Manchester City fans, players and coaching staff erupted in joy when Sterling seemingly slotted home his hat-trick goal to land a Champions League semi-final spot, but that joy quickly descended into despair after VAR intervened.
The technology spotted that Sergio Aguero was offside in the build-up to the goal, thus overturning the decision.
Pochettino was suddenly jubilant and urging his players to see out the game, which they did, provoking a celebratory roar at the final whistle and impassioned embrace with his coaching staff.
“It was unbelievable – the way it finished. I am so happy, so proud,” Pochettino said on VAR in a post-match interview with BT Sport.
“Goalline technology is the best but, after that, it is about how the referee perceives things. The emotion is not going to be there, the feelings and the tension.
“Maybe technically it is a handball but we know very well when it is intentional and only the referee and the players around can decide that. On the video, you cannot perceive that.
“I am telling the people responsible that we need information [on why and when VAR should be used] because if we don’t know, it is going to be a big problem.
“We are not ready. Those who are pro-VAR are saying that the technology is going to help. But football is about mistakes. That’s players, then managers but also the referees.
“It is not the problem of technology in general, but this particular system. It is about whether the referee sees the incident or not, his interpretation.
“That is how we were taught to play football. The emotion and tension is not going to be [in a video replay].”
Emotion and tension actually added to the final few minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.
But, despite his more visceral comments to BT Sport directly after the game, Pochettino was slightly more reticent in his praise of it in his press conference, once emotions had cooled.
“I didn’t watch. I promise, I didn’t watch,” he said of the replays.
“It is difficult after the game to be relaxed or calm. You need to trust in the VAR when it is against or for you.
“The decision to include VAR in football is going to change the game a little bit. I am pro the basis and trying to help the referees and maybe one year ago I was a little bit worried.
“Today my feeling is the same, when it is for you you need to accept. When it is against you, you need to accept.
“Like the penalty in the first leg or the situation Fernandinho on Harry Kane that the referee can check.”