Do you think that win kept your seasonalive?
Well certainly it keeps the season going in a much better way. This competition is going to help the Premier League for sure, to maintain everybody together, to have something to play for. Today it would have been really harsh with what has happened in the two legs to be out of the competition. So I’m extremely happy to be through.
Were you worried VAR might rule out Aubameyang’s winner because it looked close?
Well, I was worried because we had one overturned that was really tight as well so anything can happen. At that speed sometimes we cannot see the line. My impression was that he was onside but I didn’t know so my celebration is not the same. But the most important thing is that it went in.
You could play Spurs three times in a row if you get them in the next round now.
You never know. These draws for sure there are going to be some funny games because there are still a lot of teams in this competition so let’s see. Celebrate today because it’s been a rollercoaster like you said and have a nice dinner recover because on Sunday we have a big one again.
Were you worried at 87 minutes?
No, I don’t think we would have deserved but the reality is that we gave them two goals in the two legs. When you do that against any opponent and especially one with the quality of Benfica you are going to be in trouble and that’s why we were in trouble. We gave a penalty in a situation that we knew was gonna happen and today we gave a goal after our own corner.
After that the reaction of the team, the belief and what I sensed on the pitch and how much they wanted it gave me hope. We changed it we tried to be more of a threat more attacking. I’m especially happy for Dani because he’s a player that lives this profession like it’s the most important thing in his life and when he made that mistake if that would have cost the team to be out of the competition it would have been mentally really tough.
So, that’s when you need players in the team like we have like with Auba with Bukayo creating the situations, with KT scoring the goal to save him. Out of a difficult situation created a really bright moment.
That was nerves ofstealfrom Saka wasn’t it especially considering he’s only 19?
It is and as well because he’s really fatigued. He’s played a lot of minutes. He hasn’t had much rest. We asked him to go again and produce these moments and the boy’s done it against a really difficult formation, the way were so deep with the really small spaces, but he’s found a way to do it again.
364 days on from Auba’s miss against Olympiacos, it’s almost poetic isn’t it?
Yes, that’s to be fair the first image that came through my mind when he scored. I didn’t know if VAR was going to allow the goal and then with the last action when they were offside as well and they had the chance. This is the beautiful thing about football, if you keep going then you always have the chance to put it right.
Do you feel your team proved they can play under pressure?
Yes absolutely and we had better moments in the game than others, but I think everybody had the courage to play the way we want to do it. They gave absolutely everything with the amount of games we have had to play, with the intensity that we are playing, how much we tried. I’m really thankful for that. I think it’s going to be an important moment in the competition to learn how to overcome difficulty and still achieve what we want.
How was Dani feeling when the goal went in?
No, I just mentioned what I told you guys. Again I’m especially happy for him because he really loves this game and he does everything in the right way to be as prepared as possible. You can see how he celebrates every single goal. He doesn’t have a ten-year contract at the club, he’s on loan, and still feels and defends this club in the best possible way. I think someone like him deserves good things to happen to him in football.
How challenging is it as a manager to manage with the away goal over your head?
It is because you know that a clean sheet takes you through into the next round of the competition, but you cannot play with that in your mind from the first minute because it’s going to affect the way you’re going to do it. I don’t think we did it. We scored a really good goal. To be fair they didn’t create any chances, any shots. In the first shot they created they scored a beautiful individual action. After that the tie becomes completely different because there is no extra time possibility after they scored the second goal. Then it’s all open and all there for the taking.
What will the manner of the win do for your players’ belief going forward?
Last year when it happened against Olympiacos it was a really difficult one to swallow. We are having a very strange and difficult season with the challenges that we all know, so to have some good moments, some beautiful moments to celebrate together as a team is really important as well.
In this competition over two legs you’re going to have difficulties. It’s going to be a player sent off, it’s going to be a refereeing decision, it’s going to be a mistake, you concede an early goal. You have to react to it and you have to know that you are capable of doing that.
When a positive experience is in the back of your mind instead of a negative one I think the input when that situation has to be faced again as a group or as a team, I think it’s much more powerful and much more convincing from everybody to try to do it.
How important do you feel Kieran Tierney’s determination was in getting you back into the game.
Absolutely, and you mentioned the right word, because it’s the way I’d describe him which is all determination, all passion for what he does. The way he come back from his injury and how willing he is to help the team. He gives us a big lift.
After that I have to mention the subs because all of them made a difference. Willian specifically I think he changed the game he gave us much more composure in moments, produced some creativity, produced the goal for Kieran and we need everybody on board. In this competition having the ability to make five subs that’s a big bonus.
Why did you pick the subs youchose?
Because there wasn’t much space to run in behind. It was a really tight two lines of 4-4-1 or 5-3-2 at times. They were a really low block not much space to run apart from when they set the line around the 18-yard box. So you need people to unlock that special qualities in tight spaces to create moments and I think Willy he was really helpful tonight.
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Do you think Aubameyang showed you can still trust him in the big games when the chances are there?
I completely trust him because we’re producing the chances and you know when Auba has chances he’s going to score goals. Last few days after the game in Rome against them he missed three opportunities that normally they are three goals for him. He needed to react and it’s great to see that the way he reacted is being upset and trying to be better and not just feeling sad for yourself in this moment. I’m really pleased with what he’s done tonight.