Spurs cruise but told to raise game to next level

Tottenham's Erik Lamela (left) in action against Dortmund's Abdou Diallo during the Uefa Champions League round of 16, second leg soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur in Dortmund, on March 5, 2019.
Tottenham's Erik Lamela (left) in action against Dortmund's Abdou Diallo during the Uefa Champions League round of 16, second leg soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur in Dortmund, on March 5, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DORTMUND • Tottenham can be proud of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals but manager Mauricio Pochettino believes they must still improve to take on Europe's heavyweights.

They won 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday and eased into the last eight with a 4-0 aggregate win over the Bundesliga leaders.

"To move to the next level or the last level, I think it is not only today to show a very professional performance," Pochettino told reporters.

"It is so important to be in the quarter-final, but you need to show more if you want to be at the next level. To build that possibility to be at the same level as the clubs that we are talking about, you need to start from the first step always.

"We are (only) in the middle or 70 per cent of moving forward."

Spurs, however, looked efficient and clinical over the two legs, avoiding any of the mistakes that led to a bitter exit at the same stage last year at the hands of Juventus.

Pochettino's rope-a-dope game plan worked, absorbing the punches, and then dealing the knockout blow through Harry Kane on the counter, leaving Dortmund needing five goals and a miracle.

 
 
 

A tactical tweak midway through the first half, pushing Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen wider, also gave Spurs greater control.

Kane will take the headlines for his goal shortly after the interval, but goalkeeper Hugo Lloris deserves plaudits for repeatedly denying Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Julian Weigl in the first half.

This was a test of Spurs' concentration, discipline, positioning, communication, resolve - and they passed with flying, lilywhite colours.

"We fully deserved this. We scored four goals, did not concede and this was against a team that is top of the Bundesliga with great players," said Pochettino, who was yesterday banned for two domestic matches and fined £10,000 (S$17,850) for confronting referee Mike Dean after the Premier League loss at Burnley last month.

"I think in the end it's not too much to analyse, it's just to enjoy that we are in the quarter-final.

"Along with the Premier League it is the most important competition, and... we will keep on going till the end."

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'Spurs cruise but told to raise game to next level'. Print Edition | Subscribe