Five talking points from Spurs’ 2-1 loss to Juventus in the Champions League
PUBLISHED: 22:15 07 March 2018
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Ben Pearce reflects on Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League exit to Juventus at Wembley Stadium
Tottenham are out of the Champions League after losing the second leg of their last-16 tie 2-1 against Juventus at Wembley.
Spurs had a marginal advantage at the start of this home leg, having scored two away goals in a 2-2 draw in Turin, and they went 3-2 up on aggregate this evening thanks to Heung-Min Son.
However, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala struck two quickfire goals in the second half to turn the contest on its head and secure Juventus’ place in the quarter-finals.
Here are five talking points from Wembley:
1. Son justifies his selection with opening goal
Son or Erik Lamela? That was the big call before the match, and Mauricio Pochettino opted for Son.
It was the positive option, the aggressive choice, befitting the Argentinian’s approach to this whole Champions League campaign – and it paid off again.
Son caused Juventus problems from the start with his pace through the left channel. The South Korean forced an early save from Gianluigi Buffon and then saw a header repelled, frustrating his marker Andrea Barzagli so much that the Italian trod nastily on his leg midway through the first half.
The use of the dark arts did not stop Son though. He was soon running through on goal again after an excellent first-time pass from Ben Davies and, although he shot wastefully wide on this occasion, he scored soon after.
When Dele Alli was denied by a last-ditch tackle inside the box, Kieran Trippier pounced on the loose ball and sent a low cross to the far post.
It was an ugly finish from Son – very nearly another horrible miss – as he swung and missed. But the ball hit his standing foot and dropped between Giorgio Chiellini and Buffon into the net.
It may not have been the strike of the season but it was a big moment, and it maintained Son’s remarkable record at Wembley.
He has now been involved in 22 goals in his 23 appearances at the national stadium this season (14 goals and eight assists) – more than any other Spurs player.
Son was nearly the hero in the final 10 minutes too as his low, curling shot bounced inches wide of the bottom left corner.
2. Davinson Sanchez has a mixed display in Toby Alderweireld’s absence
Spurs had a couple of nervy moments at the back in the first half, especially when Jan Vertonghen made an ill-advised sliding tackle on Douglas Costa in Spurs’ box at 0-0, clipping the Brazilian’s heel.
Serge Aurier had conceded a penalty in very similar circumstances in the first leg – also sliding in on Costa – so Vertonghen should have known better. Yet he escaped a spot-kick.
Vertonghen did not learn his lesson because he soon went to ground again and made a late challenge on Paulo Dybala, earning a yellow card.
Here was a reminder that even the best defenders can look flustered against a front line like Juventus’. So, in that context, 21-year-old Sanchez’s first-half performance was remarkable, oozing maturity and composure.
For 60 minutes it was possible to envisage a future without Toby Alderweireld – but the Colombian looked partly at fault for both goals when Juventus struck in the 64th and 67th minutes.
He seemed best-placed to challenge Sami Khedira when the German directed a free header at goal, allowing Higuain to nip into the space in front of Lloris and prod home.
Sanchez was then outmanoeuvred by Higuain moments later as the Argentinian spun away from him and played Dybala through on goal for the second strike.
3. Juventus show their European experience
The Italians have been involved in two of the last three Champions League finals, and they showed why tonight.
Massimiiliano Allegri’s side were second-best for much of the original tie in Turin as Tottenham fought back, and they seemed to be on the ropes for the first two-thirds of this evening’s second leg at Wembley, growing increasingly frustrated – four of their players were booked.
However, when their moment came, the Italians were ruthlessly clinical, scoring with two of their three efforts on target.
Spurs, by contrast, had 23 shots, with six on target and will rue their inability to get further ahead when they were on top.
4. Talk about fine margins…!
A tie that started on a knife-edge ended in much the same way.
When Ben Davies send a 90th-minute cross into the box, Kane leapt and sent a header bouncing past Buffon.
Wembley held its breath as the ball hit the far post and dropped onto the goalline before being cleared. Tottenham players appealed for a goal in desperation but the ball had not crossed the line.
Pochettino said in his pre-match press conference that some fortune is always required on these occasions, and Lady Luck was smiling was on the Old Lady at the death.
5. Tottenham are left to focus on top-four fight and the FA Cup
With their Champions League dream over, the Lilywhites must now ensure they get another crack at the competition next year by finishing in the top four spots in the Premier League.
They can also now devote more of their resources and attention to the FA Cup, which remains an eminently winnable trophy with Manchester City out of the picture.
Spurs will rightly be hugely disappointed with this exit, given their position at half time at Wembley, and it will be little consolation to talk about the experience they have gained.
Nonetheless, everyone involved with the club can look back fondly on the victories over Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. And, if the Lilywhites can lift the FA Cup back here at Wembley in May, the pain of their curtailed European adventure will be entirely forgotten.
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