Champions League: Tottenham Hotspur proved they can compete with the best with hard-fought draw with Juventus
Adding the scalp of Juventus would help elevate Tottenham to the next level in the Champions League, making them a genuine threat in the eyes of their rivals, something that fans of the club have been craving for long.
A breathless encounter in Turin ended with Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur sharing the spoils after a 2-2 draw, with the English team in the driver's seat thanks to the two away goals they scored.
Harry Kane was on target again, helping the team from London find their way back into the match. Christian Eriksen, who masterminded their recovery and was the creative hub of the team, levelled the scoreline in the second half with a smartly taken free-kick that got past Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus goal.
The beginning of the match, however, came as a rude shock to Tottenham's system as the home side blitzed them with two early goals. Gonzalo Higuain was left unmarked from a quickly taken free-kick by Miralem Pjanic and the Argentine striker wrapped his foot around the lofted pass, finding the bottom corner of the goal as early as the second minute. The Italian giants doubled their advantage in the ninth minute after Higuain netted from the penalty spot following Ben Davies' rash tackle on Federico Bernardeschi.
Both teams lined up in the formations they have been getting good results with recently, Tottenham playing in their regular 4-2-3-1 while the home team adopting their 4-3-3 formation. Juventus' major attacking threat came through the duo of Douglas Costa and Higuain, with the former's speed and directness helping him attack Spurs’ defence on the counter.
Just like that, the team from England found themselves 2-0 down and in typical Spurs fashion, looked like they were ready to throw in the towel just when the going got tough. However, that is where the Mauricio Pochettino-coached outfit is different from the Tottenham teams of past. The Argentine's team plays with his combative personality, never ready to give up and their refreshing approach despite going 2-0 down helped them salvage an incredible result.
Despite being two goals up, Massimiliano Allegri's side relinquished the early pressing that they had employed, choosing to sit back, soak pressure and play on the counter. That allowed Spurs to start dominating the ball, bringing Mousa Dembele and Eriksen into play, and the duo didn't disappoint.
Dembele picked up the ball from the defence and glided past challenges on multiple occasions to start the attack, feeding the ball into the feet of the attacking players to enable them to probe the Juventus defence. His strength and ball control never failed him and getting the ball off him proved to be a tough proposition for the Italian side.
The Belgian's ability to dovetail with Eriksen proved to be crucial in Spurs' comeback. The Danish attacking midfielder was the best player in the match, always probing for openings, pressing high up the pitch and looking to get teammates behind the defence. It was his interception and quick pass to Dele Alli that setup Kane for the first goal and his clever free-kick gave Pochettino's men the equaliser. Always underrated for his ability on the ball, the Dane's composure in possession and vision while attacking allowed Tottenham to mount their comeback.
Kane outsmarted Giorgio Chiellini, getting the defender out of position on multiple occasions to fashion goalscoring opportunities. His goal came from a well-timed run off the shoulder of the defence, before he rounded off Buffon and finished calmly to bring his team back into the encounter. The 24-year-old was a threat to the Bianconeri's defence all night long, troubling them with his movement and directness.
It was Juventus' inability to maintain their pressing and their decision to fall back and defend in numbers that invited all the pressure from Tottenham. Allegri would have been upset with the fact that his team gave away their hard-earned advantage and were not able to defend better for both the goals.
An entertaining match that was characterised by errors was typified by the away side conceding a second penalty on the stroke of half-time. Serge Aurier committed a stupid foul on Costa after the Brazilian had gotten the better of him. The resulting penalty was thundered onto the crossbar by Higuain, as the home team let the opportunity to seal the first leg go in vain.
Individual errors played a part in almost all the goals and that added to the excitement of the encounter. A match that kept fans on the edge of their seats, Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Juventus proved that they can compete with the best at the highest level and their ability to play as a team helped them overcome their individual errors. Juventus' experience and high intensity start to the game surprised Spurs and helped them gain an advantage, but their inability to hold on and use their experience gave Tottenham the advantage going into the second leg at Wembley.
Pochettino was, without a doubt, the happier of the two managers and rightly so, as his team dominated possession (63:37) and put themselves in a position to finish the tie off in the second leg in two weeks' time. Adding the scalp of Juventus would help elevate them to the next level in the Champions League, making them a genuine threat in the eyes of their rivals, something that fans of the club have been craving for long.
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