Lucas' leveller sends us through in Barcelona
Barcelona 1-1 Spurs
Tue 11 December 2018, 22:00|Tottenham Hotspur
Lucas Moura finally made our pressure count five minutes from time to send us through to the last 16 of the Champions League after a fantastic team performance away to Barcelona on Tuesday night.
Teetering on the brink with just a solitary point after three games in Group B, we went to the Nou Camp of all places after back-to-back home wins against PSV and Inter looking to finish the job by bettering the Italians' result against the men from Eindhoven, in order to secure what had seemed to many to be the unlikeliest of qualifications in early November - and, wow, we gave it a shot!
Ousmane Dembele pounced on an early mistake from Kyle Walker-Peters to give the La Liga giants, who had already won the group, an early lead but we went storming forward and had a host of chances to level the scores. Goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen made some stunning saves but the ball just wouldn't go in.
At 1-0 down and with around 15 minutes to go, news filtered through that Inter had come from a goal behind to equalise in Milan, meaning we needed to score to stay in the competition.
Step forward Lucas, who had been denied by an incredible Cillessen save on his line moments earlier, to sweep in Harry Kane's cross in the 85th minute and deservedly make it 1-1. That's how it stayed and, some 60 seconds later in Italy, the other game finished with the same scoreline, ensuring we stayed ahead of Inter on head-to-head to progress as runners-up behind our hosts.
The first half was a fairly even affair overall. Much like in the reverse fixture at Wembley, we gifted the hosts an early lead as Dembele caught Walker-Peters in possession on half-way on what was the young full-back's first Champions League start, in place of the injured Serge Aurier and Kieran Trippier. It came as we squandered an attacking free-kick but Dembele was calm and collected as he zipped away from Walker-Peters, chopped inside the sliding Harry Winks and finished under Hugo Lloris.
Barca controlled the tempo for a few moments as we regrouped but gradually we grew into things, with Heung-Min Son's pace a real problem for centre-back Thomas Vermaelen, who had only played a minute of Champions League football this season prior to kick-off. We saw a great chance pass in a flash on the half-hour mark as Danny Rose found space on the left and curled in a low cross which just evaded Son as he slid in down the centre.
Quick, accurate passes from deep were perforating the Barcelona back line and from one such ball from Christian Eriksen, Son wriggled away from Vermaelen but Cillessen saved one-on-one. Ernesto Valverde had chosen to rotate in some areas but his team was always going to carry a threat. They showed that in the moments before half-time as Ivan Rakitic's rising shot was well held by Lloris before Philippe Coutinho jinked his way into the box but bent a shot onto the far post.
We did everything but put the ball in the back of the net after the restart - until the 85th minute. First to every 50/50 ball and sharper all over the park with some slick passing to boot, we hammered on the door, unfazed by the magnitude of the game or the task at hand.
Eriksen's shot was saved and Kane blazed over under pressure before Walker-Peters made a vital block from Coutinho at the other end. The ex-Liverpool man was Barcelona's main threat, hitting the post in similar fashion to the first half just seconds before Lucas' equaliser.
Prior to that, we kept pushing. Kane's header was blocked in the box, Cillessen somehow saved from Eriksen - although Kane was penalised for a foul - and Moussa Sissoko, by that stage playing at right-back, sent in a perfect cross for Lucas, who was denied by Cillessen down to his right and then curled just off-target with the second ball. Coutinho reminded us of his threat by hitting the woodwork, but when Kane found space on the left and crossed, there was no stopping Lucas as he burst into the box and rammed home. It could have got even better when Kane heard the shouts of Rose and played him through on goal with an excellent blind reverse pass, but the left-back lashed over. Shortly after the full-time whistle, confirmation came that Inter had drawn with PSV and we'd done enough to qualify.
Away to Barcelona and trailing 1-0 when needing a result to progress, it was Lucas who popped up with the crucial moment five minutes from time - and it was an equaliser that was fully deserved.
After throwing everything at the hosts in the second half, we were being left frustrated time after time - but, vitally, the players kept cool heads and kept going.
That finally paid off when, on 85 minutes, Kane peeled off into space on the left side as he approached the Barcelona box and delivered an inch-perfect ball across for Lucas to sweep into the net. Cillessen wasn't keeping that one out!
Ultimately, it was the goal that ensured we'll remain in the Champions League in the New Year and we await Monday's draw for the round of 16 with interest.
After a dramatic night of action, Mauricio Pochettino was thrilled to see us progress out of the group, having been thwarted by late goals away to both Inter and PSV earlier in the campaign - games which left us with just one point after three matches and facing a real uphill battle to qualify. Indeed, some had written us off at that stage...
"It's a massive achievement for the Club," he beamed. "I'm very happy for the players, for the fans, for the Club. It's so important to be in the next stage of the Champions League.
"We were a little unlucky in how we conceded the first goal after seven minutes. In the second half we found a way to play and link better in possession and started to create chances. We deserved to go through to the second half of the competition. We've made the impossible possible and now it's important to show everyone that if you believe, everything in football is possible."
Man of the moment Lucas shared Mauricio's delight: "It was a very important goal and I’m so happy to score here in the Nou Camp in the Champions League and help my team-mates to qualify. It was an amazing moment!" he said.
"In the second half we did very well. We had many chances to score. It was a deserved result. It was a difficult group and we’ve shown that we are strong and that we can go ahead. Like I've always said, I believe in my team-mates."
Reaction on Spurs TV
Barcelona 1-1 Spurs
Barcelona (4-3-3): Cillessen, Semedo, Lenglet, Vermaelen, Miranda, Arthur, Alena, Rakitic (c, Busquets 46), Dembele (D Suarez 76), Munir (Messi 63), Coutinho. Substitutes (not used): Ter Stegen, Pique, Alba, Vidal.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Walker-Peters (Lamela 61), Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Winks (Llorente 83), Sissoko, Eriksen, Dele, Son (Lucas 71), Kane. Substitutes (not used): Gazzaniga, Davies, Dier, Skipp.
Goals: Barcelona - Dembele 7; Spurs - Lucas 85.
Yellow cards: Barcelona - Semedo 68; Spurs - Walker-Peters 15.
Referee: Milorad Mažić (SRB).
Venue: Nou Camp, Barcelona.
Weather: Partly cloudy, 10 degrees.