Son Heung-min scored the only goal of the game when Tottenham beat Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
The South Korean struck a powerful shot under the body of City keeper Ederson 12 minutes from time, a just reward for a player who epitomised Tottenham’s gutsy spirit.
Tottenham’s hero at the other end of the field was goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman saved Sergio Aguero’s penalty to prevent City taking an early lead.
It would have been harsh if Spurs had gone behind after referee Bjorn Kuipers used VAR to decide that Danny Rose was guilty of handball.
That wasn’t the only obstacle Spurs had to overcome on a night when their new stadium rocked to the sound of 60,000 voices.
England captain Harry Kane hobbled off on 58 minutes after clattering into Fabian Delph and Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino’s initial impression was that it might be the last he sees of his talisman this season.
“It looks like it is the same ankle and similar injury,” he said, referring to the injury that sidelined the striker for six weeks at the start of the year.
“It is very sad and very disappointing. We are going to miss him – maybe for the rest of the season. It is a worry for us. We hope it is not a big issue, but there is not too much time to recover. He twisted his ankle so we will see how it reacts.”
City will be deflated not down as they reflect on a 90 minutes when – penalty apart – they rarely threatened the Tottenham goal.
On the plus side, the outcome was far better than 12 months ago when they lost 3-0 to Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final. But a marked improvement is required before the return leg at the Etihad next Wednesday.
“Last season was much worse,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “Except for a few chances we conceded in set-pieces and some counter-attacks, we controlled the game and played quite well.”
City mustered only two shots on target but Guardiola refused to criticise his side’s lack of firepower.
“When we don’t play well I say it, but I don’t have that feeling,” said the Spaniard. “[Spurs] are a team who press a lot but they couldn’t do that – especially in the second half, when we arrived many times in the final third.”
Curiously City, so dominant in the Premier League in recent seasons, have now lost all three Champions League matches against their domestic rivals (twice to Liverpool last season). The pressure is on their shoulders ahead of the second leg on 17 April.
Nonetheless, pleased as he was with the performance, Spurs boss Pochettino is aware how big the challenge remains.
“We are happy as we showed great quality,” he said. “The performance was good but there’s still 90 minutes to go… I think the team deserved the victory but there is still work to do.
“Manchester City are still the favourites but the victory makes us believe a little bit more.”