Barcelona still fighting. If Tottenham in the Nou Camp match Inter Milan’s result at home to PSV Eindhoven, they will progress to the Champions League knockout stage.
Mauricio Pochettino’s substitutions changed the match again, as they had against Eindhoven here. Either he’s a genius, or he’s starting the wrong teams.
No-one was complaining on 80 minutes last night, however, when Christian Eriksen’s goal won the game and kept Tottenham afloat with a puncher’s chance. Maybe they will get to play Champions League football at the new White Hart Lane this season after all – even if the fixture, and the location, still feel some distance away.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
TOTTENHAM: (4-2-3-1) Lloris 6.5; Aurier 6.5, Alderweireld 6.5, Vertonghen 6, Davies 6; Sissoko 6, Winks 7 (Dier 87), Alli 6.5; Lamela 6 (Eriksen 70, 7.5), Moura 6 (Son 62, 6); Kane 6
SUBS NOT USED: Gazzaniga (GK); Rose, Walker-Peters, Llorente
GOALS: Eriksen (80)
BOOKINGS: Alderweireld (28), Lamela (45), Son (73)
COACH: Mauricio Pochettino 6
INTER MILAN: (4-2-3-1) Handanovic 6; D’Ambrosio 6, De Vrij 7, Skriniar 7, Asamoah 6; Vecino 6.5, Brozovic 6; Politano 6, Nainggolan 5 (Valero 44, 6.5), Perisic 5; Icardi 6
SUBS NOT USED: Padelli (GK); Martinez, Ranocchia, Candreva
BOOKINGS: De Vrij (70), Valero (81)
COACH: Luciano Spalletti 6.5
REFEREE: Cuneyt Cakir 6 (Turkey)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Christian Eriksen
VENUE: Wembley Stadium
Still, Tottenham deserved this. They played to win, Inter to draw, so the team with more ambition took the points, which is a happy ending. Whether it would have been a more straightforward win had Pochettino started what is undoubtedly his best XI, we will never know. For managers, the end justifies the means.
As the minutes ticked down, so Pochettino introduced his reinforcements. Players that had taken Chelsea apart just days earlier, mainly. In the 62nd minute it was Heung-Min Son, scorer of that wonder goal, in place of the industrious but ultimately ineffective Lucas Moura. Within 60 seconds, he had almost broken the deadlock, cutting in on the left, his shot deflected wide.
Soon after he was causing havoc on the right. As he did so, Eriksen warmed up. Soon enough, he was on, too – 70th minute for Erik Lamela. His first kick of the night should have brought a goal: a perfectly flighted free-kick from the left that was met by Jan Vertonghen just yards from goal at the far post. How he missed it, heaven knows. How was a player who could make that pass imprisoned on the bench for so long, in a match Tottenham had to win?
Pochettino rings the changes in Europe, we know that. Yet the last time Tottenham faced a must-win group match, against Monaco in 2016, Pochettino had started Eriksen on the bench and lost 2-1. Here was history repeating; or so it appeared.