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.
— Harry Kane (@HKane) April 17, 2019
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.”
City’s hopes of a quadruple, which Pep Guardiola always thought would be tough, are over, but for a short moment, they thought they were through after Sterling’s late strike.
That left Guardiola feeling understandably glum after the game, but he knew conceding two goals in the opening 10 minutes was crucial.
“Yeah, it is tough. It would be better if don’t concede, but we are close to going through,” the Spaniard said.
“It is cruel but it is what it is we have to accept it. It was a nice game for everybody, a lot of talent, after 20 minutes it was 3-2.
“Second half we did everything. It was not easy to create chances but we create a lot.
“We make mistakes in that competition but were punished a lot. We knew it, we scored the goals we needed, unfortunately, it was a bad end for us. Congratulations Tottenham and all the best for the semi-finals.
“We create an incredible amount of chances today. I am so proud, especially for the fans. It was an amazing night for us.
“I never saw the stadium like tonight since I was here in Manchester. I know they know we gave absolutely everything. Football is like this, it is unpredictable.”