If there is one thing worse than watching a match through your fingers, it is watching two matches that way. At any moment, Barcelona could have consigned Tottenham to the hinterland of the Europa League; at any moment Inter Milan could have done the same.
When referee Milorad Mazic blew the final whistle, Tottenham’s travellers in the top tier of the Nou Camp began wild celebrations. Yet the game wasn’t over in Italy. Had Inter found a winner against PSV Eindhoven it would have been devastating. It never came. The party then began in earnest two minutes later. Tottenham were through. Not victoriously through. Not entirely convincingly through over the campaign, given that a minimum of 14 other qualifiers will have progressed with a superior points total. Yet this was a magnificent performance in its way. Harry Winks, Dele Alli, worked like stink in midfield; the forwards stretched Barcelona, creating at least six good chances.
Lucas Moura scored a late equaliser as Tottenham held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw in Champions League Group B
Moura’s strike — coupled with PSV holding Inter Milan to a 1-1 draw elsewhere — saw Spurs sneak through in second place
Brazilian Moura slammed home from close range to give Spurs the goal their play had deserved on a testing night in Catalonia
France speedster Ousmane Dembele had earlier given Barcelona the lead after just seven minutes on Tuesday evening
MATCH FACTS, GROUP TABLE AND PLAYER RATINGS
BARCELONA (4-3-3): Cillessen 8; Semedo 6.5, Lenglet 6.5, Vermaelen 7.5, Miranda 6; Alena 6, Rakitic 6.5 (Busquets 46, 6.5), Arthur 6; Coutinho 6.5, Munir 5 (Messi 63, 6.5), Dembele 8 (D Suarez 76, n/a)
GOAL: Dembele 7
SUBS NOT USED: Ter Stegen, Pique, Alba, Vidal
TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1): Lloris 6.5; Walker-Peters 6 (Lamela 61, 7), Alderweireld 7, Vertonghen 7, Rose 6.5; Winks 6 (Llorente 83, n/a), Sissoko 6.5; Eriksen 7.5, Alli 6, Son 7(Moura 71, 7); Kane 7
GOAL: Moura 85
SUBS NOT USED: Gazzaniga, Davies, Skipp, Dier
REF: Milorad Mazic (Serbia)
Tottenham’s goal came from a seven-pass move which concluded with No 27 Moura slotting home after an assist from No 10 Kane
Left back Danny Rose got forward a lot, as his heat map illustrates
For more stats and maps visit Sportsmail’s Match Zone.
And this was a hard job, no matter the XI Barcelona sent out. There really isn’t any such thing as a Barcelona reserve team anyway. Not as we would know it. This wasn’t the stiffs, to use football parlance; it wasn’t the kids in the EFL Cup on a Wednesday night. Barcelona’s two wide forwards, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho, cost in the region of £275m. And when coach Ernesto Valverde wanted to change up with 27 minutes remaining, he brought on some chap called Lionel Messi who looked like he could do a bit, too. So it’s always tough getting a point out of Barcelona. But Tottenham never stopped believing they could do it. And, eventually, it happened for them.
Did the players know that Inter had scored? Maybe, maybe not, but they had to presume it. They had to presume they would need at least a draw as the game headed towards conclusion and, if there was any uncertainty, a series of positive, attacking substitutions by Mauricio Pochettino would have provided at least a clue.
Late changes have brought dividends for Pochettino in this competition, and so it proved again. A substitute, Lucas Moura scored the winner, another substitute, Erik Lamela, started that move. It was no more than Tottenham deserved. They did the job, which was to match Inter Milan’s result. Inter fell short because they had to better Tottenham. A win at home to PSV Eindhoven would have done it. If you cannot beat PSV at home, knowing that is the target, too, you probably aren’t among the top 16 teams in Europe.
Liverpool are the only English club to win in Nou Camp – twice, actually – but here was a draw that felt like 10-0. Not least because Messi, nemesis of so many opponents was on the field when Tottenham finally got their breakthrough. They had been getting closer and closer, pressing harder and harder. A Harry Kane header, cleared on its way to goal; a chance for Moura that somehow goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen clawed away from the line. Tottenham gave it their all, but still a lone mistake by Kyle Walker-Peters, a battlefield promotion, separated the teams. Everyone felt for the young man.
