Mauricio Pochettino saluted his Tottenham "heroes" after they plotted an improbable path to the semi-finals of the Champions League at Manchester City's expense.
Spurs lost 4-3 at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday amid an incredible evening of VAR-fuelled drama, as Fernando Llorente's bundled 73rd-minute goal ensured a 4-4 aggregate scoreline and progress to face Ajax in the final four on the away goals rule.
Referee Cuneyt Cakir studied pitch-side replays of Llorente's goal but decided against the case for handball, before a final astonishing twist.
Raheem Sterling thought he had completed a match-winning hat-trick to spark bedlam in the Etihad Stadium stands, but then Cakir got the message that a marginal offside call should fall against Sergio Aguero, who laid on the chance for the England star.
"I'm so happy. On this type of night, for this type of victory in the most important competition in the world," Pochettino said at a post-match news conference, before saluting a side without injured England trio Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Harry Winks, and shorn of the influential Moussa Sissoko through a groin injury before half-time.
"I can only feel proud about the effort of everyone. They are heroes. After what happened this season, all the circumstance, to be in the semi-finals of the Champions League, they deserve a lot of praise.
"They deserve everything, to live everything. One way you can describe this team is it is not about players and names. Always we keep the same spirit, ideas and philosophy."
Pochettino has been an outspoken critic of VAR and remained a pragmatic sceptic afterwards – pointing out that the first-leg penalty awarded against Danny Rose was a moment where technology did Tottenham no favours.
"You need to trust VAR, when it is against or when it is for you," he said.
"I told you before, the decision to include VAR in football is going to change the game a little bit.
"I am pro, on the basis of trying to help the referees but last year I was a little bit worried and today my feeling is the same.
"When it is for you, you have to accept; when it is against you, you have to accept – like when it was a penalty in the first leg."
After a scarcely believable opening 22 minutes, which ended with City 3-2 ahead on the night after both teams had led inside the first 10, Pochettino anticipates another thrilling spectacle against Erik ten Hag's swashbuckling Ajax side in a semi-final that is just two weeks away.
"Football is unpredictable and I think the way Ajax play it is going to be an open game, a very offensive and exciting game," he added, in the knowledge that Son Heung-min – scorer of three goals in the quarter-final tie – will miss the opening leg through suspension.
"It is going to be a fantastic two legs. I am going to enjoy the game like I enjoyed it tonight."
21 de mayo 2019
|Rosberg ´strongly inspired´ by Lauda|
|Borussia Dortmund sign Germany defender Schulz|
|My blood is blue - Giroud relishing facing Arsenal in Europa League final|
|Wolff: Mercedes has lost a guiding light in legendary Lauda|
|Archer, Dawson named in England squad|
|Niki Lauda: Hill mourns ´remarkable´ three-time F1 champion|
|Bale named in Wales training squad amid Madrid exit speculation|
|Osasuna seal LaLiga return|
|Don´t underrate Warriors´ five straight NBA Finals – Kerr|
|Mets snap five-game losing streak|
|Warriors first team to five straight NBA Finals since 1966 Celtics|
|Green plans to fly out reporter for NBA Finals: You were good luck today|
|Three takeaways from Warriors´ sweep of Trail Blazers|
|Curry & Warriors team-mate Green make NBA playoff history|
|Warriors sweep Trail Blazers to reach NBA Finals|
|Mbappe wanted Madrid but PSG convinced him to stay – Emery|
|Pelinka: Lakers can win NBA championship next year|
|Three-time F1 champion Niki Lauda dies aged 70|
|Pochettino or Sarri for Juve? We´ll see – Lippi|
|Buccaneers release McCoy after nine seasons|
|England want to leave Europe and they´re in two finals – Mancini jokes about Brexit|
|Raptors star Leonard ´will be ready´ to face Bucks – Nurse|
|Iguodala out of Game 4 against Trail Blazers|
|Allegri inducted into Italian Football Hall of Fame|
|Steelers QB Roethlisberger ´genuinely sorry´ for Brown comments|
|Mets´ Cespedes fractures ankle in ranch accident|
|Italy remain at top table, Great Britain rally to relegate France|
|Guardiola convinced Kompany´s destined to return to Manchester City|
|Yastremska sets up Stosur clash in Strasbourg|
20 de mayo 2019
|Anderson stars for Lancashire on return from injury|
|Ebden and Seppi shocked in Geneva, Humbert shines at Lyon Open|
|AFC Champions League Review: Spain great Xavi ends playing career with defeat|
|Bernardo Silva makes Champions League pledge after winning Man City award|
|Henin impressed by Halep ahead of French Open defence|
|I love you, I´m out - Departing Kompany has his mic-drop moment in City´s trophy parade|
|Abelardo opts to leave post as Alaves coach|
|Magic Johnson points finger at Pelinka after Lakers power struggle|
|Junaid deletes inflammatory tweet following World Cup squad omission|
|Bosz: Champions League improves chances of keeping Brandt & Havertz|
|PSG insist Mbappe will stay despite forward´s ´new project´ comments|
|Former Salford forward Turgut hospitalised with ´severe injuries´|
|Potter takes over as Brighton and Hove Albion boss|
|Ancelotti happy at Napoli amid Juventus links|
|Hemel Stags on course for Ottawa relocation, New York club a work in progress|
|Nadal overtakes Federer´s top-10 streak|
|Omitting Wahab and Amir would have been foolish - Inzamam|
|Scotland appoint Kilmarnock boss Clarke|
|I´ll keep my place if Pogba arrives at Madrid – Kroos|
|Kroos: Madrid struggles ´normal´ after Champions League dominance|
|Pogba, Hazard and Mbappe in, Bale and Isco out? - Real Madrid set for busy close-season|
|Double amputee Monger stunned by Grand Prix de Pau triumph|
|Walter to take over Stuttgart from next season|
|Giannis expects Milwaukee to buck their ideas up after Game 3 loss|
|Bolivian FA confirms death of referee Victor Hugo Hurtado|
|Australia opener Burns leaves Lancashire for personal reasons|
|Record-breaking female driver Chadwick lands Williams development chance|
|Semedo cleared of concussion to boost Barcelona|
|Iguodala questionable for Game 4|
|Neymar should not captain Brazil at Copa America - Edmilson|
|Wahab, Amir and Asif named in final Pakistan World Cup squad|
|Bale staying at Madrid impossible as Zidane is ´not keen´ - Calderon|
|Kroos agrees Real Madrid extension to 2023|
|Gundogan to renew contract talks with Manchester City|
|Folau opts not to appeal against Rugby Australia ban, still considering options|
|Nadal clear French Open favourite – Djokovic|
|Nedved: No Juve decision amid Sarri and Inzaghi links|
|Gil Marin: We need players totally committed to Atletico|
|Gardner´s big game helps Yankees pull away from Rays|
|This is playoff basketball – Leonard on playing through injury in Raptors win|
|Second most NRL games and 99 tries – Cronk´s career in Opta numbers|