In what many have billed as the toughest matchup to call in the round of 16 in this year’s UEFA Champions League, Spurs managed to claw out of a 2-0 hole just ten minutes in to get a result with a 2-2 draw in the first leg at Juventus Stadium.
The match got off to the absolute worst possible start for Spurs. Dembele gave up a free kick about 35 yards from goal. Juventus worked a lovely play design to free Gonzalo Higuain to the left of Hugo Lloris. You can make the argument that Hugo probably should have stopped the shot, but he could only slow it down as it went past him into the net. Juventus had the opening goal just 70 seconds into the match.
Spurs tried to right the ship immediately after but couldn’t establish possession. Juventus managed to keep pushing forward with the ball and, ultimately, got what they needed. A poor challenge by Ben Davies in the 9th minute resulted in a penalty being given to the Italian giants. Higuain stepped up to the spot and fired the penalty kick to the corner. Hugo managed to get a hand on it, but the shot had too much power and found the net. Not even ten minutes into the match, Juventus were on top 2-0.
Spurs started to calm down after the penalty, showing some possession and some life in attack. The English side had a penalty shout in the 17th minute as Harry Kane attempted to get to a ball, only to get bowled over by the Juventus defenders. The referee was having none of it, though, and gave a goal kick despite the protests by Kane. Replay showed that there was some contact and probably should have been a PK given to Spurs.
The best chance for Spurs to score in the first half came in the 25th minute. A gorgeous cross put into the box by Christian Eriksen found a leaping Kane just a few yards from net, but Gianluigi Buffon made a point blank save to rob the English International of the goal. Just a minute later, Eriksen had an opportunity himself from a free kick with two tries, with the first one being blocked by the wall and the second one harmlessly going past the far post.
Juventus went for blood just a few minutes later. After a half chance for Spurs that was cleared by De Sciglio, Juventus picked up a two on one as Higuain eventually found himself just outside the penalty area to try and get his hat trick. He left Hugo standing as he went for the corner but the attempt missed and Spurs exhaled a sigh of relief.
Spurs managed to gather themselves after the near collapse and put together an attack again. It seemed Juventus was letting off of their press and it cost them. Dele Alli played a perfectly weighted through ball to Kane, timed just right to keep Kane onside. Buffon came out to challenge but found himself diving at air. Kane coolly passed the ball into the net to get that crucial away goal, making the score 2-1 at the 35 minute mark.
The pressure by Tottenham kept getting turned up. Eriksen had an attempt off of a free kick turned away by Buffon and Dele Alli also had a headed attempt go too high over the crossbar in the five minutes following the goal.
There was more drama to come from this match before halftime. Douglas Costa dribbled past Sanchez on a beautiful move, making a play for the net. Serge Aurier slid in to break it up but ended up taking the Brazilian International down, leading to a second penalty for Juventus and a chance to drive a knife into Tottenham. Higuain stepped up looking for his hat trick but his shot had too much power and clanged off of the crossbar. Hugo seemed to have read it right and probably had the save, but either way the threat was dead and halftime was blown.
The first ten minutes of the second half was much like the entire first half. There were some long runs of possession for Spurs and then some chaotic moments for both sides. Serge Aurier unfortunately picked up a yellow card for a poor challenge, which means he’ll miss the second leg at Wembley. Juventus had two golden opportunities in the 56th minute as Bernardeschi fired a powerful curler from left of Hugo, but the French Captain parried the ball away. The ensuing corner kick was just as good of a chance for Juventus, but again Hugo came up with a big save off of a point blank header.
Spurs managed to get possession back heading towards the 70th minute. After a few passes, Harry Kane out of absolutely nothing fired a blast from 25 yards that forced Buffon into an uncomfortable save that he fumbled, but nobody was there to clean it up. Several moments later, Dele was fouled just outside of the penalty area, setting up Eriksen for a free kick opportunity. Eriksen opted to go low with the kick and caught Buffon leaning. The Italian legend managed to get just a touch on the ball but it wasn’t enough and the Great Dane brought us level at two a piece with 20 minutes to play.
Juventus still had some life in them after the equalizer. In the 76th minute, Dier had a very poor giveaway to Bernardsechi, leading to a counter attack. Thankfully, all that came of it was a Hugo save to snuff out the attack and keep it 2-2.
A scary moment in the 87th minute came for Spurs as Douglas Costa skipped passed the defense for a dangerous low cross. Vertonghen was there and cleared it, but it was inches away from being an own goal. Thankfully it was just out to touch and the ensuing corner kick resulted in nothing but a clearance. The match seemed to fizzle out at that point with no real threats on either side. The referee brought play to a stop and it was clear that Spurs were the much happier of the sides going back to Wembley.
THOUGHTS ON THE MATCH
- That match was unreal and a roller coaster of emotions. After the equalizer, all I could think of was this:
- There were some good and bad performances today. Our fullbacks didn’t have the best of days at the office, especially Aurier. He’ll miss the second leg with his suspension.
- I was convinced at halftime that Erik Lamela was not going to be satisfied until he put a Juventus player through the advertisements. I love him so much.
- If you’re familiar with WWE, there’s the famed RUSEV DAY where every day is RUSEV DAY! I am making the proclamation now that every day is DEMBELE DAY for Spurs. Outside of that first bad foul, our half-midfielder-half-abrams-tank was his usual magnificent self.
- Penalty shout in the first half for Spurs should have definitely been a PK.
- Eriksen had been long due for a free kick goal. It could not have come at a better time.
- Dele had a fantastic day. His passing was dangerous and Juventus didn’t seem to have an answer for him in attack.
- I would have loved to see the Sonny and Lucas subs at about 70 minutes instead of 83 and 88. Juve’s legs were toast.
- Last year, this team folds like a cheap suit and Juventus blow them out. This year, the maturity of this club is obvious. Getting a draw after that disastrous of a start cannot be said enough.
- Reminder: Spurs are still unbeaten in this year’s Champions League.
- The job is not finished. There’s a second leg in three weeks with an away goals advantage.