Juventus and Tottenham tied 2-2 in the first leg of a Champions League Round of 16 match, played at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. It could have been an easy one for the Bianconeri, who had already gained a double lead in less than ten minutes. On the contrary, Massimiliano Allegri will have to lead his troops in Wembley two weeks from now, against a British side that now has the advantage of having scored two goals away.
Kudos to the Spurs trained by Mauricio Pochettino, who managed to get back fully on track after a shocking start, thanks to goals by Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. Juventus, on the other hand, fell victim of one of those amnesias that once in a while hit them when playing on a European ground. Gonzalo Higuain had secured his side a lightning fast start, converting a free kick pass by Miralem Pjanic, and then a penalty kick awarded for a foul on Federico Bernardeschi.
But then, the Argentinian failed a second penalty conversion in the 45th minute, when the Bianconeri were still leading 2-1 – and when scoring a third goal right before the break would have hit the chasing Brit club hard on the morale. In the second half, Gianluigi Buffon clearly showed how his glorious 40 years are indeed, inevitably, taking a toll on his reflexes – conceding Eriksen to score from a non-irresistible free kick for Tottenham’s final 2-2.
Good news for Allegri came from the right flank, where Douglas Costa was literally unstoppable, and Mattia De Sciglio showed an unexpected garra, for the once timid Milan defender. Oh, and of course, from those first ten irresistible minutes, before somebody abruptly turned off the light for his side.
Supporters were still taking their seat, and Gonzalo Higuain was already celebrating under the stands. Miralem Pjanic gained a free kick the very first time he stepped foot in the offensive area, Spurs’ defender Dele Alli lost Higuain, and El Pipita was free to hit and beat Hugo Lloris with a surgical shot.
Juventus kept playing on a wave of enthusiasm, and forced the visitors to concede a penalty kick when the clock still had to strike minute ten. Welsh Ben Davies’ foul on Bernardeschi was undisputable. Higuain took charge of converting the attempt, and brought the home side to 2-0. Awesome. All perfect, up to the point that Italian fans on the stands took the luxury of starting to sing the National Anthem – something that you definitely don’t hear often in an Italian stadium.
Patriotism didn’t have a good effect however, as Tottenham had the merit of standing still and waiting for better times to come. As the Old Lady started to calm down, a red flag rose when Eriksen crossed the ball from the left side in the 26th minute, for Harry Kane to hit it with a header and call Buffon to action.
The highlander goalie lived up to his fame in the occasion, but a few minutes later his intervention was – well, so and so. Alli produced a perfect vertical pass, for Kane’s penetration past Juventus’ offside line. Buffon seemed to have enough time to exit and clear the ball before Tottenham’s number 10 could catch it. Still, Kane got on the ball first, and deposited it into the Bianconeri’s net to reduce the gap.
Good enough for the home side that Douglas Costa was in berserk mode last night, and in the 45th minute he progressed from the left side, forcing Serge Aurier to knock him down in the box – for Juventus’ second penalty. Gonzalo Higuain missed the chance to score his first hat trick in a Champions League match, as his shot violently hit the crossbar, leaving the score unchanged to 2-1.
Federico Bernardeschi showed the Bianconeri’s unchanged will to close the match a few minutes into the second half, with a tricky shot that called Lloris to a super-save. Then, in the 70th minute, a new red flag for the home side, with a violent long-range shot by Kane being somehow parried back by Buffon. A free kick by Eriksen gave Tottenham the equaliser only two minutes later, with the Dane’s shot passing past a frankly badly-disposed wall, and despite Buffon’s vain opposition.
With 20 minutes to go, there was still time to see another monstrous progression by Douglas Costa, who moved past Serge Aurier and Davinson Sanchez, and crossed the ball in – only to find a timely clearance by Jan Vertonghen (the best among the all-but-irresistible defensive line of the Spurs).
And that was it. See you all in two weeks, starting back from a 2-2 that seemed impossible after seeing Madama’s mesmerizing start last night. But Juve like it complicated. And winning in Wembley, or tying for 3-3 or more, it’s not going to be a simple task for Massimiliano Allegri and his Bianconeri.
February 14, 2018 – Champions League 2017-18 Round of 16
SCORERS: 2’ Higuain (J), 9’ Higuain (J, pen.), 35’ Kane (T), 72’ Eriksen (T)
|JUVENTUS (4-2-3-1): Buffon; De Sciglio, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira (66’ Bentancur), Pjanic; Bernardeschi, Douglas Costa (91′ Asamoah), Mandzukic (76’ Sturaro); Higuain (Szczesny, Rugani, Marchisio, Muratore) Coach: Allegri|
|TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Aurier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembélé; Lamela (89′ Lucas), Dele Alli (83′ Son), Eriksen (91′ Wanyama); Kane (Gazzaniga, Trippier, Rose, Moussa Sissoko) Coach: Pochettino|
REFEREE: Byrch (Germany)
NOTES: Attendance: 41232; Yellow cards: Benatia, Higuain, Bentancur (J), Aurier, Davies (T)