LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur blew it on the big stage as they crumbled at home in the UEFA Champions League and lost 2-1 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate against Juventus.
Heung-Min Son put Tottenham ahead in the first half but two goals in three minutes in the second half from Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala stopped Spurs in their tracks as their dreams of a place in the Champions League last eight were dashed.
It wasn’t to be as Gianluigi Buffon and Co. were the team celebrating at the final whistle as Harry Kane and Spurs stood with their hands on their hips and were left devastated.
Here’s what we learned from a dramatic night at Wembley.
TOTTENHAM NOT READY FOR THE BIG TIME
Let’s get this straight, Juventus were made to look very ordinary for vast swathes of the two legs. A win would have been a huge statement by Tottenham but they crumbled when it mattered most.
83 percent of teams to have drawn 2-2 away in the first leg of a UCL knockout tie have progressed to the next stage. Not Spurs.
So much has been talked about Tottenham’s potential to dine at the Premier League’s top table, let alone Europe’s, but those questions will now remain.
Pochettino has cultivated a young, hungry squad over the past three years and their progress is clear for all to see. Third and second place finishes in the Premier League in the past two seasons prove that, even if there’s no silverware in the trophy cabinet to back up the brilliance of Kane, Eriksen, Alli and Co.
But this was a seminal moment in Spurs’ present, it was meant to be a momentous leap forward for a club which has taken huge strides forwards on and off the pitch in recent years.
Reports about Kane, Alli and even Pochettino leaving will now be rife with Tottenham unable to match the wages of England and Europe’s elite. Their project is genuinely exciting but once again they have come up short. They shouldn’t have.
Tottenham should have been in the last eight of the Champions League for just the second time in club history. Pochettino should have led Spurs into uncharted territory and that should have been enough to keep their stars together for at least another season.
Now, it seems like all of that is in jeopardy once again.
JUVENTUS’ EXPERIENCE SHOWS
This is a team who have been in two of the last three UEFA Champions League finals. They have won the Italian title six years on the spin.
Never write off Juventus.
As soon as Higuain hooked home brilliantly to make it 1-1 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate, he punched his fists in the air and screamed back at Juve’s goalkeeper and inspirational leader Gigi Buffon. That was the goal they needed.
They never looked back and three minute later Dybala was given the freedom of Wembley to race through and slot home the killer second goal. All of this came after Max Allegri’s tactical switch to bring on Stephan Lichtsteiner for Mehdi Benatia and shifting veteran defender Andrea Barzagli to center back, as Juve swung the game in their favor in the matter of 189 seconds.
In truth, Allegri made a mistake by placing Barzagli, 37, at right back for the injured Mattia Di Sciglio as he was roasted by Son on several occasions, but he put it right superbly and Juve never looked back.
Over the 180 minutes of this encounter, Juventus had dominated about 20 minutes of the action. In those 20 minutes they scored four goals and missed one glorious chance in the first leg. They weren’t going to make that same mistake again.
Giorgio Chiellini put his body on the line late on as the Spurs onslaught came. His last-ditch tackle to deny Tottenham a tap in was greeted by Buffon grabbing him by the scruff his neck and screaming with delight in his face. Kane’s header hitting the post and staying out late on was the luck they needed and they dug deep to make the last eight. Experience counts for a lot in these moments. Juve had it. Spurs didn’t.
SON DANGEROUS BUT NOT RED-HOT
He could have had a hat trick in the first half alone and he had five decent chances but scored just once.
The South Korean star has been in red-hot form for Spurs, scoring five goals in his last three games in all competitions and he tormented Juve’s right back Andrea Barzagli, who stepped in for the injured Mattia De Sciglio.
Spurs constantly looked out to the left flank in the first half to isolate Barzagli and it worked. Son had a shot across goal which Buffon pushed out, another he somehow dragged wide and then he put another agonizingly wide late on.
On another night Son could have wrapped this tie up by half time but his costly misses, coupled with quiet nights for Kane and Eriksen, compounded Tottenham’s miserable exit from Europe.