Over two games, Juventus were on top for roughly around 15 minutes. Out of 180. And yet it was the Old Lady who edged past Spurs and into the quarter finals of the Champions League. Mauricio Pochettino learned the hard way the value of experience as Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and co. performed something of a smash and grab at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Many have pointed out that, on the whole, Spurs were the better team. They dominated the first leg in Turin after conceding two early goals and they dominated the majority of the second leg too, scoring first through the in-form Song Heung-min. From there it looked likely that the hosts would finish on top.
But Juve called on every fibre of their character and wiliness as a team to score a quick fire double at the start of the second half, defending for their lives to see out a crucial win. In this response Spurs were served an illustration of just how far they have to go before they can compete at the very top level of the European game.
“I feel proud because we were the better team,” Pochettino said after the game, looking for some positives in defeat. “Of course I’m disappointed but it is a part of growing. For us it was tough but a fantastic experience for us.” Indeed, Spurs must use this disappointment as part of their growth and development. If they can keep the core of their team together, this experience will serve them well in years to come.
Spurs weren’t the only plucky upstarts served a sobering dose of reality this week. Paris Saint-Germain were also made to realise just how much further they must progress before they can count themselves a member of the European elite, crashing out of the Champions League to Real Madrid on Tuesday night.
The dynamic in that match was relatively similar, although Real Madrid were in fact the better side over the two legs. They got the win their performance deserved, perhaps unlike Juventus. But nonetheless, a member of the old guard were written off against a team seen as the future. PSG and Spurs were the future, the teams who were going to shake things up at the top.
Ultimately, the old guard remains and in victory they showed why they are the old guard in the first place. Both Juventus and Real Madrid are teams in transition, with many of their key figures entering the twilight of their respective careers, but this week showed that they will challenge once again for the Champions League this season.
As for Spurs, they must take some encouragement from the continental progress they have made over the past year. Last season, they crashed out in the group stage. This season, they made the last 16. Next season, they must draw on what they experienced on Wednesday night if they are to continue the trend of year-on-year progress.
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