Dembele dispossessed Champions League debutant Kyle Walker-Peters in the build-up to scoring the game’s opening goal
Young right back Walker-Peters attempted to redeem himself with a late slide tackle but he could not block Dembele’s shot
Tottenham goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris was unable to prevent Dembele’s low effort from squirming under his body
Walker-Peters looked distraught as he held his head in his hands after making a mistake which was punished by Barcelona
Dembele punched the air as he celebrated his ninth goal of the season in all competitions but there was still a long way to go
A torrid start continued for Walker-Peters in the 15th minute of the game when he was shown a yellow card by the referee
Yet Barcelona were holding on, despite a makeshift combination of young and old at the back. Sporting Lisbon came here with similar hopes to Tottenham last year – Barcelona through and nothing to play for, the Portuguese needing victory to progress – and lost 2-0. Try as they might, Tottenham were headed for a similar fate.
Yet they kept on keeping on. Moura’s fresh legs replacing Hueng-min Son, asking more questions. And, finally, Barcelona had no answer. Lamela fed the ball out to Kane and his cross was as sweet as could be delivered by any midfield creator, picking out Moura, timing his run perfectly, splitting the defence and pushing the ball past Cillessen. Tottenham barely celebrated. The mission had now changed. They had to survive the last five minutes, plus injury time. They hung in there. They got through. It was as good as they could have played, without winning.
Poor Walker-Peters, though. Thrown into such a crucial game, in effect Tottenham’s third choice right back, he arrived with the confident endorsement of Pochettino yet spent 78 minutes knowing his mistake had made Tottenham’s task that much harder.
Desperately needing a solid start, just seven minutes had gone when Walker-Peters lost his footing and Tottenham looked to have lost their foothold in the Champions League knockout stage. To be fair, he wasn’t the only Tottenham man slipping and sliding. The surface is watered pre-game to better aid Barcelona’s slick passing style and this, combined with the moisture of the evening, seemed to leave Tottenham compromised. Moussa Sissoko slipped, so did Danny Rose and others, but Walker-Peters misstep proved particularly calamitous, coming so early and costing a goal.
South Korean Heung-min Son created a chance to equalise for Tottenham when he skipped past a sliding Thomas Vermaelen
But Son was unable to convert as he was denied by Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen (left) in a one-on-one situation
Philippe Coutinho (right) caused Tottenham problems during the first half and came close to scoring when he hit the post
It was Barcelona’s first significant attack of the game, too, and while the break was a gift, the finish was divine. A Tottenham set piece was cleared and as he moved to mop up the loose ball, Walker-Peters stumbled and Ousmane Dembele pounced. He had been heavily fined by the club for arriving at training two hours late on Sunday and was perhaps trying to make amends. If so, apology accepted. What a goal this was.
Dembele seized the ball and sped away as Walker-Peters tried forlornly to recover. Just when he thought he may have made sufficient ground, the Barcelona man knocked it past him and streaked away again, Walker-Peters struggling in his wake. Winks came across in a desperate attempt to cover and time seemed to slow. Winks lunged desperately, as Dembele delicately pulled the ball back. Winks kept going, into football wilderness, as Dembele brought the ball back onto his other foot, and knocked it underneath the advancing Hugo Lloris. It was a fabulous passage of play, made all the more so by Dembele starting deep inside Tottenham’s half. He had options but he went it alone. If any team-mates were muttering about his selfishness at the start, they certainly will not have been by the end.
Tottenham will never have a better chance to win at Nou Camp was the perceived wisdom before the game, but that rather underplayed the potential of Barcelona’s second string. Coutinho came very close to scoring before half-time, Carles Alena is regarded as the hottest property out of Barcelona’s academy in recent seasons.
Yet Tottenham were not without chances of their own. They took a while to get going but either side of half-time forced three good opportunities. Son was agonisingly close to touching a Christian Eriksen cross past Cillessen and soon after should have scored one on one. Kane played in Eriksen who forced the save of the night from Cillessen. It looked as if it would end in frustration and heartbreak. Instead, the planets aligned. Tottenham can regroup and go again from here. They start with a clean slate in Europe in 2019, and memories of a result that suggests anything is possible.
Barcelona icon Lionel Messi started the match as a substitute and spent the entirety of the first half sat on the hosts’ bench
Messi picked up the captain’s armband and wrapped it around his left bicep after being introduced for the final 30 minutes
Spurs pushed for an equaliser and Lucas (second right) had a bouncing header well saved by Barca keeper Jasper Cillessen
But Cillessen was unable to deny Moura later in the second half when the ball ended up in the back of Barcelona’s net
Moura celebrated his goal with Tottenham No 10 Harry Kane, who had assisted him with a measured pass across the box
After full time, Kane hugged captain Lloris who could not hide his joy and wore a huge grin as Spurs heard PSV had held on
Erik Lamela (centre) led the post-match celebrations as Tottenham’s players saluted their fans in the crowd at the Nou Camp