A round-up of the first two ties of the Champions League Round of 16 including a fabulous comeback from Spurs in Turin, and a smooth ride for Man City in Switzerland.
Mauricio Pochettino called his Spurs side more mature as they fought back from two goals down to draw in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie against Juventus in the Champions League, last night.
Spurs arrived in Turin with the scalps of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund on full display. Adding skin from the Italian giants would be too much surely? Juventus had contested the final twice in the past three years and had beaten English opposition the last six times they had faced them in this contest.
And talk about the dream start.
Gonzalo Higuain scored twice in the first eight minutes; the fastest-ever opening brace in Champions League history and Spurs were in trouble.
The Argentine’s first was sublime. With only two minutes gone on the clock, Miralem Pjanic floated a beautiful free kick into the box, and Higuain turned and volleyed the ball past Hugo Lloris with stunning precision.
Six minutes later, Ben Davies clumsily brought down Federico Bernardeschi in the penalty area, and Higuain stepped up to dispatch it into the bottom right-hand corner.
It should have been.
Juventus hadn’t conceded a goal in 2018 and Spurs needed two. No side had ever come back from a two-goal deficit in the Allianz Arena since the Old Lady moved into the new stadium back in 2011.
And then came the maturity. Last year, eleven Spurs’ heads would have disappeared like Ostrich’s, but the reaction was immediate and ruthless.
Moments after Harry Kane had seen his six-yard header brilliantly saved by Gianluigi Buffon; Dele Alli put the Premier League’s top marksman through on goal, and he rounded Buffon, to score his seventh Champions League goal of the season.
Then came the pivotal moment, when on the stroke of half-time, Douglas Costa showed Serge Aurier a clean set of heels, and the Ivorian defender suffered a moment of madness, hacking him down in the box. Higuain must have been brimming with confidence when he stepped up to score his hat-trick from the penalty spot but blasted the ball against the bar.
Spurs came out of the traps like a flame out of a Zippo and got their just rewards in the 71st minute when Christian Eriksen scored from a low free-kick to make it advantage Spurs when the pair meet in the second leg at Wembley in three weeks time.
In a sign of the times, Spurs had 12 shots on goal (Juventus had 4) and enjoyed 67%. Pochettino’s men remain undefeated in all contests stretching back to 16 Dec (13 games).
FC Basel 0 v 4 Man City
The team that beat Spurs on 16 Dec was Man City, and the Citizens can field their third side when FC Basel visit the Etihad in three-weeks time after a comfortable 3-0 first leg victory.
The last time a team from Manchester visited St. Jakob-Park, they lost by a goal to nil. But you knew Pep Guardiola’s side wasn’t going to come a cropper like Jose Mourinho’s did.
City put FC Basel to sleep in the first 45-minutes. Ilkay Gundogan scored a smart near-post header from a corner in the 14th minute. Bernardo Silva made it two, four minutes later when his deflected shot found the back of the net, and Sergio Aguero made it three when a stunner from the edge of the box left the keeper stone like in the middle of his goal. Gundogan scored his second with the goal of the game ten minutes after the break and could have scored a hat-trick if it wasn’t for a stunning save by Tomas Vaclik.
City is the 10/3 favourites to win the title.
Here are the results and odds in full.
Juventus 2 v 2 Spurs
FC Basel 0 v 4 Man City
Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Man City 10/3
Bayern Munich 11/2
Paris St Germain 11/2
Real Madrid 10/1
Man Utd 16/1