Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino was full of praise after his side battled back from a two goal deficit after only seven minutes to earn a dramatic 2-2 draw against Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Pochettino hailed his team’s mentality in overcoming what should have been a demoralizing brace from Gonzalo Higuain, and said that, ironically, going down so big so early might have given his players the freedom to come back the way they did.
“We conceded the penalty and were 2-0 down after seven minutes, against a great team like Juventus, with a lot of experienced players too. That was the start of another game. In that moment I think we felt more freedom — ok, we have nothing to lose — and the team started to replicate the performances we’ve shown in the last few weeks...
“We didn’t start well but we scored twice against a team with so much experience. It’s never an easy job. Of course we dominated the possession, we dominated Juventus and we forced them to play deeper. They only used the transition and the counter-attack to try to create chances. I felt the team was so focused. Only the opening seven minutes were difficult to handle, but for 83 minutes we dominated Juventus and that is a thing to praise. Not many teams can come here and dominate a team like this.”
Juventus manager Massimilano Allegri, unsurprisingly, had a different view of the match, and took an almost combative tone with the media.
“Football is strange, you can go from a possible 3-0 to 2-1, a possible 3-1 to 2-2. I think we all knew how complicated this would be. Now it’ll be like a Final in London.
“Apart from Gigi Buffon’s save on Harry Kane, Tottenham didn’t have any real chances. In the second half we changed a few things and overall played a good game. We conceded the first goal playing out of defence, the second on a free kick. Football gives and it takes away, but I don’t think there’s any need to get depressed.”
Allegri went on to try to tamp down expectations for the second leg of the Champions League tie in Wembley Stadium on March 7, suggesting that Juventus’ first goal has always been the league.
“This really irritates me, because people have no idea on the dimensions of teams. The primary objective is the Scudetto: that is nothing to be sniffed at and is not easy. Then we’ll try to go forward in the Champions League. I will not accept that tonight’s 2-2 draw could depress the Juve fans. There are some scary ups and downs in the mood here.
“We were never the favorites to reach the quarter-final. It was always 50-50 with Tottenham and it still is. People must realize that winning is not normality, it is extraordinary. This team has won six Scudetti and reached two Champions League Finals. It’s a fine line in the Champions League between winning and not winning.
“Juve and Tottenham are sides who can have ambitions going forward, but compared to Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid are a step below. In fact, I’d add PSG and Manchester City to that list. Next season it will be even more difficult. The best teams reach the Final and Juventus have had three extraordinary campaigns.”