MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) -Tottenham Hotspur grabbed an unlikely last-gasp 2-1 victory at Olympique de Marseille to reach the Champions League last 16 as Group D winners after a nerve-jangling climax on Tuesday.
The Londoners, who needed only to avoid defeat to go through, endured a first-half siege and trailed to Chancel Mbemba’s header in stoppage time before the break.
However, French central defender Clement Lenglet proved to be Tottenham’s saviour when he headed in his first goal for the club in the 54th minute to level the scores.
Spurs, who lost forward Son Heung-min to a head injury in a torrid opening period, were a different proposition after the interval and took control after Lenglet’s equaliser.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg struck the crossbar for the visitors but Marseille should have scored late on when Sead Kolasinac somehow missed an open goal with a header.
Hojbjerg then sealed the victory in stoppage time to put Tottenham top of the group and leave Marseille, who at one stage of the evening sat top, in fourth spot and out of Europe.
It was a result that barely looked possible in the opening 45 minutes as Spurs appeared dazed and confused by Marseille’s relentless onslaught.
“To be honest, we expected that type of game. The Stade Velodrome is a very difficult place to deal with and I think we showed great personality,” Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris said.
“It was a tough night, a great battle and even more psychological battle because we could feel in the first half a team was playing without the fear to lose, it was Marseille, and in the second half we face a team with the fear to lose.”
The result saw Spurs win the group on 11 points ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt with 10, Sporting seven and Marseille six.
The Virage Nord section that usually houses Marseille’s ultras was closed because of crowd trouble against Frankfurt but the noise was still deafening from the first whistle.
Only a victory would do for the home side and they set about trying to get it in frenzied fashion, swarming all over Spurs whose coach Antonio Conte had to sweat in the stands after his red card in last week’s draw with Sporting.
Former Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez almost scored in the third minute with a deft header that drifted wide and soon after produced a great turn and shot to force a save from Lloris.
Lloris also kept out Jordan Veretout’s fierce volley and Tottenham’s night took a turn for the worse when South Korea forward Son had to go off after a nasty collision with Mbemba.
Spurs could hardly get a kick and were hanging on and hoping for the halftime whistle when Mbemba rose high into the air and flexed his neck muscles to thump a header past Lloris from Veretout’s cross to give Marseille a deserved lead.
At that stage it was hard to see how the visitors could recover but they were transformed after the break.
Lenglet, who is on loan from Barcelona, headed in Ivan Perisic’s pinpoint delivery to get Tottenham level and their confidence levels soared.
They remained in a precarious position as a goal could still have taken Marseille through and left Spurs in the Europa League and the hosts came close several times, notably when Kolasinac was picked out at the far post but headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
With Frankfurt winning against Sporting in Lisbon, a draw would have given Marseille the consolation of a Europa League place but even that was snatched away in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Kane released Hojbjerg who finished clinically past Pau Lopez to send the visiting fans wild.
(Reoporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)