Lads, as Sir Alex Ferguson famously remarked, it’s Tottenham. And we all know what that means. Disappointment. Frustration. Underachievement. Just when it’s won, it’s lost. Why should this Champions League campaign be any different to some very recent history?
Meaning, just as Tottenham’s excellent title challenges suffer inexplicable derailments at crucial moments, so a Champions League tie that looked to be well in hand, suddenly reared up and savaged them. From the quarter-finals to the ranks of the also rans took all of two minutes and 49 seconds and this time there was no heroic fightback. Tottenham were looking good, 1-0 up on the night, 3-2 ahead on aggregate, Son Heung-min had scored his 14th Wembley goal this season – of 16, in total – and all was right in the world.
Then it all went a little, as the saying goes, Spursy. Juventus, having barely threatened all night aside from a travesty of a rejected penalty, scored an equaliser. Tottenham were still progressing on away goals, though. All they had to do was stay calm and – oh, Juventus scored again. Suddenly a familiar feeling of dread descended.
Paulo Dybala proved Juventus’ hero as they knocked Tottenham out of the Champions League knockout stages
The Argentine broke Tottenham supporters’ hearts on 67 minutes when played through on goal by Gonzalo Higuain
Dybala watches on as his left-footed finish floats over Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and into the far corner of the goal
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris 6; Trippier 6, Sanchez 6, Vertonghen 5.5, Davies 5.5; Dier 6 (Lamela 74, 6), Dembele 6.5; Eriksen 6, Alli 6.5 (Llorente 86), Son 7; Kane 6.5.
Subs not used: Vorm, Rose, Wanyama, Moura
Booked: Vertonghen, Dembele, Alli
Goal: Son 39
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino 6
Juventus (4-3-3): Buffon 6; Barzagli 5.5, Benatia 5 (Lichtsteiner 61, 7), Chiellini 8, Sandro 6; Khedira 6, Pjanic 6, Matuidi 5 (Asamoah 60, 6); Dybala 7, Higuain 7.5 (Sturaro 83), Costa 7.
Subs not used: Szczesny, Marchisio, Rugani, Bentancur
Booked: Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro, Pjanic
Goals: Higuain 64, Dybala 67
Manager: Massimiliano Allegri 7
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
*Player Ratings by Matt Barlow
Just as it had when title momentum went down the tubes at Upton Park, the year they were supposed to be coming for Leicester. Just as it had when Chelsea scored four against them in an FA Cup semi-final here last year.
Tottenham play football that should win trophies, without actually winning trophies. Mauricio Pochettino had talked of a Champions League campaign that has got Europe talking about his team – but who remembers the clubs that exit at the first knockout stage?
Tottenham put down some markers in the group, sure, but this is where Europe’s elite are judged. Can you do it without stabilisers, without a safety net? Juventus had to score two away from home in the second-half and delivered; Tottenham had to hold a lead, and couldn’t. That will be noticed, you can be certain. They went deeper into this tournament under Harry Redknapp – and beat the best team in Italy at this stage, too.
It will be argued experience was the key, just as it was when Real Madrid met Paris Saint-Germain. Certainly, having reached two of the last three finals, Juventus know the course and distance. They had three times as many Champions League appearances in their starting line-up as Tottenham, too – but it was about more than just that.
Tottenham have to be better under the pressure of the marquee match. They have to be tight in those moments when the biggest games are decided – certainly if they have ambitions to one day win this tournament, or any tournament really, under Pochettino.
Tottenham manager (left) Mauricio Pochettino greets Juventus counterpart Massimiliano Allegri before kick-off
Before the match, everyone inside Wembley paid their respects to Davide Astori who sadly passed away last week
Juventus fans hold a message reading ‘RIP Astori’ in respect to the Fiorentina captain and Italy international
Tottenham’s first real chance of the game came around the 15-minute mark when Dele Alli played Harry Kane (centre) through
After Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had come off his line to close down the angle, Kane tried to round the Italy legend
Tottenham’s talisman did just that but was stretching as he tried to shoot into an empty net
However, sadly for the majority inside the ground – the angle proved too much for Kane as his effort hit the side netting
The mix of disbelief and frustration was evident on Kane’s face as Spurs miss a glorious chance to take 1-0 lead on the night
By the time the last 16 is reached, the level of the best teams is extraordinary. Tottenham did not defend badly for 90 per cent of the game. They were undone by momentary lapses – missed chances from Son, a split second loss of focus at the back, but that is how these encounters are decided.
Juventus needed two goals, got two chances, scored them, and went home. Had Tottenham been that clinical in the first-half, the tie would have been long over.
Son could have been the hero but he ended up as one of the culprits. He was excellent in the first-half, lively, always available, positive in intent as Tottenham tried to be, but with hindsight his wastefulness cost.
