Tottenham 2-2 Everton: Mauricio Pochettino aiming to make history after securing fourth place in the Premier League
These are heady days for Mauricio Pochettino.
After a dismal run of seven defeats in 11 Premier League games threatened to derail all Tottenham’s good work in the first half of the season, one game in midweek changed everything.
Lucas Moura’s hat-trick in Amsterdam on Wednesday turned the normally reserved Argentinian into an overwhelmed, passionate and tearful one, simultaneously transforming the complexion of Spurs’ 2018-19 campaign.
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Liverpool now await in the Champions League final while today's 2-2 draw with Everton ensured fourth place in the Premier League. With Chelsea held to a 0-0 draw at Leicester, the result represented a missed opportunity to grab third place at the last – and yet watching on you wouldn’t have known it.
Apart from a manic three-minute second-half spell in which goals from Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun punctured the mood momentarily, there was a party atmosphere in the sunshine-soaked Tottenham Hostpur Stadium.
And while Moura may be the man of the moment, it was Pochettino who the majority of the 60,124 fans were cheering for in between celebrating goals from Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen.
It took just three minutes for the South Stand to boom out the frequent “Pochettino is magic” refrain and it was only Dier’s opener which cut it short. The Spurs coach remained calm throughout, leaving the touchline prowling to his opposite number Marco Silva and lapping up the adulation from his seat.
Once the game was over, the lap of appreciation in front a near-full stadium showed the reverence Spurs fans have for their manager, Pochettino strolling around with a wide grin on his face while he was serenaded from the stands.
“We are so proud. It’s our best season after five seasons and I am so happy,” he said afterwards. “To realise what we achieved today – top four and the final of Champions League. It might take time but I think people will realise.”
Finishing the campaign inside a buzzing new stadium, it was easy to forget the trials and tribulations Pochettino has been forced to work under, with the move-in delay forcing a prolonged stay at Wembley. Given that came amid a context of no signings in the last two transfer windows, Pochettino’s leadership was an important constant.
“Always we were very positive,” he reflected. “The way that we handled everything. We feel more than proud. Football is about taking risks, being brave, working hard and being positive in a difficult moment. When a lot of situations happened in the season we could have given up, but our strength was to fight.”
With the domestic campaign done, the countdown to Madrid on 1 June begins.
“Now is about focusing on working hard, being clever with our plan, how we are going to handle the players, to arrive in the best condition in the final to make history,” Pochettino said.
“We are making history, but if we win we are going to write history and change the perception of this amazing club. The club, the fans – we all deserve to be focused on how we can win the final. That is the only objective.”