Spurs pull back after Higuain’s double blow
Two goals put Man City close to Champions League quarterfinals
ILKAY Gundogan dazzled with two goals in Manchester City’s 4-0 romp at FC Basel on Tuesday to leave the Premier League leaders on the verge of the Champions League quarterfinals.
Pep Guardiola’s side effectively settled the last 16 tie after just 23 minutes by racing into a 3-0 lead at Basel’s Sankt Jakob Park.
Their first three goals came in a devastating nine-minute spell thanks to a Gundogan header, a Bernardo Silva volley and a long-range Sergio Aguero strike.
Basel’s misery continued just after the break when Gundogan deftly added a fourth from outside the area and he could easily have finished with a hat trick.
“To win 4-0 away in the last 16 is an amazing result, we are almost in the quarterfinals, but I am not saying we are already there, out of respect for Basel,” Guardiola said.
“We defended well and we were clinical – we had four chances and took them all.”
The scoreline gives the Swiss side little hope for the return leg at the Etihad on March 7. As expected, Basel were starved of the ball as City enjoyed 69% possession and completed 754 of their 882 passes.
“For a Champions League game, we did ever so well,” City captain Vincent Kompany said after his first Champions League appearance this season.
“In these kinds of situations, it is about more than going through – if we have a draw at home that won’t give us a good feeling.”
Germany midfielder Gundogan gave Basel a master class in defensive midfield play, complementing his two-goal display by repeatedly snuffing out fledgling Swiss attacks.
The only black mark against him was a late yellow card after a clash with Basel’s Ivory Coast veteran midfielder Serey Die.
Basel head coach Raphael Wicky opted to play a back five when the hosts were defending, but the ploy only failed to keep City out for the first 14 minutes.
Having had an earlier effort tipped over the bar, Gundogan got in front of Fabian Frei to power home his header when Kevin De Bruyne whipped in City’s fourth corner of the game.
The visitors’ second goal followed just four minutes later. Bernardo Silva chested down Raheem Sterling’s deflected cross and fired past Basel goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.
With Basel’s defence buckling, Aguero, who terrorised Leicester City in the Premier League last Saturday with four goals in a 5-1 rout, hit his 29th goal of the season.
Basel defender Leo Lacroix stopped Fernandinho, but the ball fell into Aguero’s path who hit the bottom corner from outside the area on 23 minutes.
It was the Argentinian’s 14th goal in 11 games in 2018.
Basel made a bright start to the second half, but Gundogan left the Swiss with a mountain to climb when he hit the top right-hand corner on 53rd minute.
Sterling made way for Leroy Sane on the left side of City’s attack. The German winger is surprisingly back two weeks after an ankle injury. With half an hour to go and the tie effectively won, Guardiola took off De Bruyne, saving the Belgian for Saturday’s league game at Wigan Athletic and the League Cup final against Arsenal on February 25.
With 15 minutes left, Gundogan was only denied the first hat trick of his career by Vaclik’s determination.
Sane sprinted down the left wing and although he was tackled, Aguero scooped up the loose ball and set up the German, but Gundogan’s low shot was gathered at the second attempt.
At 4-0 down and the clock ticking, Basel finally started to test City. – AFP HARRY Kane and Christian Eriksen pulled Tottenham back from the brink to hold Juventus 2-2 in Turin, spoiling what had looked set to be a Gonzalo Higuain one-man show in the Champions League last 16 first leg in Turin on Tuesday.
Higuain had put Juventus, losing finalists twice in the past three seasons, two goals up within the first nine minutes at the Allianz Stadium.
The Argentine’s lightning strike after just 73 seconds was followed by a second from the spot to leave Mauricio Pochettino’s English side reeling.
But the 30 year old missed two further chances to hammer home Juventus’s advantage in the first half, with striking the crossbar with a second penalty on the stroke of half time.
Kane pulled Tottenham back into the tie, beating veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon on 35 minutes – with Eriksen whipping in the second with a 70thminute free kick to leave it all to play for in London next month.
“The team showed real character to come here and challenge a team like Juventus,” Pochettino, who blamed the inexperience of his side for their sluggish start, said.
“I think we weren’t focused and it was difficult to manage the first seven minutes. I’m very happy that it’s still open and we’re going to play the second leg in London.”
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri warned they would be ready to challenge again for a place in the quarterfinals after extending their unbeaten run at home in Champions League fixtures to 23 games.
“I don’t think there is any need to be depressed. If someone thought that Juventus could win 4-0, they were way off. Tottenham had a great game and turned things around.
“After going 2-0 up we stopped playing, but part of that was also down to Tottenham’s performance. They are a very physical and technical team.”
Pochettino’s side looked down and out after the first 10 minutes with Miralem Pjanic lifting a free kick into the penalty area and an unmarked Higuain volleying past Hugo Lloris, despite being in an offside position.
Higuain’s second came from a penalty after Ben Davies fouled Federico Bernardeschi, with Lloris diving the right way but unable to stop the powerful drive.
Higuain almost had a hat-trick, picking up a Pjanic pass to outfox two Spurs defenders only to shoot just wide.
Buffon twice saved from Kane, including a header from point-blank range, before the striker finally broke through.
Spurs began to take control, only for Serge Aurier to concede another spot kick by hacking down Douglas Costa, but Higuain was denied a treble by the crossbar.
Kane pulled Spurs back from the brink, latching onto a Dele Alli pass to round a helpless Buffon who had advanced off his line, making no mistake in front of goal.
It was 24-year-old Kane’s seventh goal in Europe’s top club competition this season and puts him level with Steven Gerrard for the most scored by an English player in a single Champions League campaign.
Kane was delighted to take two valuable away goals into the second leg at Wembley, meaning Juventus have to out-score Spurs to win.
Asked if he feared his side were about to sink without trace after Higuain’s double strike, Kane said: “We showed character.
“It was an excellent performance and we take two away goals to Wembley. Great result.”
Eriksen got the second from a free kick after centre-back Giorgio Chiellini fouled Alli, sending it low past a wrongfooted Buffon.
“We are sure we will have chances at Wembley,” Eriksen said.
“We go into that game full of confidence and we’re looking forward to it.”
Jan Vertonghen did well to prevent a late Higuain winner when he slid to intercept a Costa cross to prevent the Argentine tapping in. – AFP
ON THE BALL: Ilkay Gundogan of Manchester City.
JUST IN TIME: Christian Eriksen’s goal secured Spurs a draw.