Tottenham’s Champions League dream was ended by a second-half sucker-punch from Italian champions Juventus.
Spurs, leading 1-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate through Son Heung-min’s goal, were half an hour from reaching the quarter-finals and proving that finally they belong among Europe’s heavyweights.
But two goals in three minutes from Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala floored Mauricio Pochettino’s side as their European run finally came to a halt with a 4-3 aggregate defeat.
It was a brave display from Spurs, who came agonisingly close to forcing extra time when Harry Kane hit a post with a minute to play, but Champions League glory will have to wait for another year at least.
Having battled back from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Turin last month, Tottenham knew a clean sheet would be enough to finish the job and add Juve to the scalps of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
Yet Spurs were never likely to sit back and in a breakneck start from the hosts, Son had a snap-shot palmed out by veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon with the rebound just evading Kane and Dele Alli.
Kane then surged past Giorgio Chiellini and rounded Buffon only to uncharacteristically find the sidenetting, albeit from an admittedly tight angle.
Tottenham had a major let-off when Douglas Costa raced past Jan Vertonghen and was clearly tripped by the Spurs defender, but to the disbelief of the Juve players Polish referee Szymon Marciniak gave nothing.
Meanwhile, Son had been riled by a tangle with Andrea Barzagli, who trod on the forward twice as he lay on the floor following a barge in the back.
He exacted revenge six minutes before half-time, moments after drilling a shot across goal and wide after being sent through by Alli.
That looked a big miss, but barely 30 seconds later the South Korean made amends, arriving at the far post to convert a low cross from Kieran Trippier.
It was not the cleanest of strikes, Son scuffing the ball into the turf before it spun and looped in between Chiellini and Buffon, but it elicited the almighiest of roars around Wembley.
Juve now had 45 minutes to save their European season – and in the 64th minute they gave themselves a chance.
Higuain, the man who should probably have put the first leg out of Tottenham’s reach but for some poor misses, this time made no mistake when he hooked in Sami Khedira’s header at the far post.
And barely three minutes later Juve had turned the tie on its head, Dybala – who missed the first leg through injury – racing through onto Higuain’s pass and dispatching his shot across the exposed Hugo Lloris into the net.
Spurs tried to rouse themselves again but found Chiellini in their way, the defender whipping the ball from Kane’s foot as he went to tap in Son’s cross.
Son was inches wide with a curler before Kane’s header came back off a post and bounced on the line, only to be hacked clear by Barzagli in a dramatic finale which spelled heartbreak for Spurs.
After the 2-2 draw from the first leg, the Old Lady seemed to be out for the count when South Korea forward Son Heung-min scruffily opened the scoring for the hosts at Wembley.
But an emphatic second-half response saw the Argentina pair of Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala secure a memorable 4-3 aggregate victory in the space of three second-half minutes. In response, Spurs saw Harry Kane’s header agonisingly trickle across the goal line.
DON’T COUNT THE OLD LADY OUT
This was meant to be the final swansong for many members of this storied Juve squad.
Outrun and outmanoeuvred in the round-of-16 opener which saw them collapse from two goals ahead, a collection of players who’ve delivered six-successive Serie A titles had supposedly run a race too far.
As Spurs again burst out of the block in the second leg, the end seemed nigh. How wrong we all were.
The 33-year-old Giorgio Chiellini was the best player on the pitch, making the joint-most tackles (four), plus most clearances (13) and blocks (three). The 40-year-old Gianluigi Buffon was written off after the first leg, yet one save in particular from Son was outstanding.
The 34-year-old right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner emerged from the bench and had a huge hand in Higuain’s volley. Even derided 30-year-old Germany centre midfielder Khedira decisively stepped it up.
These veterans set the base for emerging Argentina forward Paulo Dybala to clinch it with a deadly shot when played clean through. There is still plenty of life in the Old Lady.
