By Simon Evans
LISBON, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Paris St Germain coach Thomas Tuchel let out a scream of joy and relief as his team grabbed two late goals to beat Atalanta 2-1 on Wednesday and take the French club into the Champions League semi-finals for just the second time.
The intensity of the German coach's reaction was intensified by the fact that, with an ankle injury he picked up last week, Tuchel was forced to sit and watch on an ice-box for most of the game with his leg strapped in a 'moon boot'.
"Imagine what I would have done if I had two legs!" he told the post-match news conference.
"Maybe today would be the day you would see me sprint for 40 metres. But it's the club's birthday today, exactly 50 years, so we will not forget this birthday for sure," he said with a grin.
Tuchel was under pressure to deliver in Europe this season, something PSG, utterly dominant at home, have struggled to achieve despite massive investment in talent over recent years. Their last Champions League semi-final was back in 1995.
"It was absolutely deserved," said Tuchel, who praised the contribution of his substitutes Kylian Mbappe, whose pace and skill forced the Italians onto the back foot and who set up the winner for another man off the bench Eric Choupo-Moting.
The curtailment of the French season due to COVID-19 left PSG with a lot of time to think and little action to prepare for the trip to Portugal but Tuchel said their spirit was right.
"It was very difficult to prepare the team. There was no rhythm because there were no games, but I could feel in the last days that the determination, enthusiasm and effort of the group, the quality of the training and the mix between love and hard work, was exceptional.
"For me, it was a deserved win, but if you score so late it was also luck – but I'm the first one to admit you need luck," he said.
The attitude was epitomised by Brazilian forward Neymar who, despite missing a great chance early in the game, continued to probe and question the Atalanta defence.
"I never thought we'd be back home tomorrow. At every moment, we just went for one thing - progress to the last four," said the former Barcelona striker.
"Nobody will ever get it out of my head that I want to go to the final. We'll have to correct what we can and play another great game. We're very happy and experiencing great moments.
"We're a formidable squad, a family, with the attitude that it's impossible to knock us out," he added. (Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)