By Martyn Herman
LONDON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Christian Eriksen kept Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of completing a remarkable salvage job and reaching the last 16 of the Champions League alive with a late winner in his side’s 1-0 victory over Inter Milan at Wembley on Wednesday.
Inter, needing just a draw to reach the knockout rounds at Tottenham’s expense, were holding firm until substitute Eriksen smashed home his side’s winner in the 80th minute after superb work from midfield powerhouse Moussa Sissoko.
Tottenham had one point from their opening three Group B games but with one match remaining they have seven and have leapfrogged Inter into second place by virtue of their head-to-head record against the Nerazzurri.
The hardest part is still to come, though, for Mauricio Pochettino’s side as only a win against group winners Barcelona in the Nou Camp next month will guarantee Spurs a spot in the knockout rounds for the third time.
“It will be tough but fun. We know what we have to play for,” said Eriksen.
Harry Kane added that the trip to the Nou Camp would be one to savour. “We will go all guns blazing now,” the striker said.
Eriksen and Son Heung-min, who had shone in Tottenham’s 3-1 defeat of Chelsea on Saturday that lifted them into third place in the Premier League, were both left on the bench and their late introductions proved pivotal.
But it was French midfielder Sissoko, so often a misfit since his 30 million pounds ($38.48 million) move to London in August 2016, who proved the key to unlocking Inter’s defence.
As against Chelsea, he was Spurs’ midfield engine and, with the clock ticking down as Inter parked deep, he set off on a barrelling run into the area before cutting back a pass for Dele Alli, who teed up up Eriksen to fire an unstoppable shot past Samir Handanovic.
Some of Tottenham’s best Champions League moments have come against Italian opposition, notably in their debut campaign in 2010-11 when they beat Inter at home and AC Milan away in the San Siro on their way to the quarter-finals.
There have been crushing disappointments, too — none bigger than last season’s 2-1 home defeat by Juventus in the last 16, which deprived them of a place in the last eight.
This season, they led 1-0 away to Inter in their opening group game only for late goals by Mauro Icardi and Matias Vecino to inflict a defeat which meant they have been playing catch-up ever since.
Kane’s double against PSV Eindhoven earned Tottenham their first win in the group to put their fate just about back in their own hands — but only victory over Inter would do.
Tottenham dominated the first half, with Kane releasing Alli to shoot over early on, Lucas Moura having a shot saved after another burst down the right by Sissoko and Harry Winks curling a sublime effort against the crossbar.
Inter had chances, though, with substitute Borja Valero wasting the best shortly after replacing the injured Radja Nainggolan.
Tottenham were perhaps also fortunate not to end the half with 10 men after Erik Lamela caught Marcelo Brozovic on the shin with a reckless tackle.
Spurs struggled to open up Inter after the break and when Jan Vertonghen headed wide from Eriksen’s superb free kick in the 75th minute, their hopes were fading.
With the game stretched, Hugo Lloris made a vital save to deny Inter’s Croatian striker Ivan Perisic before Eriksen struck to set up what could yet be a memorable night in Barcelona.
“It will be such a tough game. But we have belief that we can win,” Pochettino said.
$1 = 0.7796 pounds Reporting by Martyn Herman, Editing by Neville Dalton