Mauricio Pochettino declared it was ‘job done’ after Tottenham reached the knock-out stages of the Europa League.
The Tottenham manager sprang a surprise by picking England striker Harry Kane in a strong starting line-up against Group J minnows Qarabag in Baku, despite facing Chelsea less than 72 hours later.
But the move paid off as Kane nodded in the winner to ensure Tottenham’s longest-ever journey for a competitive fixture – a 5,000-mile round trip to the capital of Azerbaijan – proved worthwhile as they made the last 32 with a match to spare.
“We are through to the next round and this was our objective,” said Pochettino.
“The objective is gone now. We will make sure we will arrive in a good condition to play Chelsea. We have a strong squad and a strong mentality, with the maturity.
“It is true we arrive maybe not in the best condition to compete in the right way but respect to our medical staff for what they do, they will work during the flight and tomorrow we have a day off. On Saturday we will assess.”
It was shaping up to be a frustrating evening for Spurs, with both Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli denied by the woodwork.
On the hour mark, Son unleashed a cracker from the edge of the box which clattered off the crossbar and 10 minutes later Alli’s far-post volley came back off the foot of the post.
But moments later Kane made the breakthrough, after Son flicked on Christian Eriksen’s corner, getting the final touch to nod the ball over the line.
With nine goals in his last six games, Kane’s stunning form has led to speculation about his future in January – not least with Sunday’s opponents having been linked with a move.
But Pochettino added: “I am happy that a big club want our players – this is because they show they are a top player with top performances. It is good when they are linked.
“But Harry, like Hugo Lloris, wants to stay here. He is one of the best players and he is very happy. He wants to grow up with us and try the next few years to try for the top four and win titles with Tottenham. This is his challenge.”
Qarabag, previously unbeaten at home in Europe this season, showed little ambition but still spurned a glorious chance on the stroke of half-time when Dani Quintana fired too close to Spurs keeper Lloris.
Their boss Gurban Gurbanov said: “Of course we opportunities to score. But we have to accept our opponent was powerful and the result was fair. It was justified in the performance.”
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