Mauricio Pochettino has labelled his Tottenham players "heroes" following their Champions League quarter-final victory over Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s side secured a 4-3 win in the second leg at the Etihad on Wednesday night, but Spurs prevailed on away goals having won the first leg 1-0 in London last week.
Raheem Sterling had a stoppage-time strike chalked off for offside as VAR came to Tottenham’s rescue – and Pochettino admitted he had turned his back on events at the denouement of a pulsating contest.
I didn’t watch, admitted Pochettino when asked about Sterling’s disallowed goal. It’s difficult after the game to be relaxed or calm. You need to trust VAR when it is for you.
I’ve said before that the decision to include VAR in football is going to change the game, and I’m in favour of trying to help the referees. You need to accept the decision both when it is for or against you.
The most important thing now is that we’re into the semi-finals and I think we deserve to be there. My players are heroes, and I told you before the game that I would feel proud of them no matter what happened.
To reach the semi-finals and create history, I am more than proud for them.
Pochettino believes an open semi-final tie lies ahead against Ajax, who have shocked Europe by advancing in the knockout stages at the expense of Real Madrid and Juventus already.
Spurs will be without Heung-Min Son through suspension and the injured Harry Kane for the first leg of their semi-final against the Dutch side at home, but Pochettino highlighted what can be achieved through collective strength.
He added: Of course, it’s better to play with everyone fit, and we’re going to miss some players. We’ll have to see if [Moussa] Sissoko is going to be ready. Football is about the squad and the collective effort.
The most important thing is to have the belief to be competitive, but right now is not the time to think about the semi-final.
We have to enjoy this a little bit and then be ready for Saturday because we’re going to be here again, and it’s going to be another big battle.
The Argentine stopped short of admitting that this was his greatest match in management, citing the fact that his side ultimately lost the second leg.
Of course, this is one of the best moments [in my career] as reaching the semi-finals was a dream before, and now we are there.
The reality is Tottenham still need to improve if we want to be at the level of Manchester City, Real Madrid or Barcelona – the big sides in Europe – but we’re in a very good way.
Today we showed that all is possible in football. Our team has the character and personality to fight and believe that all is possible.
It’s a massive achievement for us after five years that we’ve been able to translate that belief into these performances and achieve big things.