MASTER AND APPRENTICE
The contrast in hype surrounding the two men in the dugouts is glaring.
Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino is cast as the coming force in club management, his tactical fluidity and belief in attacking football attracting admiring glances across Europe.
For Juventus supremo Massimiliano Allegri, an air of reluctant acceptance often surrounds his sterling achievements. It could be linked to the way his AC Milan stint started with glory and then slowly disintegrated, or the fact he inherited a winning machine in Turin.
But these views do great disservice to the latter and overplay the achievements of the former.
Pochettino gets all the plaudits, but he has no trophies. Glaringly, this submission he oversaw is typical of the ‘Spursy’ nature so mocked by opposing fans.
It had echoes of the 2015/16 Premier League collapse to third-place in a two-horse race and the 4-2 loss to Chelsea in last term’s FA Cup semi-finals.
Allegri rose his troops off the ground at Wembley, decisively correcting his error to start veteran Andrea Barzagli at right-back by bringing on Lichtsteiner and ramping up the intensity when required.
His lauded opposite number can still only dream of making two of the last three Champions League finals and lifting nine major trophies.
2 - Premier League clubs lost just three of their 36 Champions League games in 2017-18 before Spurs & Manchester City lost tonight. Blip.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 7, 2018
SON SHINES THROUGH
Son Heung-min was the surprise name to miss out on manager Pochettino’s XI for the first leg in Turin, being granted just seven minutes off the substitutes’ bench.
The crafty forward’s fine performance on a disappointing Wednesday night should ensure there is no repetition of this oversight.
Of course, there was a huge slice of luck attached to his opener. His bobbled shot befuddled gnarled veteran Chiellini and denied Buffon a 50th clean sheet in Europe’s premier club competition.
Yet you cannot under play the influence Son’s effervescent style and relentless pace.
He consistently caused chaos from his left-wing spot, especially when the exposed Barzagli was deployed at right-back.
But beyond this round-of-16 disappointment, headlined by Kane’s disappearing act with the least touches of anyone who played all 90 minutes, Son’s influence is staggering.
He’s now been directly involved in 22 goals in 23 run-outs at Wembley – 14 goals, eight assists.
Tottenham crashed out of the Champions League at Wembley as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Juventus in the round of 16.
The hosts came into the fixture holding the upper hand thanks to a 2-2 draw in Turin in the first leg.
Son Heung-min opened the scoring but two goals in three minutes in the second half from Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala turned the tie on its head.
The Italian giants progress to the quarter-finals with a 4-3 aggregate win.
Here are our player ratings:
Gianluigi Buffon – 7: Had a couple of routine saves and was beaten by a scuffed effort.
Andrea Barzagli – 4: Had a nightmare against Son who ran circles around him. Much better in the centre.
Mehdi Benatia – 6: Was Juve’s best defender in the first half. Hooked in favour of Lichsteiner.
Giorgio Chiellini – 8: Had a disastrous first half, but showed all his experience in the second. Inspirational.
Alex Sandro – 5: Went on a couple of good runs forwards, but largely anonymous with Eriksen tucking in.
Douglas Costa – 6: Provided the penetration in attack, but his final ball was lacking.
Sami Khedira – 6: Great header towards Higuain for the equaliser. Ran his socks off.
Miralem Pjanic – 6: Not at his best and was wayward with his passing. A few classy touches though.
Blaise Matuidi – 5: Struggled against Spurs’ midfield and spent much of the first half chasing Son’s shadow.
Paulo Dybala – 8: Quiet for the most part but like his winner against Lazio, showed his class when it mattered.
Gonzalo Higuain – 8: Showed great instincts to stab home the equaliser and assisted the winner.
Kwadwo Asamoah – 6: Was solid at the back, but could’ve been better in possession.
Stephan Lichtsteiner – 8: Changed the game when he came on. Delivered the cross that led to the leveller.
Stefano Sturaro – N/A: Replaced Higuain in the closing stagess.