Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has revealed his relief at seeing his side remain in the Emirates FA Cup after a 1-1 draw against what he described as a “fantastic” Newport County AFC side at Rodney Parade.
Pochettino’s men were seven minutes away from crashing out of the competition in one of the biggest upsets in the cup’s history, after Padraig Amond had given County a first-half lead.
The Irishman rose highest to meet a perfectly weighted Robbie Willmott cross ten yards out to score a first goal for County against Spurs since 1959, only for Harry Kane to strike and salvage a replay late on with a composed tap in from a Heung-Min Son flick-on.
That means the two sides will do battle again at Wembley on Wednesday 7th February 2018 for a place in the Fifth Round proper and Pochettino was certainly a relieved man post-match.
“A little bit yes or maybe a lot,” he affirmed.
“To play with our best players here is because we want to go further and try to win the competition.
“But in the first-half we were very poor, full credit to them because they played fantastic and we were very disappointing.
“In the second-half and the last 30 minutes, I think we started to play and create some chances.
“So yes, of course we are happy because we have the possibility to stay in the competition in the replay at Wembley.”
Pochettino showed full respect to County by naming as full strength a side as he possibly could.
He set his side up in a 3-1-4-2 formation with Fernando Llorente and Kane leading the line up-front.
Michel Vorm started in goal, while Juan Foyth, Jan Vertonghen and Eric Dier were in the heart of the defence.
Kyle Walker Peters and Kieran Trippier provided the width for Spurs on the day, while Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembele and Moussa Sissoko completed the starting line-up.
And his substitutions didn’t possess a lack of international experience either, as Son, Dele Alli and Ben Davies were all called upon by Pochettino in the second-half at Rodney Parade.
But the Argentinian was certainly full of praise for how County responded and fought against those stellar names right from the first whistle to the last.
“I think the team (Newport) was very good,” he affirmed.
“Of course, very good performances individually from some players but all the team impressed me to be honest.
“They were so, so good and they showed me a fantastic physical level.
“I think a big congratulations must go to them because they fully deserve this result and to go to Wembley. It will be very tough for us in the replay because they are a very tough team.”
The Exiles certainly spent longer than their opponents without the ball, Tottenham in-fact having 71% of the possession at Rodney Parade, although County limited them to just the two shots on target throughout the entirety of the game.
And that tenacious defensive belief, heart and desire also came in for praise from Pochettino post-match.
He stated “I think the most important thing from the beginning of the game was to try to have the same or more desire than them and the same motivation as them.
“We needed to have a winning mentality because it’s not an easy game. Like you say and I hear a lot, this competition is magic and today is a good example of that.
“If a Premier League team is not so motivated to play and challenge, I don’t mean that we weren’t motivated at all, just not the same level as Newport and I think in all these kinds of aspects they beat us today.
“Of course, in the last 30 minutes we increase our levels and I think we deserve it in the end because we create many chances.
“But why do we have to wait until the end of the game to fight to the same level as Newport?”
It was the first time that Pochettino had ever come up against Mike Flynn in either a managerial or playing capacity.
The game was Flynn’s 50th match in charge of the Exiles and the County manager was certainly very complimentary of the Argentinian in his earlier press conference.
And Pochettino returned the praise on Flynn in his own post-match press conference, in addition to commending a terrific vocal support from the capacity crowd at Rodney Parade.
“He is a great manager,” he said.
“He showed last season when he changed completely the circumstances of the club and he’s doing a fantastic job.
“Of course, I know this job is not easy and I understand completely the motivation of playing again a Premier League team who play in the Champions League.
“The possibility for the club now to go to Wembley, I think is fantastic. The fans deserve to go to Wembley and they deserve to live the experience.
“I enjoyed it a lot, of course I was worried during the game, but I really enjoyed it being here to be honest. For me, personally I sometimes miss this type of atmosphere and football.
“This is the reality of football and that is pure passion.”
And Pochettino was very quick to turn down suggestions that the pitch at Rodney Parade could have hampered his sides chances during the game.
“No we cannot use the pitch as an excuse,” he asserted.
“We need to look at us because we were so poor in the first-half.
“Never in the first-half did we match the level set by Newport, we talk a lot about the key to the game being their motivation and desire and I think we lost every challenge to them in the first-half.
“They made it difficult for us to play forward so we always played safe, and I think the team didn’t really show that they wanted to get through to the next stage of the FA Cup.
“That disappointed us a lot and I think we missed a massive opportunity today to show that we really wanted to win a trophy.
“We talk and I hear a lot about the magic of this competition and it’s magic because a Premier League team, a League 2 team, and today to be honest I don’t see too much difference.”