Tottenham’s new stadium WILL be the only place to host Champions League football in London this season after another night of incredible drama in Barcelona ended with Lucas Moura striking a late, late equaliser to send Spurs through to the last 16 of the Champions League.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men will be in the last 16 because Inter Milan could not overtake them after being held to a 1-1 draw by PSV Eindhoven in Group B’s other game.
It means Tottenham finished second of the group, having been bottom after their first three games, a remarkable turnaround.
And even more remarkably, they should have won comfortably in Barcelona but for an heroic display by Jasper Cillessen, one of many changes in the home side, who had already won the group.
Spurs were the better side, and created many more chances against a much-changed Barcelona, who left Lionel Messi on the bench until the 63rd minute.
His omission was the first dramatic moment of a memorable evening, in which Pochettino’s men achieved a landmark result that showed how much they have matured under him.
Ernesto Valverde had indicated on Monday evening that he was prepared to rest one or two players, including Luis Suarez who is just back from injury. But to see a Barcelona starting line-up shorn of so many regulars – and Messi – must have caused a pleasant surprise in the Tottenham dressing room.
As well as the great Argentinian, others dropped to the substitute’s bench included Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Artyro Vidal, as well as regular keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
His replacement, Cillessen went on to produce an outstanding display, as Barcelona let Spurs forward far too easily.
Yet the home side had started perfectly when Ousmane Dembele gave them the lead in the seventh minute. The forward was the talk of Barcelona before the game for turning up two hours late for training, not for the first time.
But there was nothing tardy about Dembele as he put Barcelona ahead with a goal of individual brilliance, albeit with the aid of a mistake from Kyle Walker-Peters, the rookie right-back who has yet to reach double figures in terms of appearances.
The youngster had initially done well with a run down the right that won a free-kick for Spurs, but when Christian Eriksen set-piece was cleared, the ball was worked back to Walker-Peters in the centre-circle. Whether through nerves or inexperience, the defender hesitated with what should have been a simple back pass and allowed Dembele to muscle him off the ball.
The French striker still had a lot to do, but he accomplished it with verve, speeding past Walker Peters, mugging Harry Winks into a sliding challenge with a dummied shot, and then placing his actual strike under the body of Hugo Lloris with power and precision.
It was a superb goal and a hammer blow to Tottenham’s hopes. They never recovered from an early concession against Barcelona at Wembley, and it took a while for them to settle into a rhythm here.
Dembele swept past Danny Rose again, but the England defender recovered to clear the danger, Philippe Coutinho fired in a shot and Carles Alena had a shot deflected over the bar.
But Tottenham eventually started playing their passing game and chances followed. On the half-hour mark, a patient build-up ended with Rose curling in a low cross only inches too far forward for Heung Min Son to convert. Two minutes later Eriksen put the Korean clean through on goal, but his low shot lacked conviction and Cillessen stuck out a leg to deflect the ball away. Son’s third chance of the first-half was created by the hustling Moussa Sissoko, but again the Korean’s shot was saved comfortably by Cillessen.
Tottenham received a warning that even without Messi, Barcelona have world-class midfielders, and Ivan Rakitic did a fine impersonation of his Argentinian team-mate with a mazy run followed by a shot that shaved the far post as half-time approached.
Rakitic was replaced by Sergio Busquets for the second-half, a sign perhaps that Valverde recognised Spurs had taken control of the game, but the pattern continued, with Tottenham creating the better chances and Cillessen keeping them at bay, almost singlehandedly at times. The Dutchman denied Eriksen three times in the second half, but his best save was a spectacular effort throwing himself full length to keep out a header from Moura, who had been introduced along with Erik Lamela to give Tottenham thrust going forward.
The substitution that brought the biggest roar of the night was when Messi was finally introduced in the 63rd minute. Coutinho struck the woodwork again soon afterwards, but Spurs kept pressing for a goal, which eventually came in the 86th minute. Lamela played in Kane on the left, but instead of shooting the England captain fired in a low cross that Moura converted from close range.
Suddenly Spurs were back in it. Inter had equalised in Milan, but now they were back ahead in the group with only minutes to play. Messi fired a free-kick wide and then shot high over the bar as Barcelona tried to regain the lead, but Spurs should have wrapped it up when Rose shot over from close range. In the end it did not matter, as Spurs went through, a fact that filtered through to the players after the final whistle from their jubilant fans high up in the Nou Camp.
Long after the end they were still singing, as well they might. Spurs had produced a marvellous display and got the result they needed.
Now for the next round.
BARCELONA 4-3-3: Cillessen 9; N Semedo 6, Vermaelen 6, Lenglet 6, Miranda 6; Arthur 7, Alena 6, Rakitic 6 (Busquets 46); Dembele 7 (Suarez 76), Munir 6 (Messi 63) Coutinho 8 Barcelona
Subs not used: Ter Stegen, Pique, Alba, Vidal
TOTTENHAM 4-2-3-1 Lloris 6; Walker-Peters 6 (Lamela 61), Alderweireld 7, Vertonghen 6, Rose 8; Winks 8 (Llorente 83), Sissoko 6; Eriksen 9, Dele Alli 8, Son 6 (Lucas 71); Kane 8 Tottenham.
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Davies, Dier, Skipp Ref: Milorad Mazic, Serbia