Juventus rallies to beat Spurs in Champions League action

Juventus rallies to beat Spurs in Champions League action
Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, left, vies with Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane during Champions League play on Wednesday.   (GLYN KIRK / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Wed., March 7, 2018

LONDON—Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala scored twice inside three minutes as Juventus stunned Tottenham with a second-half fightback to reach the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-1 victory on Wednesday.

While Juventus collapsed in the first leg to draw 2-2, it was Tottenham ’s turn at Wembley Stadium to throw away a winning position and go out with a 4-3 aggregate loss.

When Son Heung-min capped a dominant first half for Tottenham with a goal, it should have been a platform to build on for a team without a domestic league title in 57 years against one that’s won the last six Serie A titles.

But a pair of substitutions and a tactical shift — from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3 — by Massimiliano Allegri transformed the last-16 match.

And it was pair of Argentines that ended the hopes of compatriot Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager.

Higuain struck from close range in the 64th minute and then created the winner, holding off three Tottenham players before feeding Dybala to net his first Champions League goal of the season.

From a position of strength, this was a capitulation stemming from a loss of concentration and composure by the hosts.

“I think we conceded three chances and they scored twice,” Pochettino said. “I am disappointed because we missed a lot of chances and because the team deserved more.”

There was one chance to force the game into extra time in the 90th. Harry Kane’s header hit the post and the ball crept across Gianluigi Buffon’s goal-line before being hooked clear by Andrea Barzagli.

“It’s the history of Tottenham,” Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini said. “They always create many chances to score ... but at the end they miss something.”

For Tottenham, which beat holder Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the group stage, there would be no third European Cup quarterfinal in its history.

Instead Pochettino’s side became the first English side to be eliminated in the Champions League this season.

Chelsea and Manchester United will complete their second legs next week, but two Premier League clubs are already through.

Basel 2, Manchester City 1: With its first home loss in 15 months, Manchester City ended up stumbling into the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday.

Not that Pep Guardiola was particularly bothered about a surprise 2-1 home loss to Basel.

“This kind of position is not going to happen in the quarter-finals, where you have a 4-0 (lead) from the first leg,” the City coach said. “When it’s scary to be (knocked) out, the rhythm will be completely different.”

Indeed, it was difficult to draw too many conclusions from what was only City’s fourth loss of the season in all competitions.

A 4-0 win in Switzerland in the first leg three weeks ago made qualification almost a formality for a team that is 16 points clear in the Premier League and one of the favourites to win the Champions League.

Guardiola fielded a virtual reserve side at Etihad Stadium for the return match, and making six changes from its previous game disrupted the fluency of the team’s passing and pressing game.

City took the lead in the eighth minute through Gabriel Jesus in his first start in 2018, but Mohamed Elyounoussi equalized in the 17th and Basel regularly broke through the home side’s midfield in the final hour of the game.

Wing back Michael Lang earned Basel its latest victory over a Premier League giant by smashing a rising shot inside the near post through goalkeeper Claudio Bravo’s attempted save in the 71st.

“You will find in all the clubs in the world,” Guardiola said, “that when you make six changes, the team is not the same.”
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