Spurs Catch Real Napping and Secure Passage to the Last 16 as Los Blancos’ Malaise Continues: UEFA Champions League Matchday Four

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65 minutes gone at Wembley and Mauricio Pochettino, perhaps surprisingly, could only applaud, before shaking hands with the about-to-come-on Moussa Dembele. Surprising in the fact that the stadium had been raised to a state of near-cacophony by the home crowd, while Christian Eriksen slid on the turf in delight, the Dane had just put Tottenham three up against the European champions, putting the gloss on a memorable night for Spurs.

In a group where Spurs were hugely considered outsiders when the draw was made in August, this was supposed to be a game where they would be taught a lesson on European football by none other than the champions, as they scrambled to gain a foothold. But they romped to a win here, and sealed their place in the knockout phase with two games to spare. A win that was completely deserved and perhaps should have been with an even bigger, despite the fact that Spurs weren’t at their best.

And therein lies the worry for Zinedine Zidane over his Real Madrid side, the fact that Spurs didn’t have to be at their best to win so comfortably. Los Blancos seem a far cry from the side that swept just about all before them last spring, and a moment late on, when they couldn’t even get their own bodies out of the way as they sought a consolation, just about summed up their evening, even if the manager says he isn’t overly concerned about a second defeat on the bounce. ‘No, I’m not worried, and never will be this season, whatever happens’ said the Frenchman.

But the intensity Real used to show seems to be lacking this term, and in the opening 20 minutes here it was the case, misplaced passes and late arrivals to second balls an embodiment of their unconvincing start to the game, and had Dele Alli made a run towards the six-yard for a Kieran Trippier cross, Spurs would have gone in front. Alli was making his first Champions League of the season, after serving a three-match ban following a dismissal in the Europa League against Gent last February, his last European game at Wembley; and he had received some criticism for his performances this campaign. ‘It’s true that maybe he is disappointed with himself because he’s not been at his best’ said Pochettino, ‘but it is coming’.

And it came on this night; midway through the first half Trippier made another cross to the six-yard area, this time Alli anticipated and was on hand to poke it into the net. That goal seemed to be like a wakeup call for Real, who got on the front foot after falling behind, Ronaldo and Casemiro both forcing Spurs ‘keeper Hugo Lloris into action, but at the other end they had Sergio Ramos to thank for not conceding again. The Spaniards went into the break behind, and as expected, began the second period on the ascendancy, but there was still significant elements of sloppiness in their play, and when there was a needless giveaway of possession in the middle, Alli seized upon it by having the beating of Casemiro before hitting a shot past Kiko Casilla, with the aid of a Ramos deflection.

The euphoria surrounding the second goal had barely died down when Harry Kane played in Eriksen, who had the freedom of the capital to pick his spot and find it with unadulterated calm. Cristiano Ronaldo did manage to grab that consolation for Real eventually, but it did little to mask a frustrating night, Real Madrid’s first ever competitive game at Wembley was one to forget.

Elsewhere:

  • When asked before the game how proud he would be if his side seal qualification with two games to spare, Pep Guardiola said that question could only put to him after the game. But you couldn’t begrudge if that wasn’t what came to their minds right after the game at San Paolo, a breath-taking encounter that saw six goals, a game that went from 1-0 to 1-1, then 1-2, 2-2, and 2-3. A game that could easily have gone to 3-3 but went to 2-4. It was a fitting occasion for Sergio Aguero to go out on his own as Manchester City’s all-time top scorer, the Argentine finishing off a swift counter attack for the fifth goal of the game, his 178th goal for the club. Sadly for Napoli, such a spectacle leaves them on the verge of elimination from the competition.
  • Roma vs Chelsea kick off. A game where a win for Chelsea would put them in the driving seat for qualification in Group C, and hand them a fourth victory on the bounce to further quell of a cris… except, they’re already behind, Stephan El Shaarawy rifling home a howitzer after only 40 seconds. That set the tone for a haunting occasion for the Blues on Halloween night. The 3-0 defeat sees them leapfrogged by opponents in top spot, the second half performance sees talk of an Antonio Conte not going away anytime soon. The only silver lining is Atletico Madrid inexplicably failing to beat Qarabag.
  • We Rule This Land was the message placed out from the stands by the Olympiacos fans at home to Barcelona. Based on the results over the years in their domestic league, spot on. And on Tuesday they did give Ernesto Valverde’s side a game, a combative and rigid approach helping the Greeks to a creditable goalless draw against the La Liga leaders.
  • It seemed like it would be a frustrating night for Liverpool at home to Maribor, as the Reds failed to score in the first half against a side they thumped seven past only a fortnight ago. But Mohammed Salah opened the floodgates just after the break, and the eventual 3-0 victory keeps them top in Group E, even if they missed another penalty at Anfield; that’s three this season.

Results

Group A: Manchester United 2-0 Benfica; Basel 1-2 CSKA Moscow

Group B: PSG 5-0 Anderlecht; Celtic 1-2 Bayern Munich

Group C: Roma 3-0 Chelsea; Atletico Madrid 1-1 Qarabag

Group D: Olympiacos 0-0 Barcelona; Sporting CP 1-1 Juventus

Group E: Liverpool 3-0 Maribor; Sevilla 2-1 Spartak Moscow

Group F: Napoli 2-4 Manchester City; Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 Feyenoord

Group G: Besiktas 1-1 Monaco; Porto 3-1 RB Leipzig

Group H: Dortmund 1-1 APOEL; Tottenham 3-1 Real Madrid

 

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