Tottenham Hotspur produced a bold and spirited performance, coming from behind to grab a 1-1 draw at Barcelona which saw them finish second in Champions League Group B and reach the last-16 at the expense of Inter Milan on Tuesday.
Spurs were facing a much-changed Barca side who had already qualified in first place and started without talisman Lionel Messi but they fell behind to an astonishing run and strike from Ousmane Dembele in the seventh minute.
Tottenham dominated much of the game but were repeatedly denied by outstanding saves from Barca’s reserve goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen before pulling level when Lucas Moura turned in a Harry Kane cross from close range in the 85th minute.
Danny Rose spurned a glorious chance to give Spurs the win but they squeezed through to the knockout stages thanks to Inter Milan drawing 1-1 at home to already-eliminated PSV Eindhoven.
It meant both teams finished with eight points but Spurs qualified due to their superior head-to-head record.
Barcelona, who equalled Bayern Munich’s Champions League record run of 29 home games without defeat, were runaway winners of the group on 14 points.
The result capped a fine comeback in the group from Spurs, who had taken only one point from their opening three games in the campaign and looked dead and buried after conceding late in a 2-2 draw at PSV in October.
“I’m so happy, so proud, I remember that after PSV, no-one believed in us, it was mission impossible, but we are here, we’re in the next round,” Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino told a news conference.
“It’s a massive achievement for the club, we’re happy for there fans here and around the world, it’s a massive boost for the club and to be able to play in the knockout rounds next year in the new stadium is a massive motivation for us.”
To guarantee a knock-out place, Tottenham needed to become the first team since Bayern Munich in 2013 to win at the Nou Camp in the Champions League and were encouraged by Barca coach Ernesto Valverde making seven changes from Saturday’s 4-0 win at Espanyol.
Messi was the most prominent of the absentees although he came on in the second half, while first-choice keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, crucial left back Jordi Alba and key defender Gerard Pique were left out along with injured striker Luis Suarez.
Pochettino’s side made a dominant start but were shredded on the counter-attack by the sheer pace and skill of Dembele, who robbed Danny Rose in his own half, dashed past him and dribbled past another defender before smashing into the net.
Dembele was a surprise inclusion in the Barca side after turning up two hours late to training on Sunday but repaid the lenience of Valverde with a mesmerizing display down the right wing.
Son Heung-min was denied by the legs of Cillessen in the first half and the Dutch goalkeeper continued to thwart the visitors until Moura found a way through, sparking jubilant scenes from the sizeable contingent of away supporters.
“We had quite a few chances, it just wasn’t going in but we carried on and got the goal back,” said Kane.
“We still carried on trying to score more, we weren’t sure what the other score was. We’re just buzzing that we’re through. A draw away to Barcelona’s not a bad result
Mohamed Salah’s delightful first-half strike gave Liverpool a 1-0 win over Napoli that sent them into the Champions League’s last 16 and the Italian side crashing out at a tension-filled Anfield on Tuesday.
Liverpool knew that a 1-0 win, or a victory by two goals or more, would be enough to seal a top-two spot in Group C, and Salah was again the hero for the hosts, scoring what proved to be the winner with a magical individual burst in the 34th minute.
Napoli pressed for a leveller in the second half, with Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson denying Arkadiusz Milik in stoppage time with a superb save, but the home side’s resolute defence stood firm to the intense relief of the home fans.
Paris St Germain’s 4-1 victory at Red Star Belgrade meant they finished top with 11 points while Napoli, who started the day leading the way, exited the competition as Liverpool snatched second spot on goals scored after both teams finished with nine points.
“I’m still full of good feeling,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. “This game was just amazing. Outstanding, unbelievable. The boys played with their whole heart on the pitch.”
Klopp stuck with the midfield three that struggled against PSG in their last Champions League match and it was Napoli who found their rhythm first, creating some promising openings early on.
Salah was then presented with a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock, but his touch let him down at the last moment while at the other end, Marek Hamsik could not find the target from a good position.
Kalidou Koulibaly was doing a fine job of marking Salah, until the Egyptian produced a moment of magic to score the only goal of the game, skipping past Koulibaly before slotting in from a tight angle — his 34th goal for Liverpool in 2018 in all competitions.
Liverpool really should have extended their lead in the second half, with Salah firing wide from a good position, before Sadio Mane was denied by a fine save from David Ospina.
Napoli saved their best attacking play for the latter stages, with Jose Callejon firing over from close range, before Mane somehow shot wide when he should have scored.
Milik almost broke Liverpool hearts right at the death, only to be denied by Alisson, who raced from his line to make a game-saving block.
“Napoli have gone very close but not quite far enough,” Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti said.
“We have no regrets really. The players have done well in such a very difficult group. It would have been a wonderful achievement to qualify. Lots of people did not even think we would take it this far.”