Tottenham show they belong

Tottenham show they belong
From ESPN - February 13, 2018

TURIN, Italy -- It is in the biggest games, against the strongest opposition, that the careers of the very best are defined.

In years to come, Tottenham Hotspur will hope that their 2-2 Champions League draw against Juventus proves to be nothing more than a footnote -- or a prelude -- to an historic period of success. However, as of now, Tuesday's game is one of those that manager Mauricio Pochettino and his players will regard as a high watermark.

Spurs impressed in the group stage but the knockout rounds are a step up and,for many players, this was the biggest night of their careers: The first leg of a tie against true European football royalty.

And, after their side fell 2-0 behind inside 10 minutes, Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane orchestrated a comeback that justified much of the hype that surrounds them and their team.

Dele Alli also highlighted his ability to excel at this level, just as he did when scoring twice in a group-stage win vs. Real Madrid in November, while Hugo Lloris overcame that difficult opening to underline his status as one of the world's best goalkeepers.

Eriksen was the standout performer, though, and his display showed he can compete and influence games against the very best.

It was not in the same stratosphere as Roy Keane's performance in Turin for Manchester United against Juventus in 1999, nor was it comparable to Steven Gerrard's immense display of leadership, six years later, which brought Liverpool back from the dead to win the Champions League against AC Milan in Istanbul.

Nonetheless, this was a level that Eriksen had yet to clear in a Spurs shirt and he did so in spectacular fashion. There could be no greater compliment than to suggest that, on more than one occasion, his distribution and vision had shades of Paul Scholes or Xavi at their best.

Eriksen's first-half cross to Kane, which the forward wastefully headed straight at Gianluigi Buffon, was a sign of his radar being in full working order and he continued to probe and jab as Spurs made a comeback that was completed by Eriksen's second-half free kick.

A formidable Juventus back four had conceded just one goal in 15 games prior to this game but they could not deal with Spurs' No. 23, who drifted around the final third, relishing and taking the opportunity to star on the biggest stage.


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