November 6, 2018 / 11:40 PM / 8 days ago

Soccer-Pochettino still optimistic Tottenham can reach last 16

LONDON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Mauricio Pochettino remains optimistic his Tottenham Hotspur side can reach the Champions League last 16 after Harry Kane’s late brace earned them a vital 2-1 victory over PSV Eindhoven at Wembley on Tuesday.

Playing their fourth match in eight days, Tottenham dug deep after Luuk de Jong put the Dutch champions in front after 61 seconds — the quickest goal Tottenham have conceded in the competition.

Pochettino’s side had 29 goal attempts and 70 percent of possession but were frustrated until Kane’s double after 78 and 89 minutes kept open a route to the Champions League last 16, however precarious it may be.

Despite their first win in Group B Tottenham are still more likely to be playing Europa League rather than the Champions League football after Christmas — the consequence of late goals conceded in a 2-1 loss at Inter and a 2-2 draw at PSV.

They have four points and will need to beat Inter Milan and then almost certainly Barcelona to get out of the group, but Pochettino believes his side can manage it.

“We deserved more in Milan (against Inter), we played better than them,” he told reporters. “I am optimistic. If we beat them, the percentage of being in the next stage will be higher.

“Two games to play. If we are capable of beating Inter, we’ll be on seven points (each). Then we are going to go to Barcelona and try to win the game.”

After losing last Monday to Manchester City in the Premier League, Tottenham have responded with three consecutive wins in all competitions with Pochettino shuffling his pack.

It is a sign of the squad’s resilience, according to the Argentine who brought on Erik Lamela, Kieran Trippier and Fernando Llorente late against PSV.

“The team deserved the victory. We won and suffered a lot. It was a massive effort so I was pleased. We played a lot in eight days. Now we need to try to recover for Saturday (at Crystal Palace),” he said.

“The team is growing up. We have the character of never giving up which is so important.”

While Tottenham still harbour hopes of a last-16 place, PSV’s cause looks forlorn as they sit bottom with one point.

Coach Mark Van Bommel refused to be downhearted though.

“We fought like lions,” he told reporters. “After one minute we got a goal and we tried to defend it until the end.

“It’s a very difficult group. We played four games and three times we’ve been leading.

“Our fans were behind us for the entire match; they were the only ones I could hear singing. We got a standing ovation from them at the end, which I think says it all.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Toby Davis)

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