Thursday 27 October 2016

Mauricio Pochettino: Spurs should be aiming for Europa League final

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino has challenged Tottenham to reach the Europa League final this season.

The Argentinian saw his side come from behind to beat Qarabag 3-1 in their Group J opener on Thursday night with summer signing Son Heung-min scoring twice on his home debut.

The Azerbaijan Premier League champions took a surprise lead at White Hart Lane as debutant Kieran Trippier felled Ansi Agolli in the box and Richard Almeida converted the resulting penalty.

But Son then struck twice in three first-half minutes to turn the game around, with Erik Lamela adding another late on to seal a hard-fought victory.

Spurs were knocked out by Fiorentina at the round-of-32 stage last season and have not reached the quarter-finals since 2013 but Pochettino believes they can do better this time around.

"It is not easy to win the Europa league," he said.

"Whether it is more realistic or not is the big question, like last season. As a big club we have to try to arrive in the final and win the Europa League."

Son was played as a lone striker with goalless Harry Kane named on the bench - the first time the England international has not started for Tottenham since February.

But last season's top goalscorer was not missed as Son marked his White Hart Lane bow with a first-half brace - first turning home Andros Townsend's low corner and then slotting home after smart work from Dele Alli.

"He scored twice and played one hour," Pochettino said of the South Korean's display.

"His performance you can see I am very pleased with him, very happy. His adaptation to the club has been good from the beginning.

"I think I explained before the Sunderland game that Son can play like a striker. He can also play wider. He has the quality to play in different positions on the pitch.

"I think it wasn't an easy game. We conceded an early goal. But I am happy because the team showed character and in different periods we played well. We had a lot of players playing for the first time - and it is different to training - and for that the victory is very good for us."

Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov was unhappy at his side's defending after they left Son unmarked to score the equaliser from five yards out - but he leaves England with the confidence his team can compete.

"We didn't deserve to lose," he said.

"We know that they are a good team, our players made some mistakes but I don't want to speak about the first goal because it was unacceptable but I hope in the next games we can gain the results we are looking for."

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