Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino applauded the maturity of his side after they recovered from a cataclysmic start to net two potentially priceless away goals in their Champions League last-16 first-leg clash against Juventus.
Juventus stormed into a two-goal lead inside nine minutes courtesy of a Gonzalo Higuain double, after which Tottenham settled and clawed their way into contention as Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen found the net against the usually ironclad Old Lady.
Spurs have work to do in the second leg at Wembley on 7 March, although, after wins against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the group stages, Pochettino hinted that the north Londoners are starting to flex their continental muscle.
“We were sloppy and conceded two goals in nine minutes, but the character we showed was fantastic,” said Pochettino. “I want to congratulate the players – two-nil down in Turin to a team so difficult to break down; we deserved a victory more than a draw.
“The team was amazing in how they reacted. We are more mature now. In the last few weeks, the team is growing and have stepped up. It’s a good example of the capacity we have.”
Tottenham succumbed to the worst possible start and conceded after just two minutes. Miralem Pjanic cunningly lifted a free-kick into the penalty area and Higuain, who was criminally left unmarked, thundered a volley beyond Hugo Lloris.
Their poor opening plunged towards disastrous as Juve doubled their advantage in the ninth minute when Higuain plundered his second from the penalty spot after Ben Davies had crudely clattered into Federico Bernardeschi.
It was now a daunting task for Spurs given Juventus had won their 10 previous matches, conceded just one goal in 15 fixtures and were unbeaten in 22 Champions League home matches.
But Tottenham found their poise and began to threaten as Kane was twice denied, although it was third time lucky as Alli released the 24-year-old 10 minutes before the break and the England hitman rounded Juve stalwart Gianluigi Buffon and slotted home.
Higuain slammed a second penalty, awarded for a rash challenge by Serge Aurier on Douglas Costa, against the crossbar on the stroke of half-time. And a galvanised Tottenham levelled on 71 minutes as Eriksen cleverly steered a low free-kick past the Juventus wall and beyond a sluggish Buffon.