Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino says his side’s dramatic Champions League quarter-final victory over Manchester City was a “reward from the universe.”
The London club progressed through to the semi-finals of Europe’s premier competition for the first time since 1962 after a remarkable second leg at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
Though Tottenham were beaten 4-3 on the night, they advanced on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate draw.
That only told half the story, however, with Raheem Sterling seemingly winning the game for City in stoppage-time only to see the goal ruled out following a VAR review.
Reflecting on the game after returning to their training ground in the capital, Pochettino said: “We are all tired. But an amazing, crazy and unbelievable night.
“I believe in the universe. In November it was not destiny. At the beginning of the season, nobody believed that destiny was going to reward us. And five years ago, nobody believed we would be here. You need to work hard, to have the option to be rewarded by the universe.”
When asked what was going through his mind when Sterling beat Hugo Lloris in stoppage-time and seemingly dumped Tottenham out of the competition, the Argentine conceded it was the lowest moment of his managerial career.
"I threw off my jacket, threw down my jumper and went to sit next to Jesus [Perez] and Toni Jimenez,” said the 47-year-old. “It was so fast. There were a lot of bad feelings and bad ideas.
“In that moment, yes, of course [it was the lowest moment of his career]. It was going to be a massive situation emotionally.
“We would have been very down. In that moment, you start to think, ‘Why?’ You think of that action where Christian Eriksen played the pass back. ‘Why not play forwards?’ I was reviewing the action, the decision, in my head. How was I going to face the players? The fans? You guys?
“All these scenarios happened so quickly in my mind. And then I heard Jesus’s voice saying, 'Oh, maybe it is offside, VAR checking', and in that moment I was alive again. I understand the situation on City’s bench; from top of the world down, disappointed. That is unbelievable, the emotion we lived was amazing.”
The win means Tottenham go through to face Ajax in the semi-finals. The Dutch side are in this stage of the competition for the first time since 1996 after a fine run that has seen them knock out Real Madrid and Juventus in successive rounds.
And Pochettino insists those results mean Tottenham should not be considered favourites when they go head-to-head with the Dutch giants despite their heroics against City.
“We need to be humble, for sure, because beating City, nobody expected that, it can give massive belief,” he added.
“But if you are not clever enough to manage that in a good way, you can make a mistake — that victory can make you weaker. It is so important to respect Ajax. They beat Real Madrid and Juventus, so they are more favourites than us — that is a reality.
“If they are not bigger favourites than us, they are the same level. We must respect them.”