TURIN (Italy) • Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino saluted his team's character after they overcame a nightmare start in Turin to draw 2-2 against Juventus in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday.
The London club were 0-2 down after nine minutes to a pair of Gonzalo Higuain goals - one of them a penalty - but they stabilised before taking control.
Harry Kane pulled one back on 35 minutes and, although Higuain missed a second penalty in first-half stoppage time, Pochettino was entitled to say that Tottenham were the dominant force.
Christian Eriksen scored the equaliser with a 72nd-minute free kick to put Spurs in charge ahead of the return leg at Wembley on March 7 with two away goals.
Not since Juventus moved to the Allianz Stadium in 2011 had a visiting team overturned a two-goal deficit.
For Pochettino, it was one of the finest results of his career.
"At 2-0 down, my feeling was so bad," he said after Spurs recorded 72 per cent possession in the first half and 67 per cent overall against last year's runners-up.
"We started sloppily. But we showed great character and I feel so proud. We are a young team in this competition. To show that kind of performance was fantastic.
"The energy was fantastic and it's important to say we played with one day less (of rest). Juventus played last Friday while we had the derby (against Arsenal on Saturday). One day in this competition is a lot. The derby was emotional, you spend more energy. And at 2-0, you always need more energy.
"We dominated possession and forced them to play deeper, and only use the counter-attack.
"Not many teams come here and dominate Juventus. We showed we are mature enough to compete in this competition."
FIGURING OUT HARRY KANE'S EUROPEAN EXPLOITS
7Tottenham striker Harry Kane has equalled the record for the most goals scored by an English player in a single Champions League season, level with Steven Gerrard in 2008-09.
9Kane has scored nine goals in nine Champions League appearances - more than any player after nine games.
33With 33 goals, he is the top scorer in all competitions among players in the top five leagues this season.
694Before Kane's goal, Gianluigi Buffon had not conceded a goal for 694 consecutive minutes for Juventus and Italy.
With Mousa Dembele supreme in midfield, Eriksen a fount of creativity and Kane undaunted by Juventus' vaunted defence, Spurs played with a mixture of discipline and dynamism. They kept passing, kept looking for openings in a defence that had been breached only once in 16 games.
Spurs were playing with such intelligence it made their ugly opening even more frustrating and inexplicable. They were punished within 80 seconds for Dembele's foolish challenge on Miralem Pjanic. Pjanic's subsequent free kick found Higuain, who swivelled to volley right-footed past Hugo Lloris.
It got worse, rapidly, with an error from Ben Davies, whose challenge on Federico Bernardeschi gave Juventus a penalty. Lloris got close, but Higuain's effort was too powerful.
Still, Spurs found a way back, in part helped by Juventus sitting back, almost 4-5-1 at times with Higuain a distant figure, and the striker's missed penalty before the break following Serge Aurier's reckless challenge on Douglas Costa.
But Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted he would not be getting depressed despite criticism at failing to land the killer blow.
"I can't accept that people are getting depressed over a 2-2 draw," said the Italian. "It's like we lost 8-0.
"There are some scary ups and downs in the mood here. This really irritates me, because people have no idea of how teams function. The primary objective is the Scudetto: it's not easy. Then we'll try to go forward in the Champions League.
"It was always 50-50 with Tottenham and it still is."
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE