Wednesday 15 August 2018

Juventus teach Spurs knockout lesson

Tottenham 1-2 Juventus (Juventus win 4-3 on aggregate)

Paulo Dybala scores the winner for Juventus past Hugo Lloris Photo: Reuters
Paulo Dybala scores the winner for Juventus past Hugo Lloris Photo: Reuters

Jason Burt

Tottenham Hotspur crashed out of the Champions League with precisely two minutes and 49 seconds of madness against Juventus.

Cruising, a goal up, and heading to the quarter-finals, Spurs conceded two goals in that brief time to Juventus's first two efforts on target and were left shell-shocked and desperate.

Tottenham Hotspur's Christian Eriksen speaks with referee Szymon Marciniak Photo: John Walton/PA Wire
Tottenham Hotspur's Christian Eriksen speaks with referee Szymon Marciniak Photo: John Walton/PA Wire

For Mauricio Pochettino and his vibrant young team, this was a severe blow and a lesson but it was also an indictment that they could not see this tie out, even though they were facing last year's finalists and the Serie A champions.

They conceded twice in the opening nine minutes of the first leg and, apart from those periods, dominated Juventus. But that is not good enough. Not at this level and they only have themselves to blame.

Even then there was late drama as a Harry Kane header beat goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and struck a post, but was hooked off the goal-line by Andrea Barzagli before substitute Erik Lamela could nudge it over the goal-line. Spurs were that close to extra-time.

Slowly

Tottenham's Son Heung-min in action with Juventus's Blaise Matuidi and Giorgio Chiellini Photo: Reuters/John Sibley
Tottenham's Son Heung-min in action with Juventus's Blaise Matuidi and Giorgio Chiellini Photo: Reuters/John Sibley

As slowly as Spurs had started in Turin, they were fast here. They were also reckless or, at least Jan Vertonghen was as he dived in on Douglas Costa, bringing the Juventus winger down.

Remarkably, a penalty was not given by Polish referee Szymon Marciniak and Juventus reacted with furious disbelief as they crowded around him. The assistant behind the goal and the assistant running the line, whose side it occurred on, did not react.

The Italians had cut through Spurs on that occasion, starting at left-back with Alex Sandro, who found Miralem Pjanic. The midfielder released the fit-again Paulo Dybala and suddenly Costa had turned Vertonghen.

It was a let-off for Spurs, who had two less clear-cut penalty claims of their own as the ball struck an arm of Medhi Benatia and then, later, Giorgio Chiellini. And there was a third as Benatia grabbed Vertonghen's shirt from a corner.

It was clear why Son Heung-min had been selected ahead of Lamela, who had played in the first leg.

Son's directness and eye for goal were evident as he latched on to Kane's pass, pushed the ball ahead of Barzagli and struck a fierce cross-shot that Buffon did well to turn away.

Juventus were playing with a three-man defence, which meant Barzagli, at 36, was deployed on the right and Pochettino identified that as an area to attack. But it was from the other flank, with a clever reverse pass by Dele Alli, that Kane was presented with his first opportunity. He brushed against Chiellini, rounded Buffon, but then struck his shot into the side-netting. The angle was tight.

Spurs came close again when Son headed goalwards, only for Buffon to punch clear and both sides continued to push. Costa had already sent in an in-swinging cross, which just skimmed over the head of Gonzalo Higuain.

Spurs were bidding to reach the last eight for the first time since 2011, when they were beaten by Real Madrid, with Pochettino continuing to stand anxiously on the edge of his technical area. As did Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.

It was feisty. Sandro and Vertonghen were cautioned for late tackles and Barzagli escaped punishment for stepping on Son's calf.

Soon after, Son surely had to score as he was sent through by Ben Davies and, as Chiellini backed off, the goal beckoned, only for him to drag his shot wide.

Then Son made amends. Spurs broke again and, as Barzagli slid in to block Alli, the ball fell to Kieran Trippier, who crossed low for Son to sweep his shot past Buffon. Son was fortunate. The ball struck his standing leg, which fooled Buffon, who went to ground.

The goal also meant Juventus had to score twice, and they almost responded when Pjanic was teed up, only for him to shoot wide.

Juventus continued to harangue the referee at half-time and that penalty incident had been pivotal and unsettled them.

Spurs sensed more goals and Juventus became even more rugged. The caution count rose, with Chiellini taking out Alli, Alli and Pjanic clashing and, on the touchline, the two managers getting involved before half-chances fell to Son, who again beat Barzagli, and Kane.

Finally an opportunity fell to Juventus, with Davinson Sanchez only hooking a clearance to Dybala, who hit his half-volley wide. The Argentine should have done better.

Higuain did. He silenced the Spurs fans, momentarily, as substitute Stephan Lichtsteiner clipped in a right-wing cross that Sami Khedira headed on for Higuain to ghost in and steer his volley past Hugo Lloris from close range.

Remarkably, Juventus struck again. A Spurs defence that had seemed so secure was carved open as Higuain simply turned and slid a pass through to Dybala.

For some reason, Trippier had failed to track the run and desperately appealed for offside, but Dybala continued on before lifting his left-foot shot smartly beyond Lloris.

Juventus had turned this tie around and Pochettino puffed out his cheeks in disbelief. He looked as bewildered as his team. The introduction of Lichtsteiner had changed everything for Juventus as Spurs were left reeling, needing to score to force extra-time.

Finally they pulled themselves together as Eriksen's shot deflected narrowly wide and Son shot past a post. Then there was the agony of Kane's header in the final moments. Tottenham were down. Tottenham were out.

Irish Independent

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