His first goal could have been his hat-trick with more composure, starting in the third minute when excellent hold up play from Harry Kane put him through, forcing a fine save from Gianluigi Buffon.
In the 38th minute, Son was sent speeding away down the left by Ben Davies, drawing his man, but screwing his shot wide across the face of goal – although that didn’t seem to matter when he opened the scoring for Tottenham a minute later.
Dele Alli and Kane were involved in the build-up, but the killer pass was played, as it has been so often this season, by Kieran Trippier from deep on the right. First time, too, as is his trademark, catching Juventus’s back line in recovery mode. Son was the spare man but lucked out, scuffing his shot only to see it spin past Buffon and into the net.
Juventus needed two and didn’t look as if they had one in them, but like all good, experienced teams they stuck at it and waited for an opportunity. Maybe they figured that with Tottenham in pressure situations, you tend to get at least one.
After 64 minutes it came. Gonzalo Higuain had until that point been largely anonymous, but Juventus as a team responded to some attacking changes made by coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Juventus’ star man Dybala (left) gets dispossessed by this sliding tackle from Eric Dier during the first half
There was a controversial talking point on 17 minutes when Juventus had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down
It came when Douglas Costa (left) was running with the ball before being tackled by Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen
However, replays showed that Vertonghen clearly got the Brazilian rather than the ball – much to the visitors’ dismay
Costa couldn’t believe his luck as he appealed to the officials nearby who waved away his claims
Even Juventus goalkeeper Buffon was aghast that the decision wasn’t given to his side during the last-16 second leg
Son Heung-min came close to giving Spurs the lead with this low left-footed strike when played through on goal
The South Korea international winces in frustration after seeing his effort whistle past the far post
However, Spurs’ No 7 was soon beaming after scoring the opening goal of the game in the second leg on Wednesday
His goal came in a fortunate manner as he miskicked the ball causing it loop over Buffon and towards goal
Buffon could only look on in desperation as the ball bounced into his goal – to make Juventus’ night even harder
Son celebrates in front of a jubilant home support – with their fervent backing creating a special atmosphere inside Wembley
The 25-year-old was promptly congratulated by his team-mates after giving Spurs the lead on aggregate by a clear goal
Substitute Stephan Lichtsteiner sped down the right and clipped in a cross that was headed towards the far post by Sami Khedira. No Tottenham player occupied that space so Higuain entered and turned the ball in on the volley, leaving Hugo Lloris rooted, a lovely striker’s goal.
At 1-1 Tottenham would still have progressed on away goals. The mood had changed, though. Juventus sensed the kill, Tottenham sensed – well, whatever they sense in these situations. Impending calamity, maybe.
Soon, it arrived. Davinson Sanchez had played well to that point but he was turned quite spectacularly by Higuain, who slipped the ball through to Paulo Dybala, now haring on goal with only Lloris to beat.
He made no mistake and Juventus held their nerve, even when a Kane header hit the inside of a post on 90 minutes. They saw the game out in a way Tottenham simply could not.
Don’t call them lucky, though. It wasn’t luck. Indeed, in defeat, Juventus would have claimed they were the unfortunate ones. They had a penalty when Jan Vertonghen took out Douglas Costa after 17 minutes. Rock solid. No question. Clear as day.
To the majority watching inside the stadium, to the great number at home, even those listening on the radio knew it was a penalty, given that there cannot have been an observer in the commentary positions who would not have called it immediately.
Juve centre back Giorgio Chiellini was shown a yellow card in the second half for this crude challenge on Dele Alli
Juventus were given a lifeline in the tie when Gonzalo Higuain equalised for the visitors on 64 minutes
The Argentine striker ghosted in unmarked at the back post to prod home a finish past Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris
Even Vertonghen knew because he is not that good an actor and his protestations of innocence were hammy and unconvincing. The only folk in denial were match official Szymon Marciniak, and his many, many assistants. Particularly the bump on a log behind the goal.
Juventus winger Costa as good as landed in a heap at his feet. Marciniak waved play on; his little helper stared mutely ahead. Juventus, as one, raged. For a UEFA-standard additional assistant referee – as the bumps are formally known – to miss this was incredible. Where do they get these people from?
Poland, in the case of last night’s officials, meaning they won’t have had a whole lot of experience in front of 80,000 capacity club crowds, or handling games this fast and technical.
Another layer of irony is added by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin’s opposition to VAR, claiming ‘nobody understands it’. It could be argued that they understand it better than last night’s assistant understood the rules of the game. Costa did not even get a chance to exaggerate his fall. VAR cannot come quickly enough for officials as eagle-eyed as this.
Higuain immediately rushed to get the ball out of the back of the net as Juventus went in search of another goal
The 30-year-old roared with delight as the Italian giants gained some belief in this exciting second-leg encounter