It had all the hallmarks of a classic Lucas Moura goal – it came from a stealthy flash of determined genius, fired straight through the centre, and, perhaps most importantly in terms of Tottenham lore, it all happened so fast that a stunned Matthijs de Ligt barely even knew it was happening. It was Dutchman de Ligt’s debut for Juventus and, just like in that eventful Champions League Semi-Final, Lucas used a lethal combination of speed, passion and exceptional positioning to best de Ligt – the most expensive young defender in Europe – in a manner that will surely give the former Ajax captain pre-emptive shivers should he have to face down Spurs’ Brazilian Moura-cle worker (sorry) again this season in the Champions League.
If this all sounds like a rather hyperbolic description of what is, essentially, a pre-season friendly, it is – but with good reason, as a Spurs XI packed with less-experienced Academy talent hit all the right notes in this melodic game against a near full-strength Juventus, in what must undoubtedly be a harbinger of future successes for Spurs in the season to come. The game’s first goal (30’) exemplified the potential of this pre-season travelling squad’s winning combination of fresh talent and experienced superstars – in order to take a pass from an assured-looking Son, a broadly excellent Parrott made an excellent run culminating in the up-and-comer’s shot being initially stopped by Buffon, only to be tapped in immediately afterwards on the rebound by a well-positioned Lamela (who was a joy to watch back in action, after a season plagued by recurring injuries).
Other Academy talent that impressed included skilful Oliver Skipp, who will surely play a decent amount of first team minutes this season, Jack Roles (who, like Lamela and Lucas, was one of the many Spurs players on the pitch who showed great positioning) and defensive duo Tanganga and Georgiou, who both put in solid shifts. Kyle Walker-Peters, who may find himself as Pochettino’s preferred starting right-back following Trippier’s recent departure to Atlético Madrid, proved effective against an ever-enthusiastic Cristiano Ronaldo (Ronaldo, incidentally, exchanged shirts with Heung-Min Son at the conclusion of the first half). During the celebration of the third goal, the sight of Lucas bringing several of these younger players into the fold (namely, by pulling them into the comforting nexus of the group-hug) was fantastic to behold, showing the relentlessly supportive team spirit that has characterised Spurs in the Pochettino era.
This game was also remarkable for other reasons, two of the chief ones amongst them being the debut of Tanguy Ndombele for Spurs and a (literal) show-stopping performance from Harry Kane that closed the game. And let’s talk about Tanguy’s pretty-much-perfect debut – the club’s record signing was subbed on in the 63rd minute, and it barely took seconds for him to register an impact. Through diligent stalking of the ground between the second and final left-hand third, his first touch was a scorcher – an interception of an errant aerial pass from De Sciglio, which he duly whipped straight across to Lucas, who, as described above, then banged it in straight through the centre to score Spurs’ second goal (65’). After this equaliser, which came after Juve scored two goals (Higuain 56’, Ronaldo 60’) in under four minutes, it is easy to see why Spurs fans are excited to see Ndombele at the club this year.
In the final seconds of the game (a Spurs speciality, it goes without saying), Lucas (this writer’s Man of the Match) masterfully won a challenge against Rabiot (who reportedly described Spurs as beneath him in discussions over his future whilst exiting Paris St-Germain) and knocked the ensuing ball onto Kane. Endearing hero Harry knew exactly what he was going to do with that ball; despite being scarcely across the half-way line, seemingly without even looking up (having previously noted that Sarri’s substitution for Buffon had gone AWOL from his line), he sent the ball screaming mellifluously into Juventus’ goal (90 + 3’). There was an audible collective gasp from the Singapore National Stadium as the ball floated through the air, suspended in slow-motion transit, as if an incredible magic trick was underway. The efforts of Szczęsny, the former Arsenal keeper (perhaps explaining Kane’s impetus) were almost comically futile and it sailed right over his outstretched left arm into the net – realistically, he never had a chance.
Kane’s goal was a stunning end to a match full of sparkling Spurs promise. Perhaps most tantalisingly, the game showed a glimpse of the potent prowess a subtly tweaked shade of Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1, spearheaded in tandem by Kane and Lucas, might possess this season, especially alongside a bolstered midfield and some striking Academy talent. ⚽