Tottenham Hotspur came into the Bernabeu with a point to prove, and they left the match with another kind of point as well. Spurs knew they had a monumental task ahead of them against the two-time defending European champions Real Madrid. But in a match where everyone expected them to lose, Spurs instead showed that they can hang with the best clubs in Europe, holding on to earn an amazing 1-1 draw with Madrid in Spain. The hosts scored both goals, with a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty kick canceling out a first half Rafael Varane own goal.
Everyone was scratching their heads when Spurs released their starting XI, but they started the match in the familiar back three similar to what they used against Bournemouth. Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier, and Toby Alderweireld started in the center of defense with Serge Aurier and Jan Vertonghen as fullbacks. Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks started in the midfield pivot, with Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, and a surprise Fernando Llorente ahead.
As expected, Spurs were content to let Real Madrid have the ball early on the match, and Madrid took advantage with several dangerous chances. Cristiano Ronaldo careened a header off the post, but for the most part Spurs were able to deal with most of what Madrid threw at them.
Spurs had a few opportunities of their own in the opening 25 minutes, counterattacking with pace. Harry Kane had a header tipped over the bar by Keylor Navas, and Fernando Llorente was taken down in Madrid’s area by Casemiro, with the match official waving play on.
But improbably, it was Spurs who drew first blood in the match. In the 28th minute, Serge Aurier lofted a ball into the box towards Kane, who appeared to flick the ball past Navas, putting Spurs fans in jubilation. Replays later confirmed that the ball went off of Raphael Varane, and it was credited as an own goal. Spurs didn’t care -- they celebrated their first ever goal against Real Madrid in the Champions League and led 1-0.
But this is Real Madrid, and they had enough to push Spurs onto their back heels for much of the first half, forcing Lloris into action on a number of occasions. Spurs held on, but it seemed only by their fingernails.
That changed just three minutes from time. Aurier put in an ill-timed challenge on Toni Kroos in the box. It was an easy decision for the official, who whistled for the penalty. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up and fired the penalty kick past Hugo Lloris to even the match. The first half ended 1-1.
The second half kicked off with no changes to either side, and again it was mostly Madrid with the ball. Spurs dropped very deep to defend, and the center backs did a good job of mitigating Madrid’s offensive output and for the most part did not look too overmatched.
Madrid very nearly went 2-1 up in the 54th minute after Casemiro’s cross found Benzema’s head right in front of goal. Lloris made an incredible reaction save with his trailing leg to keep him out and Spurs scrambled the ball away.
Eight minutes later, Hugo was called into action again, tipping a powerful shot from Ronaldo over the bar and saved another effort from the Portuguese forward a few minutes later. Hugo was magnificent on the day, looking every bit the world class keeper that he is.
But Spurs weren’t here to bunker. Harry Kane had a chance of his own in the 71st minute. Fernando Llorente set up Kane beautifully, splitting Madrid’s defense, but Navas somehow got a hand to the ball and Kane’s shot trickled just wide of the post.
Llorente did it again just minutes later, heading the ball to Eriksen who again forced another save from Navas, and Davinson Sanchez put a powerful header towards goal that again was just wide.
Madrid made the first substitute for either side in the 75th minute as Marco Asensio came in for Benzema. Danny Rose made his triumphant return to Tottenham’s lineup, coming in for Llorente in the 80th minute... only to have Mauricio Pochettino play him as a defensive midfielder.
The last 15 minutes were frantic, with Spurs defending for their life but still doing enough on the counter attack to keep Madrid honest. Lucas Vasquez came in for Isco and Spurs subbed on Son Heung-Min for Moussa Sissoko, who appeared to twist his ankle just before time.
In the end, Spurs did enough, and the Spurs contingent went into jubilation with the final whistle. It may not have been a win, but it was most emphatically a statement result for Spurs, who have not only proven that they can hang with the best of Europe, but also belong with them. The final score was 1-1.
- GUYS GUYS GUYS GUYS WE GOT A POINT AT THE BERNABEUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!
- The no-call on Llorente in Madrid’s box was pretty bad, and should’ve been called a penalty for Spurs. Had that been the case, this match might have turned out a lot differently.
- But yes, this match was every bit as terrifying as we all expected it would be. Which made that Varane own goal that much more exciting!
- Hugo Lloris: hands down the best player on the pitch. He made so many incredible stops, including one with his trailing leg on Benzema from point blank range, and two on Ronaldo. He was world class today.
- Christian Eriksen had a bit of a shocker today, especially in the first half. He was under enormous pressure, and appeared to be seriously rattled at times. He evened out in the second half, though.
- Y’all, I think Harry Winks is going to be crazy good. He was given an almost impossible task of trying to contain Luka Modric and also be progressive, and he came through with a very impressive performance.
- Also very impressed with Spurs’ defense, especially Davinson Sanchez, who came through in the clutch on a number of occasions.
- On another day, Kane scores a brace. He was a threat the entire game, and Madrid knew it.
- I think we also need to credit Pochettino, who had a tactical plan and executed it well, even down to telling Danny Rose to go out and FRAAB as a defensive midfielder. IDK what that was all about, but it worked!
- Thanks to APOEL drawing Dortmund at home, Spurs now have a 96% chance of progressing out of their Champions League group. I, for one, can’t wait to welcome Madrid back to Wembley.