LONDON – With some justification Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino praised his side's first-half display against Bayern Munich on Tuesday but looked as shell-shocked as his players trying to come to terms with a 7-2 home defeat.
Tottenham have been inconsistent this season but when Son Heung-min fired them deservedly ahead after 12 minutes of their Champions League Group B clash it appeared the spark that has been missing had returned.
Even when Bayern equalised through Joshua Kimmich's sublime strike, shortly after Tottenham recovered to look the better side against the five-time champions.
Then the ceiling fell in.
Robert Lewandowski's superb effort seconds before the interval knocked the stuffing out of Tottenham and Serge Gnabry's second-half hat-trick and another masterful strike by Lewandowski inflicted Tottenham's worst home defeat in Europe.
Indeed it was the first time the club has ever let in seven goals at home in a major competition.
That it happened on his watch was especially galling for the proud Pochettino and will add to the feeling that all is not well at Tottenham, just four months after they contested the Champions League final for the first time.
"I feel so bad because when you concede seven it's so tough, but you need to face this type of situation," Pochettino told reporters. "You need to show your quality like a man first, then face like a professional."
Pochettino said conceding a goal seconds before halftime having been the better side was the turning point.
"It was a game about attempts or shots on target and it was similar but they were very clinical," the Argentine said. "The timing of the (Lewandowski) goal arriving in a moment that was massive, crucial and a very big impact for us.
"To concede the second goal in the first half after playing a really good first half, a very good first 30 minutes. The team were playing so well and nobody expected what happened to us in the second half."
Bayern scored three times from the 83rd minute onwards as Tottenham suffered the biggest ever margin of defeat by an English team at home in any European competition.
"Until the 83rd minute we were still alive," Pochettino said. "Then it was like the team was tired and gave up a little bit," he admitted.
It left them with one point from their first two games, one more than they had at the same stage last season after defeats by Inter Milan and Barcelona.
"It's a tough situation, but you have to face it," said Pochettino. "We have to stay together and help each other. The best medicine is to be all together.
"We need to move on. We've lost three points and we need to move on and face Brighton (in the Premier League) and then at this stadium again in the Champions League next."
Lucas Moura, whose hat-trick at Ajax in the semi-final sent Tottenham into the final, believes they can recover.
"The season is so big and we have a lot of games," the Brazilian said. "The beginning of the last Champions League season was worse than this.