LONDON. — Mauricio Pochettino admitted he got his tactics wrong in Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-0 defeat to Ajax in the first leg of their Champions League football semi-final on Tuesday night.
Slicker and sharper than their hosts, Ajax’s crop of talented youngsters pinned Spurs back during an utterly dominant opening 30 minutes where Pochettino had set his team up in a 5-3-2 formation. Ajax were able to find space in midfield and got their deserved goal when Donny van de Beek netted a priceless away goal. “Watching now of course I can accept it was a mistake the shape we used,” Pochettino told BT Sport. “But there were not too many options. I am not happy — you cannot guess what happens if we play in a different way. But our lack of energy and (we were) a little sloppy.
“It was the not the shape that conceded the goal. Our approach to the game was not good. I am the manager, so I have responsibility.”
A head injury to Jan Vertonghen forced the Spurs boss to change things before the break, allowing for the introduction of Moussa Sissoko to beef up the midfield and switch to a 4-4-2. Spurs looked a different side, finding more opportunities to force Ajax back, although they failed to produce the quality in the final third to score an equaliser.
“After we conceded the goal — 25 to 30 minutes in — we started to be in the game,” said Pochettino. “When Moussa Sissoko was in, he provided good energy and we played better. Second half we pushed them deeper and pressed in a way we wanted to press. The second half gives us hope for the second leg.”
Meanwhile, Ajax’s fairytale season continues with a Champions League final now “within reach”, Dutch media gushed yesterday following the Amsterdam underdogs’ 1-0 victory over Tottenham in London.
“Finals are in sight,” headlined popular daily tabloid De Telegraaf after Donny van de Beek’s early goal on Tuesday night pushed Ajax one step closer to the possibility for the first time in 23 years. The road to the Champions League final lies open for Ajax,” the paper said, adding coach “Erik ten Hag’s eleven in the first half gave a masterclass performance.”
“The second half was more difficult . . . but the only thing the Amsterdammers could be held accountable for is that they did not score more goals to make moot a home game on May 8,” said De Telegraaf. — Sky Sports.