Champions League, March 7 2018
A heartbreaking night for Tottenham at Wembley, as Champions League regulars Juventus displayed all of their experience to come from behind and secure their passage into the last eight of this year's tournament. It all started so well for Mauricio Pochettino's side, as Son Heung-min continued his excellent scoring form to shoot Spurs into the lead late in the first half. But Massimiliano Allegri put on a tactical masterclass in the second half, his changes on the hour signalling a shift in momentum that saw Juve score twice in quick succession to take control. Tottenham huffed and puffed in the last 20 minutes, but a house built on the foundations of wily old stagers Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli wasn't for being blown down.
23 / 6
SHOTS / ON TARGET
8 / 3
Passes / Accurate
20 / 3 / 0
Fouls / Yellow / Red
12 / 4 / 0
Mauricio Pochettino’s side started in a 4-2-3-1 formation, switching to 4-4-2 in defence. The Spurs midfielders pressed hard and showed an eagerness to make interceptions in central areas, as they wanted to prevent Juventus from passing through their defensive unit. The hosts tried to establish a numerical and positional advantage around the player in possession, forcing them to go backwards towards their own back four, and then long.
In possession, Tottenham were also pressed into going direct more than they wanted – although they had limited success here, as Medhi Benatia and the wily Giorgio Chiellini generally got the better of Harry Kane in aerial battles. To combat this, Spurs looked to outnumber and outmanoeuvre their opposition in key areas; the attacking midfield line of Dele Alli, Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen looked to move into spaces between the Juve defensive lines and offer options to Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele behind them.
Pochettino also looked to take advantage of the selection of the veteran Andrea Barzagli at right-back for the visitors. Son in particular came into play here, positioned wide on the Spurs left in a bid to expose his marker’s lack of pace. In conjunction with Ben Davies, the Korean often got the better of these exchanges, most notably escaping Barzagli to score the opening goal after Kieran Trippier’s ball from out wide caused uncertainty among a disorganised visiting defence.
On the counter-attack, Tottenham tried to look for the quick support of teammates better placed to launch a breakaway. Not surprisingly, this mostly involved their quicker players, such as Son, Kane and Alli.
They were perhaps too focused on searching for the second goal in the moments before Juventus turned the game around, however. While Massimiliano Allegri’s tactical changes were decisive and successful, Pochettino took too long to act once his team fell behind – Erik Lamela replaced Eric Dier on 74 minutes, while Fernando Llorente wasn’t brought into action until 85 minutes.
Massimiliano Allegri opted for a flat 4-4-2 formation in both attack and defence. The Juventus front line tried to channel the Spurs attacks through the centre, cutting off the wide channels and pressing them to bypass the midfield and play direct into Harry Kane. In this sense, the likes of Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli had to work harder to find pockets of space in between the two organised defensive lines in front of them. When the home side did get the ball wide, however, they gave the visitors problems – particularly in the first half, when Ben Davies and Son looked to expose Andrea Barzagli down the Juve right.
Their first option in attack was combination play, with Gianluigi Buffon looking to play out through Medhi Benatia and Giorgio Chiellini. They found it difficult to advance through midfield, however, as the Tottenham press worked to reduce the options available to Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic, thus forcing the likes of Blaise Matuidi, Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala deeper in search of the ball.
Costa in particular proved a threat down the right, however, while Matuidi offered balance on the opposite side before his withdrawal on the hour. In fact, it was the twin arrivals of Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner at full-back that changed the game for Juventus, allowing Alex Sandro to play a more advanced role down the left and Barzagli to revert to the central-defensive role in which he is more comfortable. Lichtsteiner played a pivotal role in Gonzalo Higuain’s equaliser on the night, while the extra threat of Sandro helped created the space in behind from which Dybala scored the winner.
On the counter-attack, Juve looked to get their forwards in possession as quickly as possible. This meant looking for the pace of Douglas Costa, the skill of Dybala or the hold-up play of Higuain for others to run off him.
Massimiliano Allegri’s tactical changes were key to Juventus qualifying for the next round. Introducing Kwadwo Asamoah at left-back freed up Alex Sandro to inhabit more advanced areas, while Stefan Lichtsteiner’s arrival at right-back secured a previously vulnerable area and added more threat going forwards.
Douglas Costa stood out for Juventus, giving Tottenham a real headache with his constant runs down the right flank and ability to take on players and cut inside. The extra support he received from Lichtsteiner contributed to Gonzalo Higuain’s equaliser.
Higuain was also superb in a highly pressurised situation. He scored the equaliser and provided a perfect assist for Paulo Dybala’s winning goal.
Son Heung-min stood out for Tottenham. He was constantly on the move, always offering himself as an option and had the beating of Andrea Barzagli out wide. He also scored the goal, perhaps slightly fortuitously, that for a while looked to have helped his team through.
Compared with his opposite number, Mauricio Pochettino took too long to react when his team fell behind in the tie. Erik Lamela’s introduction after 74 minutes and that of Fernando Llorente 10 minutes later were too late.