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Juventus 2 – Tottenham 2: Eriksen free-kick ensures Spurs complete two-goal comeback
- Updated: February 14, 2018
TOTTENHAM escaped from Turin having pulled off the biggest heist since the Italian Job – now their only job is to prevent all their hard-earned gains from going over the edge of a cliff at Wembley.
Inevitably, it was Harry Kane not Michael Caine who was the star, scoring the first goal. But it was only when Christian Eriksen fired an unexpected set-piece sneakily under the Juventus defences that Tottenham were able to pull level on the night, meaning a win or a low-scoring draw will be enough in the return next month.
But perhaps it was in keeping with the script that Tottenham had begun the action with a jaw-dropping sequence of Mini pandemonium.
When you are playing a team that has only conceded one goal in their last 16 games, the last thing you need is to give them an early head start. Whoops.
On the eve of the game, legendary defender Giorgio Chiellini had put Juventus’s incredible run down to nothing more mysterious than “concentration”. If only Tottenham had listened.
Jan Vertonghen’s poor clearance went straight to Miralem Pjanic with Mousa Dembele compounding the error with a rash foul.
Embarrassingly, the simplest of step-over dummies brought the Spurs defence rushing out, so when Gonzalo Higuain ran from deep to beat the offside trap, he was able to volley past Hugo Lloris unmarked with somewhat regal assurance.
Before 10 minutes were even on the clock, Tottenham were in deeper trouble. Ben Davies seemed guilty of ball-watching and he appeared not to notice Federico Bernardeschi nip in front of him moments before the Wales international volleyed the midfielder’s legs from under him.
Although Lloris got a strong glove to the ball, he was unable to prevent Higuain’s spot kick from creeping inside his right-hand post. Was this game over already? To Spurs credit, they did finally shake themselves out of his nightmare.
But when Medhi Benatia gifted Christian Eriksen a chance, where Juventus had been such ruthless punishers, the Dane quickly lost his way.
Then when Kane went sprawling to the ground in the area, German referee Felix Brych was having none of it.
Higuain even came within a whisker of making it even worse on the half-hour after a lightning Juventus break. But just as the Argentina striker could not score three times, so Harry Kane refused to be denied three times.
To be fair, 40-year-old Gianluigi Buffon had already done well to stop him twice, somehow keeping out a close-range downward header from Kane before tipping another low shot just past the post.
But when put through again in the 35th minute by Eriksen, Kane took the ball comfortably wide of the advancing goalkeeper before rolling the ball into the net with his left foot.
“He’s one of our own,” sang one corner of this steep-walled arena and briefly the whole of Turin seemed unsure of itself. A wave of uncertainly swept through, as Buffon clumsily punched an Eriksen free-kick away from his far post to stop Spurs pulling back level.
The north London side were still living life dangerously, however. Douglas Costa’s pace drew an ill-judged foul from Serge Aurier and the last kick of the half was going to be another chance for Higuain from the spot. Still he could not complete his hat-trick, though, as the ball thundered against the bar and the players headed for the dressing room.
The second half could not match the intensity of the first, of course, and it was 57 minutes before Lloris was tested, first by Bernardeschi’s low shot and then by Mario Mandzukic’s header from the resulting corner.
Buffon had to wait until the 70th minute before being tested at his near post by Kane and again he looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable in scrambling the ball away.
And he looked every bit his age as he got slowly down to Eriksen’s free-kick moments later which stunned the Allianz Stadium into near silence.
The ball flew under the wall and made it over the line so innocuously there was almost a moment of disbelief before the Spurs players hugged each other in surprise.
Of course Juventus chased them, right to the final reel and perhaps Spurs might have parked the bus instead of trying to hurtle away in it.
A cliffhanger it is then. One thing you know for sure, though, is that Mauricio Pochettino will have a plan.
TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Aurier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dembele, Dier; Lamela, Alli, Eriksen; Kane. Booked: Davies. Goal: Kane 35.
JUVENTUS (4-3-3): Buffon; De Sciglio, Benatia, Chiellini, Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Bernardeschi; Douglas Costa, Higuain, Mandzukic. Booked: Benatia. Goals: Higuain 2, 9pen.
Referee: F Brych (Germany).