Print Edition - 2018-03-09 | Sports
Juve, Man City make it to last eight
- UEFA champions league
- Serie A giants rally to oust Spurs
- Guardiola’s men lose but advance
Mar 9, 2018-
Mauricio Pochettino admitted Tottenham paid the price for “two big mistakes” as Juventus staged a stunning fightback to reach the Champions League quarter-finals 4-3 on aggregate on Wednesday.
Juventus were on the brink of elimination after Son Heung-Min’s first-half strike put Spurs ahead in the last 16, second leg at Wembley. But, despite being outplayed in the opening period, Juve buckled down after the break and equalised through Gonzalo Higuain. That was the decisive moment as Tottenham suddenly went to pieces, allowing the Italian champions to score again two minutes and 49 seconds later as Paulo Dybala punished poor defending with a cool finish.
Crashing out after having the tie in their hands with a 2-1 loss was a bitter pill for Spurs to swallow and once again raised questions about their ability to win major trophies. Although Pochettino claimed Tottenham deserved to win after dominating for so long, the Argentine coach conceded his side shot themselves in the foot with their defensive blunders.
“In less than three minutes we conceded two goals—two big mistakes—and that is why we are out,” he said. “In both legs we deserved more. I feel proud. We played fantastic football until that first goal and we dominated. But in football it is not about deserving, you have to score and not concede. Of course we are very disappointed but it is part of growing. We will keep going.”
It was an epic escape act from Juventus, who remain on course to reach a third Champions League final in four seasons after twice finishing as runners-up. The two-time European champions have enjoyed some memorable moments in the competition, but coming back from the brink against such in-form opposition will rank as one of their finest hours.
Tottenham were in control early on and Harry Kane fed Son, whose strike was repelled by Gianluigi Buffon. Son put Tottenham ahead in the 39th minute. The South Korea forward has a knack of scoring at Wembley, but few will have been more fortuitous than his 14th goal at Tottenham’s temporary home. When Trippier whipped a low cross towards the far post, Son got his feet in a tangle and miscued his shot onto his standing left leg, with the deflection somehow lifting the ball over Buffon and into the net.
So poor in the first half, Juventus showed more far desire and drive after the interval. They nearly equalised when Argentine forward Dybala fired over after sloppy Tottenham defending gifted him a sight of goal. It was a warning Tottenham failed to heed and the visitors drew level in the 64th minute with their first effort on target. Stephan Lichtsteiner crossed to Sami Khedira and when he flicked towards Higuain, the Argentine striker perfectly timed his run past the statuesque Spurs defence and slotted home with ease.
Tottenham were anxious and Juventus went for the kill three minutes later. Higuain’s pass dissected Tottenham’s poorly-executed offside trap and Dybala ran through to drill a cool finish past Hugh Lloris. Tottenham laid siege to the Juventus goal in the final stages, but the visitors defended heroically and rode their luck when Kane’s header hit a post before being scooped off the line by Barzagli.
Meanwhile, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola criticised his heavily rotated side for “forgetting to attack” despite reaching the quarter-finals 5-2 on aggregate over Basel on Wednesday. City suffered a first home defeat in 15 months as the Swiss champions came from behind to win 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium and salvage some pride from their last-16 tie after being thrashed 4-0 on home turf in the first leg three weeks ago.
“From tomorrow we will be happy to be in the quarter-finals for the second time in this club’s history. We are new in that position, so we are so happy for that,” said Guardiola. “Even the first half was quite good, in the second half we forgot to attack, we forgot to play. Just to pass to pass for itself is nothing, so the second half was really, really poor.”
Guardiola could afford the luxury of making six changes from Sunday’s dominant 1-0 win over Chelsea, but still saw his side extend their aggregate advantage early on when Gabriel Jesus tapped home after just eight minutes. However, Mohamed Elyounoussi exposed some slack City defending to smash in an equaliser for the visitors nine minutes later before Michael Lang rocketed home a spectacular winner 19 minutes from time.
“It’s special for us to beat this team and we go out of the Champions League with a decent performance in a very difficult situation,” said Basel coach Raphael Wicky. City could have the Premier League mathematically wrapped up by the time they are next in Champions League action in early April.
And on this evidence they will need the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva to be well-rested and in-form if they are to deliver the dream of their Abu Dhabi owners by winning the European Cup for a first time as a number of youngsters and fringe players failed to impress.
Man City 1-2 Basel (Man City win 5-2 on agg)
Spurs 1-2 Juve (Juve win 4-3 on agg)
Published: 09-03-2018 10:36