Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino took on Real Madrid and succeeded where Brendan Rodgers failed with Liverpool

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 Tottenham players celebrate after taking the lead away at Real Madrid

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THREE years ago, a rookie Champions League manager took an English club to  the Bernabeu and ran up the white flag.

Brendan Rodgers, believe it or not, was being talked up as a potential future manager of Real Madrid or Barcelona at that time. He’d almost won the Premier League and even learned the lingo.

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Tottenham players celebrate after taking the lead away at Real Madrid

Yet when he surrendered the match here with seven changes to his Liverpool side, the Northern Irishman proved he wasn’t a truly big-time manager.

For Mauricio Pochettino, there was no such lack of ambition, no  hesitation, no backward step.

The Tottenham manager stepped into this world-famous crucible with a swagger.

In a shock move, Pochettino employed Fernando Llorente in  tandem with Harry Kane — the Spanish centre forward’s first start in a major fixture since arriving Swansea in the summer.

It was a team-sheet which smacked of self-belief, even against the 12-times European champions in their own backyard.

The result was little short of a group-stage classic — a breathless, wide open, machete-between-the-teeth sort of a match.

 Harry Kane has gone from a League One loan spell the last time Spurs played Real to matching Cristiano Ronaldo stride for stride
Harry Kane has gone from a League One loan spell the last time Spurs played Real to matching Cristiano Ronaldo stride for stride
 Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo embrace at the full-time whistle in Madrid

Reuters

Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo embrace at the full-time whistle in Madrid
 Harry Kane watches on as his deflected effort goes past Keylor Navas for a Raphael Varane own goal

Rex Features

Harry Kane watches on as his deflected effort goes past Keylor Navas for a Raphael Varane own goal

We should not have been surprised. Where so many other managers fear to tread — for instance when it comes to blooding homegrown kids — Poch does not flinch.

His funky 3-5-2 formation might have looked like leaving young Harry Winks exposed and out-numbered in central midfield.

But Pochettino believes in all of the kids he promotes, not least Winks his latest England graduate.

The last time Spurs took on Real, Winks was one of the line of flag-waving teenage kids on the White Hart Lane turf, greeting the players as they walked on.

Winks said he’d been awestruck by Cristiano Ronaldo that night but there was no sign of stage fright here.

And the last time Spurs had played here, Kane was a substitute for Leyton Orient, playing the last five minutes of a match against Plymouth that same evening in 2011.

 Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy has said he wants Mauricio Pochettino to stay at club for 15 years

Alamy Live News

Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy has said he wants Mauricio Pochettino to stay at club for 15 years

Now, like his manager, Kane arrived here on the greatest stage of all billed us a future Real Madrid employee.

And right from the word go Kane proved he was in no mood to doff his cap to the footballing aristocracy he was pitted against.

There was a downward header from a Christian Eriksen corner which forced a save from Keylor Navas and a saucy turn of Raphael Varane as he teed up Llorente for a chance.

Tottenham fans sing funny Gareth Bale and Moussa Sissoko song ahead of Real Madrid Champions League match

And then he was breathing down the neck of Varane, forcing the mistake which brought the own goal, putting Tottenham in front and sending their supporters into  delirium up in the gods.

For the 3,600 Spurs fans who made the trip, this was the night which really made flesh last season’s achievements — a best League finish in 54 years, a first finish above Arsenal in the Arsene Wenger era.

Spurs in the Bernabeu with the Champions League theme caterwauling away; the Arsenal off to  Belgrade for the little league game on a Thursday night.

 Brendan Rodgers failed at Liverpool but is doing well at Celtic

PA:Empics Sport

Brendan Rodgers failed at Liverpool but is doing well at Celtic
 Brendan Rodgers celebrates silverware with Celtic but missed out at Anfield

Kenny Ramsay – The Sun Glasgow

Brendan Rodgers celebrates silverware with Celtic but missed out at Anfield


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They were singing in the rain, bellowing their hearts out knowing, irrespective of the result that this was an ‘I-was-there’ night.

Victory over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in their opening match had them believing in qualification from this group.

But going ahead in the Bernabeu must have surpassed the wildest dreams of most.

Ronaldo, who had headed against a post early on, equalised from the spot after Serge Aurier had clumsily brought down Toni Kroos.

And Spurs were  under the cosh for the opening period of the second half.

Yet they weathered it and then  Llorente was creating chances for Kane, whose shot lacked customary purpose, allowing Navas to tip wide — and then Eriksen, whose effort was turned into the side-netting.

Danny Rose was sent on for his first appearance since January, replacing Llorente in the first  suggestion of a backward step from Pochettino.

He was greeted warmly by supporters who’d seemingly forgiven his outspoken criticisms of the summer and he slipped into central midfield, alongside Winks.

The former flag-waving kid ended up going eyeball-to-eyeball with Ronaldo near the end. There wasn’t a hint that he didn’t belong here.

But then that is Spurs at the moment. At least when they play anywhere other than Wembley, they operate without the faintest hint of fear. If this was an application for the hottest managerial seat in world football, then Pochettino had passed it with Real boss Zinedine Zidane is not going anywhere in a hurry after becoming the first man to retain this trophy  in the Champions League era.

But this was a night which might end up being remembered by the Real hierarchy when they are looking for a boss some time in the future.

Pochettino, the ‘no guts, no glory’ gunslinger. The sort of attitude they love at Tottenham. The sort of attitude they adore at Real Madrid.

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