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The last 16 tie between Tottenham and Juventus was one of the intriguing encounters of this season’s Champions League. And the tie didn’t disappoint as it was full of drama.
It wasn’t the best of starts when the North London club went two goals down inside ten minutes in Turin. But what happened in the following 80 minutes was an indication of how the team has developed under Mauricio Pochettino. Spurs not only fought back to draw 2-2, but they also dominated Juventus in every department.
And when they took a draw and two goals to the second leg, they were understandably labeled the favorites. But all it took was a mere four minutes to outdo what Spurs have done over the best part of 180 minutes.
This is how knock-out games pan out. Juventus should know as they were knocked out of the quarterfinals two years ago by Bayern after Allegri’s side took an early two-nil lead at the Allianz Arena. A couple of minutes can determine a whole tie. One simple mistake can be the end of you and one clearance off the line will be invaluable.
Despite not being able to take their advantage from the first leg, Tottenham should in no way be labeled as ‘bottlers’.
After all, they were facing an experienced side which has won six league titles in a row and has reached the Champions League final twice in the last three years. The fact that Juventus made their few chances count and the way they passionately and stoutly defended their lead shouldn’t be ground for criticizing Spurs, rather a source of praise and admiration for the Old Lady.
Of course, Spurs’ recent past has made them susceptible to questions on the strength of their mentality. Lack of which has proven costly on numerous occasions.
They squandered a 2-0 advantage at Stamford Bridge when Leicester won the league in 2015/16, they were hammered 5-1 by Newcastle on the last Match Day of the same season to surrender 2nd spot to their derby rivals Arsenal, they weren’t able to qualify out of a relatively easy Champions League group last season. These are all instances of when their lack of winning mentality and self-belief let them down. But that cannot be applied to the games against Juventus or their current season.
Tottenham have topped a group consisting of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. They were the better side against Juventus, aside from some 14 minutes. Their loss is an indication that they are a work in progress and are going through some kind of a learning curve. They have been improving under Pochettino and this game will make them even stronger if they can learn from it.
The only thing that should worry Tottenham and their supporters is whether they will be able to keep hold of their star players come summer. Shrugging off the ever-increasing interest in Harry Kane will especially be a tough task.
A win against Juventus and progress to the quarterfinals of the Champions League would have eased such worries and would have sent a message to Europe that Tottenham are now part of the ‘big boys club’; a loss, however, means they still have work to do. But it no way indicates that they are not a good side and shouldn’t diminish the remarkable job Pochettino is doing there.
Spurs can now turn their attention towards winning the FA Cup. Doing so will be the perfect response to their critics, who on numerous occasions downplayed the team’s progress as they didn’t yet have a trophy to show for it.
The team will also be focusing on maintaining their top four status in the league which will offer them another chance to prove themselves in the biggest club competition.
Written by Brook Genene
Follow Brook on Twitter @brookge
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