It’s funny how football can go sometimes. Over the course of 180 minutes of Tottenham’s Champions League First Knockout round tie against Italian giants Juventus, they were on top for about 160 of them. Bar the opening 10 minutes of the first leg and 10 minutes of the second half at Wembley yesterday, Spurs were comfortable the better side and had Juventus on the back foot. Yet, they lost the tie 4-3 on aggregate.
Those 20 minutes in which Juve dominated proved to be fatal to Spurs. They managed to score 3 goals whilst on top, even missing one penalty kick, and that is the difference at the highest level; ruthlessness.
Tottenham should’ve had this game done and dusted by half-time last night. Son, Kane and Dele Ali all had chances to add to the one their side had already got going into half time. In fact, even allowing for tier profligacy in front of goal, a 3-1 scoreline three-quarters into a two-legged tie should’ve been enough to see the English side through.
But it wasn’t to be. Football, as we should all know by now, comes down to one thing and one thing only: the scoreline. Spurs were naive yesterday in allowing Juventus, one of the continent’s best sides, back into the game in the space of five minutes. It’s a lesson for all English sides left in the Champions League: do not take anything for granted.
The media tried to make out like this tie was over after Spurs escaped Turin with a 2-2 draw a fortnight ago. It was as if Juventus’ credentials – they’ve reached 2 of the last 3 finals – were wiped away because they looked poor in one game. This is a team who have won the last 5 Italian Scudetto’s; who have one of the best goalkeepers and defensive lines to have graced the game over the past twenty years, and two world-class strikers in the form of Pablo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. Both of the aforementioned proved to be the difference last night, with their two well-taken goals in the second half. Once the game was in their hands, Juventus then shut up shop and comfortably saw out the remainder of the match. That was where Buffon, Chielleni and co. came into their own.
For Tottenham, the defeat will be hard to take. They know that they should’ve progressed given that their destiny was in their hands with 25 minutes remaining. But they have a squad that will likely remain in tact this summer and so have reason to be optimistic about progress both at home and in Europe next season.