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Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino: My players are heroes

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino: My players are heroes
By PA Sport

13/02/2019 at 22:52Updated 14/02/2019 at 06:17

Second-half strikes from Son Heung-min, Jan Vertonghen and Fernando Llorente gave Spurs victory.

Mauricio Pochettino hailed Tottenham’s “heroes” after his side blew away Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Spurs will travel to Germany next month with a commanding 3-0 advantage following second-half strikes from Son Heung-min, Jan Vertonghen and substitute Fernando Llorente at Wembley.

The emphatic victory came with the team once again missing key England duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli due to injury, while Vertonghen was deployed out of position at left wing-back because of the absences of Danny Rose and Ben Davies.

Although manager Pochettino was delighted with the performance of his players, he also warned that they are not yet assured a place in the quarter-finals.

“With all the circumstances we have, the team is fighting, the team is getting results. I feel so proud for that. My players are heroes,” said Pochettino.

“They deserve full credit, a lot of praise because the effort they are doing this season is amazing.”

He added: “It’s only the first leg, it’s only the first half of the tie – 3-0 is a very good result but when you have a team like Borussia Dortmund, always you need to respect and we need to think that we need to go to Dortmund with the idea to win.

Jan Vertonghen, left, and Son Heung-min both found the net

“We are happy now but still a lot of work to do.”

Spurs were arguably second best in the opening period against the Bundesliga leaders.

Dortmund’s own England star, Jadon Sancho, caused problems, including delivering a pin-point cross on to the head of Dan-Axel Zagadou, which forced Hugo Lloris to claw the ball away just before the interval.

Jadon Sancho could not inspire Borussia Dortmund to victory

Son, who scored twice in two meetings with the Bundesliga leaders last season, volleyed home two minutes after the restart to shift the momentum in the hosts’ favour, before Vertonghen and Llorente potentially put the tie beyond Lucien Favre’s visitors.

Pochettino admitted he needed to make tactical readjustments at the break to secure the win and, with 10 days until the club’s next fixture, plans to reward his players and himself with some time off.

“First half was very, very difficult. First of all because we never felt the confidence to play. I think we took some rash decisions. It was like we weren’t comfortable, we didn’t feel what we planned to play,” said the Argentinian.

“After fixing some problems, showing them some clips on the half-time and talking a little bit in different positions (we improved).

“And with a little bit of luck because I think when you score – the confidence was a massive boost when Son scored. That made the team start to perform better and I think fully deserved in the end the victory. I think it’s a massive victory for us.

“The players deserve all the credit because they were fantastic. They win the possibility to have a few days off.

“I cannot tell you (my plans) but I am going to be out of England.”

Dortmund boss Favre felt his side gifted Spurs the opening goal and struggled to recover.

“We played well in the first half, had a couple of chances and we defended very well,” he said.

“The start of the second half, we gave it away. We should get the ball forward rather than try and play. When we lost the ball, the cross came straight in and that was in the back of the net.

“Unfortunately, that’s a gift. And after that we tried but played a bit too hastily.”

Dortmund have now gone four games without victory in all competitions.

Favre added: “I haven’t got any particular worries. You have phases like that when it’s difficult and things don’t run as they should do.”