Mauricio Pochettino called his Tottenham players “heroes” despite a 4-2 Champions League defeat against Barcelona at Wembley.
Spurs were sunk by stunning goals from Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic and two from the irrepressible Lionel Messi.
Harry Kane, and then Erik Lamela, briefly gave the hosts a chance of taking something from the match by cutting the deficit to one goal.
🗣ï¸ Mauricio: "In the second half I think the team believed, were brave and were always in the game. If we want to compete we need to improve, but I feel very proud." pic.twitter.com/uGz85d5DBI— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) October 3, 2018
Messi’s second goal in the last minute put paid to that, meaning the late collapse at Inter Milan now looks even more costly for Tottenham – who have no points from their opening two matches in Group B.
Spurs boss Pochettino said: “When you play in the Champions League against Barcelona you cannot concede these types of chances.
“But in the second half we did everything to try to come back so I am proud of the players.”
A howler from fit-again goalkeeper Hugo Lloris gifted Coutinho the opener after just 92 seconds, before an exquisite leaping volley from Rakitic made it 2-0 at half-time.
Messi hit a post twice at the start of the second half before, from out of nowhere, Kane pulled one back.
Messi eventually got on the scoresheet three minutes later, and then wrapped up the scoring in the last minute after Lamela had given Tottenham another glimmer of hope.
“What Messi does doesn’t surprise me,” added Pochettino. “But we conceded the first goal in the first minute and when that happens it sets up the game.
“With the score like that we had to give spaces and what happens is then players like Messi will finish you off.
“What changed the plan was conceding so early. What we had to do was take risks. When you play against Barcelona you can have different players and different tactics but the result will be the same.
Messi the best ever. Goals. Skill. Work rate. Attitude. An artist. #TOTBAR— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) October 3, 2018
“Of course he’s the best player in the world but we did not give him one chance in the first half.
“In reality to have that handicap against Barcelona and compete like we did in the second half, I think the players are heroes.”
Barca sit on top of Group B with six points from their two matches and coach Ernesto Valverde said: “It was important to do well today and we responded well when our rivals were close to us.
“The game was intense, when it was 3-2 Tottenham made it very difficult. This is the Champions League and these points are very important for us.”