The night when Tottenham Hotspur proved they can be European champions
Tottenham Hotspur have the pedigree and the players to win the Champions League for the first time as the rousing 2-2 draw at Juventus proves, writes Desmond Kane.
So much then for the win over Real Madrid being a fluke. Any suggestions that Tottenham are tourists in the last 16 of football's ultimate event were swept away on Tuesday night by the sort of recovery not seen in Turin since Michael Caine got behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper.
Tottenham's own Italian Job was hardly daylight robbery. It was a heist made in football heaven by a side whose tender years belie their appearance as a fearsome, ferocious counter-attacking unit.
One dangerous enough to reach the Champions League final in Kiev on May 26? Most certainly. And perhaps more beckons still on football’s grandest stage.
Tottenham’s 3-1 dismantling of the European champions Real Madrid at Wembley in October, coming after a 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu a fortnight earlier was supposed to be because of a depressed opposition. The same cannot be said of this Juventus side, who had only conceded one goal in their past 16 games priors to these feverish goings-on.
This was a team that last conceded two goals in their own digs in the Coppa Italia a year ago, one that had not conceded at home since November and one that is built for the unforgiving vagaries of continental craft.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino gestures during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur at Allianz Stadium on February 13, 2018 in Turin, Italy.Getty Images
Trailing 2-0 after only nine minutes to the undisputed Italian champions in a stadium at boiling point on a bitter February evening, this all had the feeling of a chastening learning experience for Tottenham's fledglings.
With Gonzalo Higuain rattling a volley and a penalty into the rigging beyond the fingertips of Hugo Lloris, it felt like one of those occasions when it was all too much for Mauricio’s brave boys. As it turned out, the kids were only stringing us along.
Tottenham were well on top of their hosts when Dele Alli played in Harry Kane to round Gianluigi Buffon for their first on 35 minutes, before Christian Eriksen’s free-kick eluded the slightly creaking Buffon for a merited equaliser with 19 minutes remaining of normal time.
There was no luck or good fortune involved in Tottenham making a point at one of the most uninviting venues in European football, a 40,000 hothouse that does not suffer fools gladly.
Massimiliano Allegri, the Juventus coach, had intimated that his side would be left with "broken bones" if they tried to take Spurs on physically. It turns out technique was a bigger concern as they lagged behind culturally to the swarming Premier League team.
Tottenham oozed a work ethic, technique and a keen cutting edge that always needs to be there when you visit places like Turin. In the magical Kane, they boast a striker who is in his world-class pomp on such nights.
Gonzalo Higuain celebrates.Getty Images
No wonder the Poch looked as happy as seeing a Buenos Aries steak at full-time. This result had real meat to it.
Higuain walloped a penalty against a bar after Serge Aurier temporarily took leave of his senses before the break, but Kane could have had more at the other end with a little bit care and attention.
"We are more mature now," said Pochettino. "In the last few weeks, the team are growing and have stepped up. It’s a good example of the capacity we have."
As it is, Kane's career is carried by angels. His seventh goal in the Champions League equals the record of Steven Gerrard in 2009/10 with more to come surely for this modern day Roy of the Rovers.
Tottenham completed 556 passes to 294 by the home side, revelled in 65 percent possession and enjoyed the crisper possession with the glorious Mousa Dembele and Eriksen providing gumption for the visitors to constantly trouble a Juventus side, who had lost last year’s final to Madrid.
The gnarled Giorgio Chiellini was making noises about reaching the final in Kiev before this match. His side will do well to make it beyond Wembley on March 7.
If Tottenham don’t concede, they are in the last eight. Nobody will want Kane, Dele Alli or his band of Lilywhite brothers coming to town any time soon. The Tottenham boys are making all the noise
If Spurs weren’t viewed as the Real deal before this sojourn to Turin, they should be now. It would be perhaps a miracle to rival the shroud of Turin if Kane raises aloft the big cup.
The Champions League is a knock-out competition that does not need to be mastered by domestic excellence. Liverpool limped home fifth in the Premier League in 2005 yet still lifted their fifth European Cup at the end of that season.
It should also be noted that one of Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain will not be around for the quarter-finals, lightening the load considerably.
Spurs seem made for European football. And they can conquer Europe if this type of output becomes the accepted norm.