Beating Manchester City not impossible: Mauricio Pochettino

Tottenham forward Son Heung-min keeps the ball in play and beyond the reach of Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson before going on to score the game's only goal.
Tottenham forward Son Heung-min keeps the ball in play and beyond the reach of Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson before going on to score the game's only goal.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Kane could be out for the season but Spurs boss confident of qualifying for semi-finals

LONDON • After surviving an early Sergio Aguero VAR penalty and top scorer Harry Kane's injury to beat Manchester City 1-0, Mauricio Pochettino challenged "spirited" Tottenham to finish the job in their Champions League quarter-final.

South Korea forward Son Heung-min took his chance well in front of 17,500 fans in the so-called Tottenham Wall to earn Spurs a slender first-leg edge 11 minutes from time in their new home, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, on Tuesday.

His much-maligned captain Hugo Lloris enjoyed a moment of redemption in a troubled campaign when he saved Aguero's kick after Danny Rose was adjudged to have handled Raheem Sterling's shot.

Pochettino was delighted with the display against the Premier League champions, but insisted the tie was still delicately poised.

"We showed great quality. We were all excited and motivated to play this type of game," he said.

"The energy was good, fantastic, the penalty save gave us a big lift. There are still 90 minutes to play and it's Man City. But, with the spirit we play, anything is possible."

The win was an unexpected twist after Kane, who has 24 goals this season, injured his left ankle in a tackle on Fabian Delph just before the hour. He is expected to have tests on the injury today, but Pochettino fears his star striker could miss the rest of the season.

City's first loss since a Jan 29 setback at Newcastle may not be fatal, but they will have to improve at home in the second leg to stop Spurs from reaching their first European semi-final since 1984.

Pep Guardiola said: "Nobody said it would be easy. We have to show what we can do the next game.

"It was a good performance, but that's the Champions League. We lost, we have the second game and we will see what happens."

There was a sense of deja vu as he opted for the same duo, Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan, with disastrous consequences in the 3-0 beating at Liverpool in the first leg of the last-eight clash last season.

Guardiola lost Bernardo Silva to a muscle injury during training on Monday and had to defend his "conservative" line-up:

 • Riyad Mahrez over Leroy Sane on the right.

 • Gundogan over Kevin de Bruyne, who was returning to form and fitness in an injury-hit season.

Said Guardiola: "I decided to play with two holding midfielders to be a bit more solid.

"Last season was much worse (against Liverpool). Except for a few chances conceded in set-pieces and some counter-attacks, we controlled the game (today).

"We played to score but couldn't. Spurs are a team that press a lot, but they couldn't do that especially in the second half when we arrived many times in the final third."

  • 9 

    Tottenham have progressed to the next round on each of the last nine occasions they have won the first leg of a European knockout match (excluding qualifiers).

  • Penalties Hugo Lloris has faced and saved in all competitions this year against Leicester, Arsenal and now Manchester City.

Aguero's penalty miss on 13 minutes was a major momentum swing for City, the League Cup winners and FA Cup finalists who are in the hunt for four trophies.

There were no penalty appeals from City when Rose's arm was slightly raised for balance as the left-back slid in to block. But, after consulting the video assistant referee, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers awarded the kick.

As Lloris plunged to his left for a superb save, it fuelled more debate over Uefa's tweaked handball rule. Its decree that effectively any contact between arm and ball in the box meant a penalty, with a "distance" caveat, has stirred criticism even before the law was applied to widespread derision here.

Pochettino said: "Maybe technically it was a penalty because it was handball, but we do not know the protocol. There are a lot of question marks. I think it's going to change the spirit of the game and I'm very worried about how it's going to work next season."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2019, with the headline 'Beating City not impossible: Poch'. Print Edition | Subscribe