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Eriksen puts Spurs in driving seat

Juventus 2 Tottenham 2

By Jonathan Liew

A curious emotional vacuum settled over the stadium at full-time. Tottenham and Juventus shook hands with a kind of suspicion, neither side quite sure how to react. Were they the burglars or the burgled?

Tottenham were the dominant side in some respects: playing the Italian champions off the park for periods, enjoying 67 per cent possession, camping out in Juve territory, silencing the home fans. Harry Kane scored again, Mousa Dembele had the game on strings and Christian Eriksen ran the midfield.

On the other side was the fact that they trailed from the second minute, and had they lost would have had nobody to blame but themselves. Once more, Tottenham were bedevilled by individual errors in a big game.

The featherweight clearance by Jan Vertonghen that led to Juventus' opening goal within 75 seconds. The peasant scythe by Ben Davies that handed them a second after eight minutes. The tackle by Serge Aurier that gave away a second penalty on the stroke of half-time.

But Gonzalo Higuain missed his second penalty, and in hindsight it was the transformative event of the game. Eriksen's lawn-mowing free-kick with 20 minutes remaining earned Tottenham a precious draw and the edge in this tie. They will be encouraged by the way they recovered from going 2-0 down. They may even, in time, come to see this as one of their proudest European away performances.

To get there, though, Tottenham first had to walk through a nightmarish landscape entirely of their own making. The game was just seconds old when Vertonghen cleared the ball straight to Miralem Pjanic, Dembele bringing him down as he charged at goal.

As Pjanic trotted up to the free-kick, nobody spotted Higuain peeling away. With a brilliant swivel, the Argentinian sent the ball into the far corner. The clock showed 74 seconds.

On eight minutes, Federico Bernadeschi was brought down by Davies as he tried to control a deep cross. Higuain converted the penalty.

Yet in a strange way, going 2-0 down seemed to liberate Tottenham. There were chances too: a simple header for Kane after Eriksen's delicious cross. And 10 minutes from half-time, Tottenham were rewarded for their endeavour, Eriksen winning the ball back in midfield, Dele Alli sliding through Kane, who rounded Gianluigi Buffon and curled the ball into an empty net.

But Juventus still threatened and Douglas Costa sent Aurier for a bag of chips and powered into the area, pursued shoulder-to-shoulder. The Frenchman blinked first. He scythed in. Costa went down. Another penalty. Higuain went hard and high and hit the crossbar.

In the 70th minute, Alli won a soft free-kick from Giorgio Chiellini. This is not the first time the words "going down" and "Dele Alli" have occurred in close proximity to each other, but his antics should not detract from what Eriksen did next.

The Juventus defence leapt, expecting the dipping up-and-under from Eriksen. Instead, it was the under-and-under: under the wall, all along the ground and off the fingertips of Buffon into the corner of the net.

Juventus tried to reclaim their advantage in the final minutes, Vertonghen redeeming his error with a vital sliding clearance at its end to cut out Costa's cross.

Juve will see this as a massive missed opportunity. Tottenham, meanwhile, have a golden opportunity at Wembley.

Belfast Telegraph


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