MADRID • Mauricio Pochettino paid tribute to Hugo Lloris after the goalkeeper helped Tottenham to a 1-1 Champions League draw at Real Madrid, but the manager was more pleased that his team had held their own and showed they could compete at the highest level.
Tottenham led at the Santiago Bernabeu through an own goal by Raphael Varane before Cristiano Ronaldo equalised before half-time from the penalty spot.
"The result is less important," Pochettino said. "The fact we competed makes me most happy. We are building a new stadium and the team is under construction, too.
"It is important to reinforce the belief that we can compete. Last season, it was sad that we did not compete in the Champions League. This year, it's better.
"We have progressed and we are growing. We must be confident in the path we are following. The club has great potential for the future."
Lloris was the busier of the two 'keepers, and he made two crucial and outstanding saves to deny Karim Benzema and Ronaldo in the second half. Spurs had chances of their own but Harry Kane could not score past Keylor Navas when he was through on goal on 71 minutes.
Lloris said: "We shouldn't forget where we came from. Four years ago, we were playing in the Europa League, and now we're playing against and competing with Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Goals Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in 13 Champions League appearances against English clubs. Only Lionel Messi (17) has more.
"We have to follow it up now with a good performance against them at Wembley."
The result kept Tottenham level on seven points at the top of Group H with Real, while their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 were further boosted when Borussia Dortmund could manage only a draw against Apoel Nicosia.
Pochettino knew that Tottenham might have snatched victory, but he was quick to recognise that Lloris, who made seven saves in total, had kept them in the game.
"Hugo was fantastic," the Spurs manager added. "He deserves big praise from everyone. He showed his real level. You had the opportunity to see why Hugo is one of the best goalkeepers in the world."
Ultimately, it was a game in which there was so much for the Spurs fans to applaud, from Harry Winks' mature display against such celebrated hosts to Kane's front-running to Serge Aurier's attacks down the right to Eric Dier's leadership in central defence.
On the whole, it was an intelligent, gutsy display by Tottenham, who always looked to attack.
Pochettino hoped that the result could serve as a catalyst for the season. The Argentinian was proud of his players but said they needed to keep going. He added: "We have a lot of important games coming up, with Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday being the next. It's tough but we can compete."
Lloris' heroics also drew praise from his French compatriot and Real coach Zinedine Zidane.
"Benzema's header is one of those where Lloris saves it one in every 10," said Zidane. "Now there is a return game at Wembley and we will go there to try and win it.
"We will see how the next game goes. The three points we did not get here, we will try and get them at Wembley, which is now a game like a final."
The two sides meet again at Spurs' adopted home of Wembley in two weeks with top spot in the group on the line.
Real, though, have shown they have the potential to win anywhere in Europe over the past few seasons and midfielder Toni Kroos expects them to be inspired by playing at the home of football.
"Now comes the game at Wembley. We are capable of winning anywhere, Wembley is a special stadium and I am desperate for that game to arrive," said the German World Cup winner.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE