Tottenham Hotspur went into the Nou Camp with a job to do to advance in the Champions League: beat Barcelona, or match Inter Milan’s result at home against PSV. They weren’t able to get the historic win, but they did enough to advance. Spurs got a late goal from Lucas Moura to earn an exciting draw, and Inter were only able to draw PSV at home.
The end result: Tottenham completed an incredible comeback in this Champions League group stage and advance to the knock-out rounds, finishing in second place in Group B by tiebreakers.
Tottenham needed to put out a strong lineup, and they did, running out DESK (Dele, Eriksen, Son, Kane) in the forward attacking band. A bit of a surprise as Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks started in the center of midfield, and youngster Kyle Walker-Peters got the start at right back as expected. Danny Rose began the match on the left.
The match started off about as bad as possible. Despite Spurs pushing forward and trying to keep possession, they were made to pay on an Ousmane Dembele counterattack and breakaway in the 7th minute. Walker-Peters took a bad touch and had the ball taken away by Dembele who was off to the races. He beat KWP, who had rushed back to defend, again before juking away from a diving Harry Winks and slotted the ball past Hugo Lloris. Just like that, Spurs were behind.
The half got worse for Walker-Peters — struggling with the pace of Barcelona’s attack, he got beat again in the midfield, and picked up a cheap yellow card as he hauled the player back. It was a rough half for the youngster who struggled and relied on Moussa Sissoko to help out defensively on the right.
That’s not to say it was all bad. Spurs settled down nicely after the opening 20 minutes and started to assert themselves more going forward. Son Heung-Min was Spurs’ best attacker in the half, and should’ve scored just past the half hour mark after he was clipped in the box by a Barca defender. Instead of going down and trying for the penalty, he stayed on his feet but wasn’t able to convert his shot despite being one-on-one with Jasper Cillessen.
Sonny had another chance on goal a few minutes later, but his low effort was no trouble for Cillessen.
Coutinho nearly made it 2-0 for the hosts when he had a shot plonk off the right post and out for a goal kick. That would’ve been a little unfair for Spurs; despite the scoreline, you could quite easily make the argument that Spurs were the better team in the first half. Barcelona didn’t look especially sharp defensively.
It was an encouraging half of football, but Spurs took the 1-0 deficit into the locker room.
The second half kicked off with Spurs knowing they needed at least a goal, and almost from the first kick the game opened up significantly. Christian Eriksen got the first shot for Spurs in the 48th minute, putting in a curler from the top of the box that forced a save from a diving Cillessen.
Two minutes later, Kane had a golden opportunity to equalize. He got in behind Vermaelen and was one on one with Cillessen, but a got lightly shoved by the former Arsenal defender. It was just enough to throw off Kane’s balance, and he skied the chance over the bar.
Tottenham dominated play for almost the entirety of this half, pushing forward with alacrity and cutting through Barca’s rotated defense again and again. Cillessen was a hero for Barcelona, though, and made several key stops to keep Spurs out.
Spurs made their first substitution in the 61st minute — Erik Lamela came on for Walker-Peters, with Moussa Sissoko moving to right back. KWP had a horrendous first half but came back to make a respectable showing under incredibly nerve-wracking circumstances.
Barcelona made an almost instant response: they brought on Lionel Messi, to the delight of the Camp Nou crowd.
Despite Messi’s presence, Spurs continued to get chances on goal late in the match but Barca defended stoutly if not well, getting bodies out to block Spurs shots and great saves from Jasper Cillessen. None was better than in the 70th minute when Christian Eriksen had a shot on goal from close range, but Cillessen was there again to parry the chance away.
One minute later, Spurs made their second sub, bringing Lucas Moura on for the tired Son Heung-Min. The Brazilian attacker made an almost instant impact, powering a header on goal from inside the box that forced yet another outstanding save from the Barca keeper.
With the match online line and less than ten minutes left to get a goal, Mauricio Pochettino rolled the dice, taking off midfielder Harry Winks for Fernando Llorente. Barca very nearly took advantage, but Philippe Coutinho’s shot on the counterattack plonked off the post again, and Spurs were able to scramble it out for a corner.
The equalizing goal came in the 85th minute on a great Spurs counterattack. Erik Lamela fed the ball to Kane, who was running on the left side of Barca’s box. He slotted in a low cross to an onrushing Lucas, who passed the ball past Cillessen and sending the Spurs fans into delirium.
Lucas Moura comes up with the CLUTCH equalizer at Camp Nou. Going to be a tense last few minutes around the #UCL (via @brlive) pic.twitter.com/X0ALTrNjOt— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) December 11, 2018
With the match at the San Siro still tied, Spurs kept trying to find the winning goal. That winner never came, but neither did Inter’s — both matches ended with the final score of 1-1, sending the visiting Spurs fans into pandemonium in the Camp Nou stands. Spurs may not have gotten the win, and they needed a little help, but they completed an incredibly improbable comeback and qualified for the Champions League knock-out stage, finishing second in the group behind Barca.
- This wasn’t a win, but it was a HUGE result. Spurs not only did what they needed to do to earn progression to the next round, but they did it with style! They were clearly better than this rotated Barcelona team on the day.
- Kyle Walker-Peters — poor kid. He had a rough match, but this isn’t a fair one on which to evaluate him. He did rebound somewhat — a great potentially goal-saving block in the box, for starters — but he needs some Premier League minutes to regain some confidence after getting skinned early on for that goal.
- His replacement, however, was outstanding. Sissoko was great at right back, and that position seemed tailor made to emphasize his driving runs against what were really pretty poor Barcelona fullbacks. Y’all... is Moussa Sissoko our right back of the future? (The answer is “No” but for now who cares)
- I can’t say enough about Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min in this match. They were phenomenal, even after Sonny failed to capitalize on the one-on-one with Cillessen. Danny Rose was also excellent in this match.
- I nearly went with the headline SPURS WIN 1-1.
- PSV had a little fun after the match. Thanks, guys! We owe you one!
Thank us later @SpursOfficial #INTPSV pic.twitter.com/w7jS3Cqqxc— PSV (@PSV) December 11, 2018
- BRB, celebrating.