed to hold Inter Milan to the same scoreline. How typical would it be for Spurs to somehow see their immense efforts come to nothing.
But no – 90 seconds after the game had finished, which seemed an age, it was confirmed PSV had earned a draw and Spurs were through.
And what a deserved result this was. They had refused to blink, even after going a goal down early on, and fought their way back into it. And then, as the referee in Milan blew the whistle, the party could get going. The Spurs players ran towards where their fans were perched in the gods at the Nou Camp, and celebrated an unlikely turnaround.
Speaking after the game, Pochettino said: “We showed what is possible if you have belief. Feats such as this build your character as a group. I hope and wish that we build something special and we can go on and achieve something this season.”
And he praised his team for their attitude, never dropping their intensity and scoring a late goal to seal their route into the knockout stages.
He added: “I want to congratulate the players. They were fantastic. It was massive effort. I’m so happy for our fans who are here, in London and around the world. It’s so important for the club to go to the next stage.”
Youngster Kyle Walker-Peters, who came in because regular right-backs Serge Aurier and Keiren Trippier were injured, had a shaky first half. The rookie was at fault for the opening goal, which came on seven minutes. Spurs had, up to that point, looked comfortable against a Barcelona side with big names such as Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba missing from the starting 11. A Spurs corner was turned into a counterattack when Walker-Peters slipped in possession, allowing Ousmane Dembele to streak away. Harry Winks dived across to cover, the beautifully pacey and balanced Dembele steadied himself, then fired home low underneath Hugo Lloris.
But Tottenham did not crumble, and created chances themselves. Heung-Min Son nearly connected with a teasing Danny Rose cross, and then saw goalkeeper Jasper Cillesssen save a one-on-one with his feet.
And yet, for all of Tottenham’s gung-ho attacking, it felt that Barcelona, when they wanted to, could get something more. Philippe Coutinho struck the outside of the post at the end of the first half and would tease whenever in possession.
It took a big, big second half from Spurs to claw their way back into the competition – and some kitchen sink substitutions from Pochettino as they chased an equaliser. He threw on Erik Lamela, Lucas Moura and then Fernando Llorente, playing with four up front, as they sought to carve just one more good chance.
And how they went for it. Moura had a header scooped off the line, and a shout for a penalty. Kane smashed a shot high and wide when he bustled into a good position. Eriksen forced Cillessen into a finger-tip save low to his right. It seemed that they were going to go down fighting as well as lamenting another momentary lapse, a mistake, that has littered their autumn Champions League campaign.
And then it came. With five minutes remaining, Lamela strode forward, drew the Barcelona defence out, Kane went wide and found the space to place a low ball into the danger area. Moura met it cleanly and finished from 10 yards.
Whatever the criticisms of Spurs – the sense rawness and naivety about them at this level – they have shown they are worthy of being in the last 16 of the Champions League simply for their attitude, heart and resilience.
Spurs: Lloris, Walker-Peters (Lamela 61), Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Eriksen, Sissoko, Winks (Lloretne 83) Son (Moura 71), Alli, Kane.
Subs: Gazzaniga, Dier, Llorente, Davies, Skipp.
Barcelona: Cillessen, Nelson Semedo, Lenglet, Vermaelen, Miranda, Arthur, Alena, Rakitic (Busquets 45), Dembele (Suarez 76), Munir (Messi, 63), Coutinho.
Subs: ter Stegen, Pique, Jordi Alba, Vidal.