LONDON: There is simply no substitute for experience in the highest tier of European football as Juventus proved by coming back from the abyss to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 and reach the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The Italians, finalists in two of the last three seasons, were outplayed by Spurs in a 2-2 first-leg draw in Turin and were on the ropes at Wembley but goals by Argentine strike duo Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in three minutes sent them through 4-3 on aggregate.
Son Heung-min’s first-half goal had Spurs in control and dreaming of a famous scalp but they paid for two defensive lapses as their 17-match unbeaten run came to an end.
Higuain, who scored twice in the first leg, levelled in the 64th minute before Dybala burst clear of a static Spurs defensive line to curl the winner past Hugo Lloris.
Tottenham will rue missed chances and Harry Kane’s last-minute header against the post but Massimiliano Allegri’s streetwise Juve side proved they are still one of the toughest of European nuts to crack.
“In less than three minutes we conceded two goals — two big mistakes — and that is why we are out,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters. “In both legs we deserved more.
“We played fantastic football until that first goal and we dominated. Of course we are very disappointed but it is part of growing. We will keep going.”
Giorgio Chiellini, part of a Juve back-four packing 175 Champions League appearances, said experience had been key.
“We said keep calm and the chance will arrive,” he said. “Experience is important and we used ours tonight.”
Son was given the nod ahead of Erik Lamela on the left side of Tottenham’s attack and fully justified Pochettino’s faith as he ran Juve’s defence ragged before halftime.
His stinging shot tested Juve’s 40-year-old keeper Gianluigi Buffon in the third minute and another lightning burst into the box ended with Chiellini making a crucial block.
Kane should have scored his 36th goals of the season in the 14th minute when Dele Alli played him in but the England striker fired into the side-netting.
It was not one-way traffic, though, and the hosts had an enormous let-off shortly after Kane’s miss when Douglas Costa drove into the area and was tripped by Jan Vertonghen.
Juve’s furious players surrounded Polish referee Szymon Marciniak who opted against pointing to the spot despite replays confirming Vertonghen had taken Costa’s legs and not the ball.
Son drove a left-foot shot wide when he should have scored but his persistence finally broke the deadlock in the 39th minute courtesy of a slice of fortune.
Kieran Trippier picked out Son with a low cross and despite completely missing the ball with his right foot it cannoned off his standing left leg and dinked over the confused Buffon.
It was only the third goal Juve had conceded in 12 games — all against Tottenham — and left them needing to score twice to stay in the competition.
A minute later Higuain sparked the tie back into life when he stuck out a leg to touch home Sami Khedira’s knockdown.
Tottenham were stunned and two minutes later their defence tried to squeeze up and Dybala was played through on goal, calmly advancing before curling past Lloris.
Christian Eriksen and Son both went close to an equaliser before Kane’s last-minute header bounced against the post, the ball rolling agonisingly along the line before being cleared.
“Winning here was not easy but we did it and I’m really proud of this team,” Higuain said. “Once again we showed great character.” — Reuters