Sports

Pochettino closer to collecting trophy not just plaudits

Returning to the Tottenham dressing room, with his players embracing after the wildest of games, a roaring Mauricio Pochettino turned back to the tactics board.

And pounded it with his right hand.

No game plan, no master strategy could have prepared Tottenham for what unfolded over the previous couple of hours on the field at Manchester City.

After the frenzy of fluctuating fortunes, when Tottenham and City traded in despair and delight via video reviews on a night of seven goals, Pochettino had led Tottenham into its first European Cup semifinal in 57 years.

Champions League progress had been secured at the expense of soccers costliest squad by a Tottenham side shorn of investment and with key players on the treatment table.

Wednesdays 4-3 loss at Etihad Stadium carried Tottenham through on the away goals rule with a 4-4 aggregate score sealed by Son Heung-mins first-leg goal. Thanks also to the video assistant referee who scrubbed off Citys fifth goal in stoppage time — when the home fans were already celebrating — because Sergio Agüero was offside before setting up Raheem Sterling.

“Still we dont realize it,” Pochettino said Thursday, “because were like in a dream, in a bubble.”

Satisfaction indeed for the former Argentina international who has collected many plaudits but never a major trophy as a coach. Winning European club soccers biggest prize wouldnt be a bad place to start for Pochettino after eliminating two-time Champions League-winning coach Pep Guardiola.

If it finds a way past Ajax over two games, Tottenham will contest a Champions League final for the first time in its history on June 1 in Madrid.

Just like Zinedine Zidane with Real Madrid in 2016, the first major trophy lifted by Pochettino could be the European Cup but with a team not accustomed to glory.

The north London clubs last silverware was 11 years ago when it won the League Cup, a competition renowned for lineups packed with fringe players.

You have to go back to 1991 to find a more meaningful success when a Tottenham side featuring Gary Lineker won the FA Cup.

There were continental successes in now defunct competitions: the 1963 European Cup Winners Cup, and UEFA Cup in 1972 and 1984.

But Tottenham has only been crowned English champions twice. And not since 1961, which gained it a place in the following seasons European Cup when the competition was the preserve of domestic champions and Tottenham made the last four.

The latest challenge by Spurs for the Premier League faltered at the turn of the year, just after this seasons midpoint. It wasnt followed by a strengthening of the squad.

Instead the January transfer window saw Tottenham become the first Premier League side to fail to sign a player through the entire season.

“It is important when you take some decisions or cannot do what another team does, you cannot complain,” Pochettino said, reflecting on Citys vast spending.

It is the price to pay for building a $1.3 billion stadium that Tottenham only moved into last month.

It is why Tottenham traveled to City relying on Son for goals after top-scorer Harry Kane injured his left ankle again in the first leg. It is why, with Harry Winks and Eric Dier already sidelined and Mousa Dembele sold in January, out-of-favor striker Fernando Llorente had to be summoned from the bench when midfielder Moussa Sissoko was forced off in the first half on Wednesday.

“I wait for my opportunity and I knew I had to be ready because my moment could arrive,” Llorente said. “I am very happy because it is not easy when you are not playing normally. It is difficult to get the best feet.”

His hip was in form, though.

It was responsible for inelegantly nudging the balRead More – Source

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