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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 April 2019

Mauricio Pochettino hails Tottenham players for achieving 'mission impossible' after draw at Barcelona

Spurs needed to match Inter Milan's result against PSV Eindhoven, and with both teams securing 1-1 draws, it was the Premier League club who advanced to the last-16

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino lauded his players for achieving "mission impossible" after a 1-1 draw at Barcelona proved enough to qualify for the Uefa Champions League last-16.

Spurs entered the match needing to at least match Inter Milan's result against PSV Eindhoven, given the Premier League club's better head-to-head record against their Italian rivals.

However, a second-string Barcelona took an early lead when Ousmane Dembele's sensational individual goal put Tottenham on the back foot in the decisive game at Camp Nou.

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Yet Spurs seized their place in the next round thanks to Lucas Moura's late leveller, sneaking above Inter, who could only draw 1-1 at home to PSV.

"I'm so happy, so proud, I remember that after PSV no one believed in us, it was mission impossible, but we are here, we're in the next round," Pochettino told reporters.

"It's a massive achievement for the club, we're happy for the fans here and around the world, it's a massive boost for the club and to be able to play in the knockout rounds next year in the new stadium is a massive motivation for us."

Tottenham's hopes of staying in Europe's elite competition looked doomed when news filtered through of Mauro Icardi's leveller for Inter.

Pochettino said he and his players were caught in two minds about whether to try to hold on for the draw or seek a winner in case Inter got another goal in their game.

"It was difficult to manage the last 10 minutes. The players knew the result (score) of Inter but it is difficult to translate what to do to the field," he said.

"You have to score to win but if you concede and lose the game, maybe you talk in a different way afterwards."

Pochettino also said reaching the last-16 from a group containing two giants of the competition was among his greatest achievements with Spurs since taking over the club in 2014.

"It was so difficult to manage everything inside but we made a fantastic effort. To see and celebrate with everyone after four years and a half was great, it was the first time I felt something really special," he said.

"The connection is amazing but we need to be clever about how we manage that energy tonight."

Updated: December 12, 2018 09:01 AM

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