Juventus travelled to the famous Wembley stadium on Wednesday evening knowing only a victory would ensure they move onto the next round after their capitulation early on in Turin when Gonzalo Higuain’s double had them 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, but a remarkable Tottenham comeback, led by Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen made the tie brilliantly poised ahead of tonight’s return clash.
Spurs held the slight advantage by virtue of their two away goals in the draw in Turin, and their recent dominance at Wembley – not losing there since October in the EFL Cup equally meant the Bianconeri would have to work their socks off if they would stand any realistic chance of progressing.
Every of Mauricio Pochettino’s pre-match tactics seemed to be working following a brilliant start by the hosts, Gianluigi Buffon was called into action as early as the fourth minute when the legendary goaltender was required to get two strong hands to Son Heung-Ming’s blistering effort from 10 yards, after the speedy attacker had got beyond Andrea Barzagli.
That scintillating start from the hosts would soon pay off as the brilliant Son struck his 14th goal at their makeshift home ground this season, Kieran Trippier swinging in a delightful cross across the face of goal for the South Korean to attack with his scuffed effort bouncing onto the turf, over Buffon and in; Giorgio Chiellini and Barzagli both at sea. The game was only 39 minutes old though but that goal meant Juventus would now have to score at least twice to go through.
Tottenham’s ascendency seemed even less likely to change after the intermission and discipline was becoming a worry for Max Allegri’s side — both Mehdi Benatia and Chiellini were cautioned for professional fouls with less than eight minutes of the second half played and with the hosts looking in full control of proceedings, Juventus hopes of making it to a second consecutive Champions League final was fast dwindling.
What followed next after Allegri’s tactical changes was as unscripted as it was sensational — two goals in three minutes from Juventus’ Argentinian attacking duo of Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala who was absent from the first leg, turned the tie on its head and had the Lilywhites kicking away in frustration.
First, Stephen Lichtsteiner, on for the booked Benatia floated in a cross which Sami Khedira flicked on and when a defensively naïve Tottenham tarried in dealing with that one, Higuain stole in to finish with a volley from close range. It was 1-1 on the night, 3-3 on aggregate but Tottenham were still going to qualify with that should the referee call for time. Perhaps if they had held on for much longer after that blip, things might have turned out differently.
But three minutes later, the hosts defence that had seemed so secure then again crumbled like a pack of cards, Higuain the orchestrator now as he simply turned and slid a pass through to Dybala. For some reason, Trippier had failed to track the run and desperately appealed for offside, but Dybala continued on before lifting his left-foot shot smartly beyond Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal. All of a night’s good work had completely evaporated in a matter of minutes for the hosts.
By the time Harry Kane saw his 90th minute header hooked off the line by Barzagli with the Juve defence regrouping to wade through that last gasp of their opposition’s frantic attacks, it was already too late, and telling how Tottenham had been the architect of their own misfortunes.