It was a mixed evening for English clubs in the UCL on wednesday evening as Tottenham Hotspur crashed out to last year’s beaten finalist Juventus 2-1 at Wembley stadium, while Manchester City, despite losing 2-1 at home, took the easy street into the quarter finals with a 5-2 aggregate win over FC Basel of Switzerland.
Pablo Dybala, Blaise Matuidi, and Giorgio Chiellini all returned for Juventus, while Heung-Min Son started ahead of Erick Lamela.
In a game they dominated, Tottenham started on the front foot, pressing Juventus all over the pitch and drew first blood in the third minute through Son. Harry Kane battled to gain the ball from two Juve players in midfield and set up the South Korean international but his fierce shot was well parried by Juventus’ legendary keeper Gianluigi Buffon. Minutes later, Kane got the better of Chiellini and rounded Buffon but he could only find the side netting from an acute angle.
A strong penalty appeal from Juve was ignored as the referee failed to see Jan Vertoghen clip the foot of Douglas Costa in the box.
Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Son all went close for the North London club thereafter, and they deservedly went ahead five minutes before half time. The ball fell kindly to Kevin Trippier after Barzagli blocked a pass to Alli, and his low cross was bundled in by Son past a stranded and sprawling Buffon at the far post to hand Mauricio Pochettino’s team a 3-2 advantage at the break.
The second half continued just like the first ended, Tottenham trying to put their more illustrious opponent to the sword with Kane going close and Moussa Dembele bossing the midfield.
However, Juventus’ coach Maximilliano Allegri, known for his in-game tactical prowess rang the changes, Ghana’s Kwandwo Asamoan and veteran wing-back Stephen Licthsteiner came on to add width on the hour mark and the Old Lady found their verve. Higuain and Dybala- both anonymous until the substitutions- both went close with the game’s pendulum shifting in full swing.
The Italian Champions did change the game- and tie- in the space of three minutes. Substitute Licthsteiner worked his way to the byline and his cross was headed towards an unsighted Higuain who ghosted in to equalize in the 63rd minute. The Turin giants went ahead shortly afterwards, 30-year old Higuain held the ball up expertly in midfield and his through pass freed Dybala- who sprang the offside trap- to confidently find the top corner and hand Juve a 2-1 lead on the night.
It was siege mentality onwards with Tottenham the protagonist and Juve doing what they know how to do best, defend. Alli, Son, Lamela, Erikson and Kane all went close but none closest as Kane. The England international striker struck the bar with a header and Juve’s defence cleared off the line in a dramatic end to a game Tottenham didn’t look like losing for much of the night.
At the Etihad stadium with almost nothing to play for, Pep Guardiola handed a rare start to Yaya Toure and 17-year old England youth international, Phil Foden.
Man City quickly made the encounter a training practice less than 10 minutes in with Gabriel Jesus’ goal. The Brazilian tapped into an empty net from Bernardo Silva’s cross after in-form Leroy Sane’s pace caused chaos in midfield. Basel equalized through Elyounoussi 10 minutes later, the youngster slamming home when free on the penalty spot. The Swiss champions matched their hosts for much of the encounter and scored the winning goal on 71 minutes, Michael Lang catching reserve keeper Claudio Bravo at his near post to hand City a rare home defeat.
Tottenham 1-2 Juventus (Juventus advance 3-4 on aggregate)
Manchester City 1-2 FC Basel (Manchester City advance 5-2 on aggregate)