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Three things learned: Tottenham v. Juve

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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.

Will winning the double be enough to keep Kovac at Bayern?

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BERLIN (AP) Niko Kovac is the first to win a domestic double in Germany as a player and coach, yet it may not be enough to keep his job as Bayern Munich coach.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Kovac, whose side defeated Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday, a week after clinching the Bundesliga title, is yet to be given assurances in public from the club that he will remain in charge, despite bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

The pressure and uncertainty appeared to cast a shadow on what was Kovac’s second successive German Cup win — he was Eintracht Frankfurt coach when the side defeated Bayern in the final last year.

“Last year I was leaving the team. This year everything is a little less emotional, no tears, but still, I’m happy,” Kovac said.

“Sometimes I would really wish that things went a little differently. It’s difficult to turn the wheel back. We should all work on it, we’re all human. We should make sure that we get along with each other.”

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Kovac, who won the double as a player in 2003, acknowledged the cup win on Saturday was “very important” as “it shows that we have worked well.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was again coy when pressed on the coach’s future.

“At the end of the day, we have to get titles. Of course the coach plays a central role,” Rummenigge said. “It was never an issue for us with the term that he has until 2021, that he would simply not be there anymore as coach beforehand.”

John Terry is a finalist for the vacant Middlesbrough job

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In a matter of just a few days’ time, John Terry could be named the new manager of side Middlesbrough.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

According to a report from the Guardian, Terry is being considered as one of three finalists, alongside former Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic and former Boro defender (and current first-team coach) Jonathan Woodgate, for the EFL Championship side’s vacant job.

Terry has reportedly spoken to the Boro hierarchy in recent days, and chairman Steve Gibson is expected to make a final decision over who will replace Tony Pulis following the weekend. Boro spent the entirety of the 2018-19 season jostling for a place in the promotion playoffs, but finished seventh and missed out by a single point.

After announcing his retirement from playing in October, Terry was named assistant coach on Dean Smith’s staff at Aston Villa, where he has remained throughout the season and will do so through Monday’s promotion playoff final against Derby County.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Jokanovic led Fulham to promotion last season before he was fired in November as the Cottagers appeared headed for an immediate relegation back down to the Championship, which ultimately came to pass.

Woodgate came through the Boro academy and played for the club on two occasions, 2006-2007 and again from 2012-2016. He was named a member of Steve Agnew‘s coaching staff in March 2017, less than a year after ending his playing days.

German Cup: Bayern Munich complete double by beating Leipzig

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BERLIN (AP) Captain Manuel Neuer returned from six weeks out injured to help Bayern Munich complete a domestic double after beating Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Robert Lewandowski scored twice and Kingsley Coman grabbed the other as Bayern claimed a record-extending 19th cup win to make up for the disappointment of losing last year’s final to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who was in charge of Frankfurt at the time, boosted his chances of keeping his job in Munich after bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

Neuer, who missed Bayern’s Bundesliga triumph the week before due to a calf injury, produced two stunning saves in either half when a goal for Leipzig might have been decisive.

Neuer somehow denied Yussuf Poulsen’s header from close range in the 11th minute, when the ball crashed back off the crossbar, and got the better of Emil Forsberg in a one-on-one after the break, when the Swedish midfielder should have equalized.

“You couldn’t write a better script,” Neuer said.

Lewandowski opened the scoring with a header in the 29th, Coman doubled the lead in the 78th after Forsberg’s miss, and Lewandowski wrapped it up with a chip over the goalkeeper in the 85th.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery went on late to make their last appearances for Bayern after 10 and 12 seasons respectively. Ribery became the only player to play in eight German Cup finals.

“They delivered a lot for the team and the club,” Lewandowski said. “We have to be grateful.”

Leipzig was appearing in its first, and had been hoping to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding date with a win. Thousands of fans made the relatively short journey from Saxony to cheer their side, though they found themselves outnumbered by Bayern fans at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, which hosts German soccer’s showpiece every year.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff said. “When you come here, you want to win.”

The supporters had been warming up for hours before the encounter, downing beers and singing songs at various locations in the city before making their way to the game. Fans who arrived on chartered buses lit barbeques and shared crates of beer by the side of the road.

Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick, the sporting director who took charge of the team on an interim basis before Julian Nagelsmann arrives from Hoffenheim, started with his strongest team, with American Tyler Adams lining up beside Kevin Kampl in midfield.

Leipzig looked sharper, fresher and quicker at the start, but one lapse was all Lewandowski needed to open the scoring. David Alaba whipped the ball in toward the penalty spot, where Lewandowski had too much space to head inside the left post.

Coman displayed a fantastic first touch to control the ball past the helpless Peter Gulacsi for Bayern’s second, and Lewandowski ensured the result was emphatic when he claimed his competition-leading seventh goal. Lewandowski was booked for removing his shirt in the celebrations, but he accepted the yellow card with a smile.

“We worked hard for the whole season. In the end you could say it was a good season for us,” the Polish striker said.

Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey

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Barcelona’s four-year reign as Copa del Rey holders came to an unceremonious end on Saturday, as Valencia shocked Barcelona in the 2018-19 final in Seville.

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Saturday’s upset capped off a thoroughly successful 100th season for Valencia, who finished fourth in La Liga — assuring them of a second straight season in the Champions League — and lifted the club’s first major trophy since its last Copa triumph, in 2008.

Barca, on the other hand, must make do with merely winning the league title by 11 points and reaching the Champions League semifinals.

Kevin Gameiro opened the scoring with a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty area in the 21st minute. Jose Gaya’s cross came in from the left and found the Frenchman all by himself with plenty of time for a touch to settle and open up space for the shot.

Rodrigo Moreno doubled Valencia’s lead in the 33rd minute, sending a downward header past Jasper Cillessen after Carlos Soler worked his way around Jordi Alba to deliver a hard-hit ball across the face of goal.

Lionel Messi tapped home an empty-net rebound to pull a goal back for Barcelona in the 73rd minute, but that’s as close as Barca would get to mounting a comeback.

Valencia have now lifted the Copa del Rey on eight occasions (fifth-most all time), but still trail Barca’s record of 30 Copas by some way.