What a mouthwatering fixture it was as the Champions League returned for the knock-out stages of the competition. Tottenham’s trip to face Juventus was one of the biggest matches of the round, with two of Europe’s best teams going head-to-head.
The hype surrounding the game threatened to overshadow the contest itself, but this did not happen. The Italians were 2-0 up inside 10 minutes courtesy of a Gonzalo Higuain double which came from a sublime swivel and volley, while the second was scored via the penalty spot after Ben Davies’ clumsy challenge. Tottenham then dominated the game and Harry Kane continued his outstanding form to round Gianluigi Buffon and cut the arrears in half.
Higuain then saw a penalty slam off the bar just before half-time and the second period saw a far more even game with Hugo Lloris and Buffon called into action multiple times. The comeback for the English side was completed as Christian Eriksen fired in a free-kick that Buffon should have done better with.
The game ended 2-2 and it was a pulsating one as the two sides fully played their parts in the contest. All eyes will be on Wembley for the reverse of the fixture, with Tottenham now in the driving seat in the tie with their two away goals.
Higuain punishes sleeping Tottenham
Tottenham arrived in Italy and their plan would have been a simple one – remain as tight as possible and look to punish any mistakes which would give them a great chance at Wembley. However, their start was anything but ideal as their plan fell apart inside the opening 120 seconds.
Miralem Pjanic was able to chip in a delightful free-kick that was asking to be hit, and how Gonzalo Higuain finished it. Without taking a touch, the striker volleyed an effort past Hugo Lloris and into the corner which caused mass celebrations on the pitch and in the stands.
Nothing should be taken away from the finish as it was one of the finest order, but question marks hung over Tottenham’s defence. The London side are often so good defensively, but, looking to repel the first bit of pressure of the game, they failed as their defence switched off, although the English side were hard done by as the player seemed to be offside as the ball was passed.
While the game was far from won at this point, there are teams in Europe that are able to make a 1-0 scoreline a winning one, and Juventus are one such side.
Ben Davies’ mistake capitalised on by Higuain
With Tottenham looking to settle into the game after conceding early-on, it was vital that they got their feet on the ball and forced the momentum Juventus had generated to subside.
However, the Italian’s once again punished some lacklustre defending as Federico Bernardeschi was adjudged to have been taken down by Ben Davies. Via the replays, it was clear that it was an incredibly clumsy challenge as the Welsh left-back clattered his man with the penalty one that gave Juventus a massive chance to extend their lead.
Gonzalo Higuain stepped up as he looked to make it 2-0 inside the opening 10 minutes and he did just that. Hugo Lloris went the right way and got a hand to the ball, but the penalty was so firmly struck that he could only deflect it further into the corner.
Suddenly, the Italian champions were two goals to the good, and Spurs were facing a massive task to save the game before an 18th of the match had even been played.
Tottenham dominate as they get their just desserts
Following the second goal, Tottenham began doing what they should have done after they went 1-0 down as they dominated the ball. Juventus were keen to sit deep and soak up all of the pressure as they knew the gaps would start to appear in Tottenham’s defence.
The three behind Harry Kane began to see a lot more of the ball as Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Dele Alli found space. It was Eriksen that supplied the first real chance for Tottenham as he floated in a sublime pass to Kane, and he got in behind the defence to head at goal, but as ever, Gianluigi Buffon was there to save the day.
As good as Tottenham were, they were always in danger of getting caught on the break. Pjanic was played in by Higuain and the midfielder returned the favour as Higuain had the goal at his mercy, but he lashed wide.
With Tottenham pressing and Moussa Dembele outstanding, it was prudent to wonder whether the Italians would be made to pay for Higuain’s miss, and they were. Not to be outshone by another striker, Kane was played in behind Juventus’ usually watertight defence by Alli and he was able to round Buffon before slotting into an empty net.
After Kane had missed his header earlier in the game, it would have settled the forward hugely as he continued his fine scoring run, as he netted his 33rd goal of the season. For Juventus, it is the first goal they have conceded in 2018, and their fans were suddenly very nervous as they are not used to seeing their side dominated at home.
Aurier gives away another penalty
With Tottenham growing into the game, Mauricio Pochettino would once again have been desperate to see his side keep their heads and stay tight at the back. However, while Serge Aurier has been very good going forward for Spurs, his defensive capabilities should be questioned as he has a tendency to make a rash challenge, and he displayed this against Juventus.
Douglas Costa picked up the ball in midfield and chipped the ball over Aurier’s foot which allowed him to race away. The right-back was able to track back, but he foolishly dived into a challenge, missing the ball and taking the winger down.
Higuain stepped up for the second time in the game with the tension in the stadium palpable. The Argentine chose power over placement this time as he smashed his effort straight down the middle only to see it cannon off the crossbar.
Incredibly, the first-half was one that was probably a disappointing one for Higuain. The striker had scored twice but should have ended the half with four goals, and the fans would have been worried that his two missed chances could become terminal for the Italians.
Eriksen levels with a superb free-kick
Tottenham’s comeback was completed by a moment of magic from Christian Eriksen as he scored from a free-kick. It was the workmanlike Dele Alli that won the set-piece as he turned Giorgio Chiellini which saw the Italian bring his man down.
Eriksen took a long time to place the ball perfectly and his perfectionism proved vital as he smashed home. The Danish player clearly gave Buffon the eyes which saw the veteran goalkeeper take a number of steps to his left to cover the area behind the wall, and this allowed Eriksen to drill the ball into the bottom-corner on Buffon’s side.
The replays showed that if the goalkeeper had stayed in his starting position, then he would have saved the effort. However, as it was, Tottenham were deservedly back on level terms as they put in a performance of maturity and class that shocked their veteran opponents.
The match ended 2-2 which gives Tottenham the advantage going forward. Higuain will be hugely disappointed to have missed two big chances, and if he had taken all four of his opportunities then the Italians would pretty much have booked their place in the next round. As it was, Spurs will know that they hold all the aces going into the reverse of the fixture.
Juventus: Buffon 5 – De Sciglio 6, Benatia 6, Chiellini 7, Sandro 6 – Khedira 6 (Bentancur 6) , Pjanic 6.5 – Bernardeschi 6, Mandzukic 7 (Sturaro 6), Costa 7 (Asamoah 5) – Higuain 7.5.
Unused subs: Marchisio, Szczesny, Rugani, Muratore.
Tottenham: Lloris 8 – Aurier 6, Vertonghen 8, Sanchez 7, Davies 7 – Dembele 9, Dier 7 – Lamela 7 (Lucas 6), Alli 6 (Son 6), Eriksen 9 (Wanyama 5) – Kane 7.5.
Unused subs: Trippier, Rose, Sissoko, Gazzaniga.
Referee: Felix Brych