Tottenham needed to at least match Inter’s result against PSV.
They qualified on Matchday 6 because they held their nerve against Barcelona Reserves in the Nou Camp last night.
Liverpool needed to beat Napoli and once again Mo Salah skipped past his marker and slotted from a very narrow angle, slotting his shot between the legs of keeper Ospina in 34 minutes.
That turned out to be the only goal of the game. When both Liverpool centrebacks missed a wickedly inswinging cross from their left side, Polish substitute Milik fired a pointblank shot and the ball ricocheted off the right thigh of keeper Allison.
He’s a big guy and a huge character but he knows that the ball can hit him and still go in. But this one didn’t, so a single goal by their Egyptian talisman was enough to keep Klopperpool in the Champions League.
In Barcelona, where Messi and company had already qualified, the fans also witnessed a very close encounter.
When Ousmane Dembele exploded beyond Danny Rose, the left back was so stunned that he stopped running and his centrebacks had gone AWOL. So right back Kyle Walker-Peters was obliged to race across and make a sliding block. KWP sold himself but that was the only thing KWP could do and Dembele then scored an exceptional self-made goal in seven minutes.
Messi and Suarez were not playing but this game was very hard work for Spurs after that.
Coutinho hit the post twice and Harry Kane was peripheral but he’s always been a soldier who perseveres. When Kane suddenly broke away on the left flank, three Barca defenders ran towards him and he delivered a low cross that needed somebody sprinting into the six-yard box. Son wasn’t there and neither was Dele Alli but a sure-footed Brazilian was and Lucas Moura equalised in 85 minutes.
Matchday 6 :
Liverpool 1 Napoli 0
Barcelona 1 Tottenham 1
Inter Milan 1 PSV Eindhoven 1
How good were Spurs over those six matches? Just good enough. They battled hard and squeezed through.
Having backed them to beat Inter on Matchday 5, and I just crossed my fingers last night.
Pochettino’s team are beginning to remind me of Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, who over-achieved with a workmanlike method, a bit of flair and the right mentality.
Football isn’t just skill and tactics and stars. It’s belief. Forest had organisation and belief and won two European Cups and I know Spurs cannot do that. It’s much harder now.