Good morning and welcome to Wednesday. We were treated to a great game of football in Turin last night, as Spurs fought back to get a brilliant 2-2 draw against Juventus. It’s a really good result for them, and going by last night’s performance they’ll now fancy their chances of getting the job done at Wembley in three weeks’ time.
The game didn’t start ideally at all for Spurs, as they were 1-0 down inside two minutes. Juventus had a free-kick, and they played the ball into Higuain. Higuain, who had peeled away from Dele Alli, smashed the ball into the bottom corner with his right foot. It wasn’t great defending from Spurs, but Higuain did really well to score. Replays showed the Argentine was offside, but it wasn’t spotted by the assistant referee.
Then, after just seven minutes, Juventus were awarded a penalty. There was a ball into the box, and when Ben Davies turned to clear he didn’t know that Bernardeschi was coming in behind him. He took the Italian down, and the referee pointed to the spot. Gonzalo Higuain scored his second of the game when he put the penalty away. Lloris got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.
Spurs could have let their heads drop and go into their shell after being 2-0 down inside the opening ten minutes, but they showed some real fight and spirit. They didn’t let the occasion get the better of them, and Harry Kane scored after 35 minutes to bring them back into the game. Dele Alli slipped the ball in behind for Kane to run onto. Kane rounded Gianluigi Buffon – who I thought was quite poor on the night – and put the ball into the goal with his left foot. He just can’t stop scoring, can he?
There was another huge moment just before half time, which could have swung the game completely in Juventus’ favour. The dangerous Douglas Costa went past Serge Aurier and Davinson Sanchez, and into the Spurs box. Aurier then took the winger down, and it was another penalty for Juventus. Up steps Gonzalo Higuain, in search of his hat-trick and a goal to give Juventus a 3-1 lead at half-time. But the Argentine smashed his penalty off the crossbar, and it was just 2-1 to Juventus at half-time. It would have been such an important goal, and both managers’ team talks would have been much different if it went in. It meant Spurs could come out for the second half full of confidence.
Spurs were really good in the second half, and with just under 20 minutes to play they were level. Dele Alli went down just outside the box, and Spurs were awarded a free-kick. It was close in and central, so it would have been quite difficult to get the strike over the wall and back down in time to go in. And Christian Eriksen knew this as he stepped up to take it. Instead, he put the ball along the ground, which wrong-footed Buffon. It was on Buffon’s side, but as he took a step to the other side of the goal he couldn’t react quickly enough to keep it out. It was a smart move from Eriksen who did well, but I think Buffon should have done much better and kept it out. It was 2-2, and Spurs were flying.
The second half was a lot calmer than a frenetic first, but Spurs wouldn’t have minded that. Juventus had a couple of decent chances, but couldn’t convert them. They looked dangerous from corners, but on both occasions the attackers put the ball straight at Lloris when they really should have scored.
It really is a remarkable result for Spurs, especially after being 2-0 down so early on in the game. This is a Juventus side that have only conceded one goal in their last 16 matches. They haven’t conceded two goals at home in over a year. But then Spurs came to town. It sets up a mouth-watering second leg now at Wembley, which will be played on March 7. It’s set nicely in the balance now, but Spurs will know 0-0 or 1-1 will do them. I can’t see them playing for a draw in that game though, as it’s not their style. With them having ‘home’ advantage, I think they’ll fancy their chances.
After the game, Mauricio Pochettino said:
I am happy because the tie is open and we are going to play the second leg at Wembley, and it will be fantastic because the atmosphere will be great. And for the fans it will be fantastic because the hope to go through to the quarter-finals is there. It’s only 90 minutes away.
I feel so proud. We showed great character against a team who played two finals (in the last three years). We are a young team playing in this competition, and I say congratulations to the players to show that performance.
We were talking in the last few weeks about the team being more mature. We have experience but not as much as Juve. We started not in a good way but showed we are mature enough to compete in the Champions League.
I think the team was so focused. Only seven minutes that it was difficult to handle. In 83 minutes we dominated them and that is a thing to prize because not many teams can come here and dominate a team like them. My feeling was so bad. You never hope that happens, to concede the (early) goal. Maybe it was offside, but I don’t want to complain.
We start a little bit sloppy. We need to be more solid. Then we concede a penalty, 2-0 down after seven minutes against a great team like Juventus with experienced players.
Then it was to start another game and the team started to show the performances of the last few weeks. I feel so proud.
I also have to give some praise to Mousa Dembele this morning. I thought he was brilliant, and he is finally getting the plaudits he deserves. I know Kane and Eriksen scored the all-important goals, but Dembele was my man of the match. He does so well sitting in the middle of the park, and he keeps things ticking over for Spurs. I was keeping a close eye on him last night, and as soon as he passes the ball, he moves and makes space for himself so he can get the ball back. The way he glides around the pitch for his size is some sight. He was brilliant last night, just as he was at the weekend against Arsenal. I’m looking forward to seeing him play again.
Man City won comfortably, which I am quite happy about because I basically wrote Basel off in yesterday’s match preview. It was 4-0 in the end, with the goals coming from Ilkay Gundogan – who scored twice – Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero. Gundogan’s second goal in particular was a beauty. He opened his body up just outside the box, and sent a lovely curling effort into the top corner. Basel weren’t without their chances in the game, but they paid for some poor finishing. I really think Basel were denied a clear penalty with the scores at 0-0 though. Their attacker glided past Otamendi in the box, who made no attempt to play the ball and bundled him over. The referee didn’t give it, but I’m not sure why to be honest. It looked as clear as day to me, but not for the referee. Almost immediately, City took the lead through Gundogan, and they didn’t look back from there. City basically have a quarter final place wrapped up now, barring a complete collapse at the Etihad in the second leg.
Liverpool are in Portugal as they take on Porto tonight. I don’t think this is an easy game by any means, but I think Liverpool will be expecting to come home with a win. Porto are top of the Portuguese league, and are unbeaten in the league this season, but group stage defeats to Besiktas and RB Leipzig show that they can be beaten. Liverpool will look for a positive result, even if that’s a draw, as they’ll fancy their chances at Anfield. I’d be fairly surprised if they didn’t manage to score tonight, as they’re so good going forward. It’s their defence that will have questions asked of it, but we’ll see how they get on tonight. I know I really should be watching this one, with me being the Premier League blogging bloke, but I’m not sure I can turn down the opportunity to watch Real Madrid vs PSG. Maybe I’ll flick between both, but I’ll see what happens later.
There was some sad news yesterday morning, as Ryan Mason announced his retirement from football. The midfielder suffered a fractured skull in January 2017 while playing for Hull against Chelsea. As he rose to go for a header, there was a clash of heads with Gary Cahill. It’s very sad news, and it’s never nice to see something like this happen.
Mauricio Pochettino spoke about him after Spurs’ game last night, and said: “It is very sad news but he opens a door for his future with his family. He is 26 but his brain is amazing, he is an amazing person. He will be a very successful person in football in everything he wants to do. He is and will be special for me because represent the change in all the process when we arrived at Tottenham. For me, Ryan is a player who will always be special. The door is open for me to help him; and the club because we love him and Rachel and George and all his family. Don’t worry Ryan, you are going to be a successful person outside the pitch.”