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Stellini proud of Tottenham’s Champions League fightback at Marseille, waiting on Son injury scans

Spurs win their Champions League group, but there’s concern over Son Heung-Min.

Olympique Marseille v Tottenham Hotspur: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur fans are still buzzing over the club’s stunning last-gasp win at Olympique Marseille in the Champions League last night. With the score tied 1-1 in the waning moments of the match and Spurs hanging on by their fingernails in the face a furious Marseille attack, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg scored on a classic Spurs counter with the last kick of the match, giving Spurs a dramatic 2-1 win. The result not only saw Spurs qualify for the knock-out rounds of the Champions League, but also win Group D with 11 points.

Antonio Conte was not present on the touchline as he was serving a one-match ban for receiving a red card at the end of Spurs’ draw against Sporting Lisbon last week. Assistant manager Cristian Stellini led the team in Marseille, and it was he who gave the pre- and post-match press conferences. Stellini said he was very proud of the way Spurs fought back after an awful first half in what was a very tough match in an even tougher away atmosphere.

“It was very difficult in the first half. In the difficulties, we didn’t lose our minds. We stayed in the match. It was terrible the goal we conceded because from a corner, they took it quickly, and we were not prepared. It is an important lesson for the future.

“But in the second half, something changed, and we spoke in the dressing about the energy we need in the second half and the way we have to press them and counter the game. In the first half, we never used energy to press and create difficulties, and they controlled the game very well. In the second, this aspect changed, and we played a fantastic second half.”

Tottenham started the match very slowly, as has been their pattern lately, which led a reporter to ask whether the game plan on Tuesday night was to win the match, or to play for a draw. Stellini, to no one’s surprise, responded that of course the goal was to win.

“Maybe [the comeback] is all of this, personality and energy. But we know very well. In this type of stadium and this type of match, a knockout, it is not very easy.

“The stadium was very hot in the first half, and sometimes it is normal to give the possibility to the opponent to play, to use the energy you have in the second half. It could also be a strategy. We need to try to play all the 90 minutes in the same level.

“We tried to counter-attack and try to play to create chances in all the second half. We cannot be happy if we draw this game because it is very important to arrive first in the group stage. We pushed to try to win, like always.”

But it wasn’t all joyful for Spurs. In what is a very concerning development, Son Heung-Min was substituted off midway through the match after receiving a serious head injury. He staggered off the pitch and down the tunnel, and his eye looked very swollen in celebratory post-match photos. Online prognosticators wondered about an orbital fracture, but Stellini tried to tone down some of the concerns.

“In this moment, we don’t know. We have to wait for a medical assessment, and we have to wait until tomorrow. Sonny feels better now. I saw him in the dressing room. He celebrated with us. So we will wait for tomorrow.”

The latest reporting is that Son is expected to have a scan sometime today now that the club has returned to London. We do not know the extent of the injury, and whether it will affect Sonny’s ability to play in the World Cup with South Korea this month, but it does feel like it’s now exceptionally unlikely that he will be available when Spurs host Liverpool this Sunday.

The final round of the Champions League group stage will continue today, with the draw for the knock-out rounds taking place on Monday, November 7.