Tottenham Hotspur closed in on a place in the group stage of the Europa League on Thursday after coming from behind to win 2-1 away to AEL Limassol in Cyprus in their play-off first leg.
The north London side are looking to reach the group stage for the fourth season running, and late goals by Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane have them in the driving seat ahead of next week’s return at White Hart Lane.
However, their fellow Premier League side Hull City have work to do after losing 1-0 away to Belgian Cup holders Lokeren.
Questions have been asked about how seriously the new Spurs coach will take the Europa League, and his team looked second best for long spells after going down because of slack play by Paulinho.
However, they were rescued in the final 20 minutes by two players promoted to the starting line-up in the heat of the Mediterranean.
Kane saw a shot turned onto the woodwork by home goalkeeper Karim Fegrouch before Soldado got the equaliser in the 74th minute.
“I think it was a very tough game, because the conditions were difficult and the weather was difficult,” Pochettino said, referring to a bobbly, cut-up pitch and high temperatures.
“I’m happy with the performance. In the end 2-1 for us is an important result,” added Pochettino, who was also delighted with the influence off the bench of his fellow Argentine Eric Lamela.
“We need him to look forward, believe in his skill and condition and work very, very hard. With confidence and time he will show his value.
Hull are appearing in Europe for the first time but their manager Steve Bruce made it clear where his priorities lie as he made nine changes to the team that won at Queen’s Park Rangers on the opening day of the Premier League season.
Defender James Chester and goalkeeper Allan McGregor kept their places, but the latter was guilty of a mistake that gifted the only goal of the game at the Daknamstadion to Hans Vanaken just before the hour mark.
The Scottish international somehow managed to pass the ball straight to his opponent, and Vanaken rounded the Tigers’ stopper before rolling the ball into an empty net.
Among the other winners on the night were Spanish sides Villarreal and Real Sociedad, Borussia Moenchengladbach and PSV Eindhoven, who all joined Inter Milan, 3-0 victors away to Stjarnan of Iceland on Wednesday.
However, French duo Lyon and Saint-Etienne face uphill struggles to progress after being beaten by Romanian and Turkish opposition respectively.