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TURIN (Reuters) – On the ropes after Gonzalo Higuain struck twice for Juventus in the opening nine minutes, Tottenham Hotspur launched a Harry Kane-led fightback to draw 2-2 in the first leg of their Champions League last16 tie on Tuesday night.
When Argentina striker Higuain volleyed Juve in front after two minutes and fired home a penalty seven minutes later, the host – runner-up in two of the last three season – appeared to have one foot already in the quarterfinals.
Tottenham was wobbling, but responded to dominate for long periods and Kane halved the deficit in the 35th minute with his ninth goal in nine appearances in the competition.
The outstanding Christian Eriksen beat veteran ’keeper Gianluigi Buffon with a free kick 20 minutes from fulltime to give Tottenham the advantage going into next month’s second leg at Wembley Stadium, where Spurs have already beaten champion Real Madrid in the group phase.
Juve, which had conceded only one goal in its previous 16 games over all competitions, will rue Higuain’s missed penalty on the stroke of halftime, but could have few complaints after being shaken to the core by a vibrant Spurs side.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino even sounded disappointed his side had not gone on to end Juve’s near five-year unbeaten run at home in European competition.
“The character we showed today was fantastic,” he said. “Two down against a side which is so difficult to break down and in the end we deserved to win more than to draw.
“This showed the team is more mature. The first minutes were difficult but it was amazing how we reacted.”
Tottenham arrived full of confidence after winning a group containing Real and Borussia Dortmund.
But it was caught cold as Juventus was awarded a free kick and Miralem Pjanic cleverly picked out Higuain who swiveled to volley right-footed past Hugo Lloris.
Spurs had barely put two passes together when they fell further behind. Ben Davies was caught napping and his rash tackle sent Federico Bernardeschi flying to give the referee an easy decision to point to the spot. HARRY KANE (right) continued his single-handed assault when he scored Tottenham’s opening goal in a comeback 2-2 draw for Spurs at Juventus in the Champions League last-16, first leg on Tuesday night. Kane’s 35th minute tally was his seventh goal in the competition this season – matching Steven Gerrard, whose seven for Liverpool in 2008-09 had stood as a record for an English player.
Higuain duly converted despite Lloris guessing the right way and getting a touch on the ball.
From a position of control, however, Juve began to retreat and allow Tottenham’s creative department of Eriksen, Mousa Dembele, Erik Lamela and Dele Alli to pull the strings.
Tottenham was back in the tie when Alli picked out Kane after 35 minutes and the England striker rounded Buffon before sliding home.
Juventus played more like the away side in the second half with Tottenham again pressing, although the host went close with Lloris saving well from Bernardeschi and Mario Mandzukic then heading straight at the thankful French ’keeper.
There was barely a dull moment and when Tottenham was awarded a foul 25 meters from goal Eriksen drilled a low shot that deceived Buffon and nestled into the corner.
Meanwhile, Manchester City effectively killed off its last-16 tie against FC Basel after 23 minutes, flattening the Swiss champion with three quick-fire goals on its way to a 4-0 away win.
Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero scored within nine minutes of each other in the first-leg encounter to almost certainly extend Basel’s wait for a first quarterfinal appearance in the competition.
Gundogan curled in the fourth from the edge of the area in the 53rd minute as the runaway English Premier League leader clocked up another emphatic win in its remarkable season.
Basel did its best to make a game of it and created several openings, but looked vulnerable every time City attacked.
City, which has lost in three of its previous four appearances at this stage of the competition, enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession with 69 percent, although that was still unremarkable by its lofty standards.
“It’s an amazing result,” said City coach Pep Guardiola. “The tie is 180 minutes, but we are almost there. We defended quite well, we were clinical. It’s not easy to keep the level but we did it.”
Despite the score-line, City had 12 shots to Basel’s 11 and the Swiss could have taken an early lead.
Dimitri Oberlin got clear of City’s defense and tried to poke the ball past Ederson as the Brazilian rushed out of his area, but got no power on his shot allowing Kyle Walker to clear the ball easily.
Oberlin also had a penalty appeal turned down as he went over under a challenge from Nicolas Otamendi.
Reality struck for Basel in the 14th minute when Gundogan beat Fabian Frei to Kevin de Bruyne’s corner and headed in.
Four minutes later, Leo Lacroix failed to cut out Raheem Sterling’s cross and the unmarked Silva lobbed his shot over Tomas Vaclik’s attempted save, then Aguero scored the third from outside the area – City’s fourth shot on target of the game.
Ederson made his first real save in the 49th minute, palming away Mohamed Elyounoussi’s long-range shot, but shortly afterwards, Aguero set up Gundogan who took one touch and placed a looping shot into the far corner.
A brilliant Vaclik save denied Gundogan a hat-trick late on but, even so, the second leg looks little more than a formality for Guardiola’s side.
ISRAELI-AMERICAN A.J. Edelman will get his chance to represent the blueand-white today when the men’s skeleton competition gets started at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.