Champions League

Higuain And Dybala Too Hot For Hotspur As The Old Lady Book UCL Quarter-Final Spot

Let’s take a look at some of the main causes of discussion from yesterday evening’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 second-leg tie between Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur and Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus at Wembley Stadium, as the underdogs surprised many to reach the last eight.

Quick-Fire Juve Blow Away Favourites

Favourites ahead of last night’s matchup Spurs would have only needed a 0-0 draw to progress to the next round and the chances of them progressing looked even greater when they led at the break.

But, the Italians possessed two strikes in the space of three early second-half minutes to well and truly put the Lilywhites back in their place and up their sleeve.

These came courtesy of club record striker Gonzalo Higuain on 63 minutes and Paulo Dybala on 67 minutes, swinging the whole balance of the tie in their favour to make it 1-2 on the night after the 2-2 draw in Turin in the first-leg.

Many stars for the Old Lady were playing for their Italy International colleague Davide Astori, whose sudden death on Sunday morning sent shockwaves through the world of football, proving the wind beneath the wings for those such as close-friend Giorgio Chiellini.

After looking set for an early exit, last year’s finalists are now emerging as outside favourites to go far once again in the Champions League, though it will all depend on who they’re drawn against in the quarters, which they will find out in March 16’s draw.

Higuain Proves The Key For Old Lady

If there was one man proving the backbone of Juve in attack and at the very top of his game once more following his double in the first-leg, it was surely the Argentina International Higuain.

There had been major doubts over whether the forward, who last played against Torino in Serie A in mid-February, would be passed fit to start on an atmospheric night in West London.

However, unfortunately for the hosts, he was, and it would only take him until early in the second period to bring all hell down on the Tottenham defence with a goal and an assist.

He was the man to level things up initially, reacting quickest to a Sami Khedira flick from a Stephan Lichtsteiner delivery to flick a volley past Hugo Lloris from point-blank range.

The goalscorer then turned goal-provider mere moments later, holding up the ball in the centre and playing a perfectly-timed ball into Dybala to put the Old Lady ahead, his volley was his 21st in all competitions this campaign, including three in the overall tie.

Dybala Back With A Bang

His partner and fellow Argentinian International Dybala would also enjoy an evening to remember at the English National Stadium in just his second start back from long-term injury, a spell out in which he missed the first-leg.

The agile attacker only fully returned in his team’s narrow league win away at Lazio on Saturday and marked that occasion too, popping up with an added-time winner.

This time around, Dybala also made the headlines, making a daring run on 67 minutes that was met by a clever Higuain ball and staying ahead of defenders to finish emphatically past Lloris, giving the Frenchman no chance.

The strike was his 19th of an injury-disrupted campaign and remarkably, his first on the European stage, although Allegri would have thought that things should have been made a lot easier for his side in the first period.

Douglas Costa got in behind and was clearly fouled by Jan Vertonghen, referee Szymon Marciniak remarkably disagreeing, although the incident scarcely mattered to the visitors in the end as they were able to get over the line.

Son Ghost Goal Proves How Different Things Could Have Been For Lilywhites

For all of the Serie A champions’ decisiveness in the final third, there can be no ignoring just how different the outcome could have been had the home side been just as decisive in the final third.

They did get off to a dream start on 39 minutes as Kieran Trippier picked up the pieces of a Dele Alli blocked effort to pick out Son Heung-min waiting at the far post.

The South Korean swung and missed with his right foot, the ball, instead striking his planted left leg and spinning away into the back of the net, besting Gianluigi Buffon who had already dived and an off-balance Chiellini.

This came in the wake of the Lilywhites spurning several strong opportunities, Son was unable to convert the main of them in the early stages, however, Harry Kane was also a guilty party when he failed to convert having rounded Buffon.

The England star went close once again in the dying embers, his late header from a Ben Davies cross striking the inside of the post, before Andrea Barzagli heroically managed to deny Erik Lamela tapping in the rebound, an ill-fated story of what could have been for the North London club, their dreams of European glory will have to wait.

What Next?

So, now that the matter of UCL football has been attended to for the next year at least for Tottenham and the next few weeks for Juventus, both teams’ attention will now turn back to domestic league action, it’s now time to take a look at who they will be facing off with next.

There is little rest bite for Spurs, who sit fourth in the Premier League standings, they must now focus on securing qualification to next season’s Champions League, starting with a Sunday afternoon trip to face AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.

Whereas, Juve will be back at the Allianz Stadium this weekend as they look to put pressure on Serie A leaders Napoli from second position, they play host to Udinese also on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, once they have found out who they will face in the quarter-finals mid-way through March, the Zebras will have just under three weeks to wait until the first-leg of their last eight clash, can this finally be their year? Join us once again throughout the next few months to find out.

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