UCL: Tottenham Vs Juventus - 3 Lessons Learnt
What initially appeared to be a perfectly executed plan and a huge win for Tottenham ended in another dramatic victory for Juventus on Tuesday.
Juve scored twice in three minutes to defeat Spurs 2-1 in the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 clash on Wednesday at Wembley Stadium. It truly was a cliched game of two halves, with either side controlling each interval.
Here are three lessons from the match
1. Allegri corrects his mistakes
Spurs was dominant in the midfield in both matches against Juventus. In Wednesday’s match, the midfield of Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele, with Christian Eriksen frequently dropping deeper to help transition the ball to the attackers, stifled Juventus’ midfield of Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi, and Sami Khedira.
Tottenham likewise understood that the way Juventus were set up the majority of their attacks were going to come through the center of the pitch, so they packed the middle and mostly ran the show.
Unfortunately, Massimiliano Allegri realized this too. Midway through the second half, he brought on Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichsteiner, and immediately started targeting the weak point of Tottenham’s squad: the fullbacks.
It paid dividends almost immediately. Juventus were able to move the ball into wider positions, which stretched Spurs, leaving them more open to exploitation by Alex Sandro and Douglas Costa.
In the end, Mauricio Pochettino’s side failed to react to Allegri’s tweaks. The high defensive line left the team exposed and a momentary slip ultimately cost Tottenham, despite a promising response late in the game.
2. The Argentine connection
Juventus’ top-two scorers are Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala. They’ve scored a combined 37 goals in all competitions, which is around 45 per cent of the team’s total output.
Higuain has earned a reputation as a bottler in finals. Missing quality opportunities in a World Cup finale and back-to-back Copa Americas can lead to those claims. However, he definitely silenced his critics on Wednesday.
In the first half, Juventus was so compressed that many key players were unable to affect the game. That included Higuain and Dybala. Once those two substitutions were brought into the match, they were on the ball and influencing the proceedings.
Neither player was called up by Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli for the March friendlies, primarily due to a lack of minutes in recent weeks. However, if they keep producing at this current rate, especially in the Champions League, Sampaoli won’t have a choice but to include them in his World Cup squad.
3. Experience Counts
Tottenham lack of Champions League experience was their albatross on the night. They should have wrapped up the game after going ahead in the first half when Son scuffed in from Kieran Trippier's 39th-minute cross.
Tottenham were very, very good in this match, especially in the first half. Son Heung-Min in particular took advantage of an excellent match-up against Andrea Barzagli and torched him over and over in what was a fantastic game for the Korean. Between Son and Harry Kane, Tottenham had no lack of scoring opportunities.
However, except for Son’s first half goal, they weren’t able to turn those opportunities into goals.
You can blame luck, you can blame a minor finishing slump, you can blame Juventus’ defense. Either way, Spurs had opportunities to put the match away and couldn’t quite get the job done.
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