Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Poch Is Purring as Spurs Show They Are Real Deal; / in Association with What a Difference a Year Makes as Confident Display in the Bernabeu Puts Tottenham on the Brink of Qualifying for Last 16 with Three Group Games to Go

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Poch Is Purring as Spurs Show They Are Real Deal; / in Association with What a Difference a Year Makes as Confident Display in the Bernabeu Puts Tottenham on the Brink of Qualifying for Last 16 with Three Group Games to Go

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley Chief Football Correspondent in Madrid

REAL MADRID 1 TOTTENHAM 1 WHAT a platform Tottenham have now. With Real Madrid coming to Wembley in a fortnight, Spurs' progress will be tested again but this felt like a landmark moment in Mauricio Pochettino's attempt to establish them as a genuine Champions League force.

Spurs arrived here at the Bernabeu amid sustained talk of losing two of their best players and, perhaps, even their manager to Real at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The Spanish giants usually get what they want in such circumstances. It is a path already trod by Gareth Bale and Luka Modric and others would surely be encouraged to follow given Real's global status, especially if Spurs were found wanting here.

Yet, on one of the most unforgiving stages of all, Tottenham held firm. More than that, they competed tactically and technically, emerging with a draw that keeps them on course to qualify from Group H and, in that context, earning a 'free hit' at Real when the two teams reconvene in a fortnight's time.

Spurs required a combination of brilliance and luck at times, none more so than when goalkeeper Hugo Lloris spread himself to somehow keep out Karim Benzema's close-range header early in the second half, but it is worth underlining just how significant an achievement this is.

Real may have endured a difficult start to La Liga by their standards, but they have won 32 of their past 38 Champions League home games. They have not lost a group stage game on this ground since October 2009 when they were defeated 3-2 by AC Milan.

Harry Kane almost wrecked that record with a glorious chance on 71 minutes. After collecting Fernando Llorente's pass, Kane opened up his body to send a right-foot shot arrowing into the far corner, only for Keylor Navas straining every sinew to fingertip the ball wide of his left-hand upright.

It is not a pre-requisite for Kane to take the one clear chance that comes his way for Spurs to secure a positive result on occasions like this and that in itself is a remarkable sign of progress.

Indeed, Spurs were without the suspended Dele Alli, plus Ben Davies, Victor Wanyama and Erik Lamela, fielding a tight midfield trio of Moussa Sissoko, Harry Winks and Christian Eriksen. Sissoko is a much-maligned figure, whose progress is seemingly slowed by the weight of his price tag which could rise to PS30million while Winks was making only his fourth start in the competition, yet both were vital in helping protect Tottenham's back five, while simultaneously launching raids forward. Pochettino's meticulous preparation and enduring faith in those around him was mirrored in a display which sets them up perfectly for forthcoming challenges at home and abroad.

"This type of performance has to help us to win more, to trust in ourselves and the way we play," the Argentine said. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.