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February 15, 2018

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Tottenham proves ‘Spursy’ tag no longer applies

There is an old cliche that has followed Tottenham Hotspur around pretty much since the club’s glory days in the 1960s.

A bit “Spursy” is the expression that has often summed up its football, meaning style without substance. Harsh or otherwise, the perception was that Tottenham could not be relied upon under pressure.

Seven years ago, when the north London club reached the UEFA Champions League knockout phase at the first attempt under then manager Harry Redknapp, it went to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the quarterfinal first leg and lost 0-4.

Memories of that chastening defeat came to the fore when Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain, part of that 2011 Madrid squad, scored twice in the opening nine minutes at the Allianz Stadium on Tuesday as the Italians seized control of the last 16 tie.

What followed was 80 minutes of near-total domination by Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side as they stormed back to earn a 2-2 draw with goals by Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen.

This was a Juve side featuring seven starters from last year’s final, who had conceded one goal in their previous 16 matches in all competitions and who had never let slip a two-goal lead since moving to their new stadium in 2011.

The measured way Tottenham pushed Juventus deeper and deeper sucked the life out of the Serie A side and silenced its fans.

It was all very “un-Spursy”.

While admirable, Tottenham’s quarterfinal run in 2010-11 was built very much around Gareth Bale and Luca Modric — the only two players who would get into the current Spurs starting side.

Pochettino has assembled a team with no obvious weaknesses and world-class back-up on the bench to boot.

In the likes of goal machine Kane, cultured defender Jan Vertonghen, keeper Hugo Lloris, Mousa Dembele and Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Toby Alderweireld he boasts players with the big game mentality.

Tottenham has not lost since a 1-4 defeat to Manchester City in the league on December 16. In its last four matches it has beaten Manchester United, drawn 2-2 at Liverpool, outplayed Arsenal at home and on Tuesday rocked Juventus with arguably its best away performance in Europe under Pochettino.

Add in a 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu against holder Real in the group phase and a 3-1 home rout of the Spaniards, plus home-and-away defeats of Borussia Dortmund and with good reason the London club is now being taken seriously.


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