Son Heung-Min admits Spurs must learn from painful Champions League defeat to Juventus

Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-Min was in tears at the final whistle after defeat to Italian side Juventus but said his side will do better next season. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Son Heung-Min admits Spurs must learn from painful Champions League defeat to Juventus

LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-Min says the club must learn from their painful Champions League exit at the hands Juventus, which denied them a place in the quarterfinals of Europe’s premier competition.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side were on course for the last eight after Son’s first-half goal put them 1-0 up on the night and 3-2 ahead on aggregate.
But the Italian champions stunned Wembley with two goals in three second-half minutes from Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala.
In the dying seconds Harry Kane thought he had taken the tie to extra time, only to see his header come back off the inside of the far post before being cleared off the line.
Son, who was in tears after the final whistle, said: “That hurt, but it’s football. We played well but sometimes football is like this. We have to accept the result but still for me, it hurts a lot.
“What was the difference? Nothing. At the start we played well, we created lots of chances, got to 1-0 and made the perfect start I think.
“This game we can learn something from, but this is sad news. The dressing room was quiet.”
Tottenham’s European campaign, including wins over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, was a vast improvement on the previous season, when they failed to get past the group stage.
South Korea’s Son said Spurs were “unlucky” to be out of the Champions League but had earned valuable experience.
“We remember last season, we went out in the group stage so now we did well, we learned something again and next season we will do better,” he said.
“Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund doesn’t matter anymore. I thought we were better than (Juventus) but it doesn’t matter now — they scored two goals at Wembley Stadium,” he added.
And Pochettino insisted Tottenham had nothing to be ashamed of after three minutes of madness ended their European run.
Tottenham were on course to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2011 until Juventus completely flipped the script. The result was a bitter blow for Spurs and the loss will raise fresh questions about their ability to win major trophies under Pochettino.
But, yet to land any silverware with the north Londoners, Pochettino bristled at suggestions Tottenham aren’t mentally strong enough to win on the big occasions.
“All this talk is rubbish. At the end it is win or lose. When you assess the game, I think only Tottenham was better for more than 70 minutes,” he said.
“If Harry (Kane) scored at the end or we scored twice in the first half, maybe we are talking differently. I’m happy with my players. We did everything to try to win.
“It was not a lack of experience, not a lack of concentration. How many chances did we concede?
“We conceded three chances and they scored twice. We had a lot of chances and only scored one.
“We can talk about a lot of situations, but sometimes you need some luck to win.”


Zoran Mamic warns Al-Ain they face tough task against River Plate in FIFA Club World Cup semifinal

Updated 1 min 26 sec ago
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Zoran Mamic warns Al-Ain they face tough task against River Plate in FIFA Club World Cup semifinal

  • UAE side to face Argentine giants in last-four clash on home ground on Tuesday.
  • Winner likely to play Real Madrid in the final.

LONDON: Al-Ain have been told they have to turn up with their A-game against River Plate tomorrow or they can forget about a dream final against Real Madrid in the FIFA Club World Cup.
That is the message from the side’s coach Zoran Mamic, who saw “The Boss” beat Esperance Sportive de Tunis 3-0 on Saturday to book their semifinal spot against the Argentine giants.
Goals from Mohamed Ahmed, Hussein El-Shahat and Bandar Mohammed gave the hosts an emphatic victory over the African champions at their Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.
But Mamic is only too aware that beating the champions of Tunisia is one thing, taking on the Copa Libertadores winners is of another proportion entirely.
“River one of the biggest teams in the world, with a great history and we are playing against them in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup, but we have to enjoy it, we have to be proud and we have to make it difficult for River,” the Croatian said.
“We watched the games against Boca and they are very very strong, we just have to be better to survive this game.”
In Al-Ain’s favor, bar playing at home, is the fact that Mamic has a good knowledge of River and Argentine football, and he, like many football fans around the world, was a keen spectator of the Copa Libertadores final when the Buenos Aires side beat their arch-rivals Boca Juniors.
“It’s a great story for me, before I became a coach I worked as a sporting director for Dynamo Zagreb and I would travel to watch players. My first time in Argentina, first match was Boca vs. River, that was maybe 10-12 years ago,” Mamic revealed.
However, anyone thinking Al-Ain will be overawed by their opponents and the occasion had better think again.
“(River’s Marcelo Gallardo) is a great coach, they have done very well and he obviously knows how to talk to his players, but they have to respect us, we have shown we can play good football. I’m sure it will be an interesting game and I hope the stadium will be full,” Mamic said. “I also hope some Argentinian fans come because they create a good atmosphere. River had a great season, they won the Copa, the coach from River Plate cannot be bad.”
Al-Ain very nearly did not make it to the quarterfinals against Esperance, let alone the last-four clash against River. 3-0 down in their opening match against Team Wellington, a side made up of amateur players, the hosts looked like they were heading for an embarrassing early exit. A remarkable comeback, however, that saw Marcus Berg equalize with just five minutes left, was completed with a 4-3 win on penalties.
“The Wellington game was a difficult one, I didn’t want there to be pressure in that match, I wanted them to enjoy it but there was pressure because everyone was saying Wellington wasn’t a strong team and we should win easily and I think we felt that pressure. Wellington started, scored perfect goals and we were shocked,” Mamic said. “Thankfully we found a way to turn things round.”
Swedish international Berg will be a key man for Al-Ain tomorrow despite suffering with a virus over the past few days. Mamic is hopeful he will be back to 100 percent and able to start against River.
“For these past four days he has been really struggling with fever and today is the first day he has been feeling better, hopefully in the next three days he will recover to start the River game,” Mamic said.
There is little doubt “The Boss” will need Berg to be fit and at his best if they are to pull off a shock and beat the South American champions. Also key could be the Al-Ain fans packed into the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. Mamic hopes they can act as a 12th player.
“I wanted to thank our fans for their great support and making a great ambience in the stadium, it’s a pleasure to play under these conditions, a pleasure for the players, a pleasure for the coaching staff and I’m sure it will be a good game,” Mamic said.
“Against River we most be focused, motivated which won’t be a problem, River are favorites but favorites don’t always win.”