The Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League may not have been a good sportsbooks darling entering the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League, but a huge statement win over reigning champions Real Madrid could change the way people outside of England look at this squad. A brace by Dele Alli (the first English player to score two goals against the Madrilenians) and a single by Christian Eriksen not only put the Spurs in the Round of 16, but also gave the side arguably its biggest victory ever, a 3-1 upset of a team that, while not currently ion top of its game, remains the best and most popular in Zeus’s green Earth. The Lilywhites had previously escaped Santiago Bernabeu with one precious point, and everybody knows drawing in Madrid is tantamount to winning in any other city.
To put in perspective, had lost just one game in their last 22 European contests, and had not been defeated in any of their previous 30 games in the group stage. “These games have made us more visible around Europe,” Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino said. “We’ve qualified and we’re where we want to be. We’re in the next round of the Champions League. The most exciting thing – what motivates me the most – is that we keep going as a group and this club can achieve important things. You’ve seen today that Tottenham is a big team. We are starting to believe in our potential and that we can compete on a physical and mental level with the top teams. We now belong with the best in England and Europe.”
Tottenham is currently third in the Premier League, three points behind second place Manchester United, and eight behind leader Manchester City. The Spurs had a four-game winning streak and a seven-game undefeated streak ended by United. However, the momentum gained with the win over Real bodes ill for Crystal Palace, Tottenham’s next league opponent. “This is a great manager, with great, young, ambitious players,” quondam Arsenal forward Ian Wright said. “They’re not fly-by-night players. They look like the real deal. They hammered Real Madrid and it’s a team still with a lot more to give. As an Arsenal man, it’s a frightening prospect seeing their progression.”
Current soccer flavor-of-the-month Harry Kane couldn’t find the net, but Alli’s two goals and one assists sufficed to shock Real Madrid as well as the rest of the world. The last time the Spurs reached the knockout stage in 2010-11, current Real player Gareth Bale was still a wee lad of 22 cutting his teeth in Tottenham. The only other occasion on which Hotspur went beyond the group stage was in the 1961-62 edition, when a Bill Nicholson-managed team made it to the semi-finals before falling to eventual champions Benfica from Portugal. Can the Spurs match and surpass that performance? “Definitely, why not? We’re not going to get too ahead of ourselves, but we’ve got to believe,” Kane said. “I think everyone doubted us at the start of the group stage but for us, of course you’ve got to believe.”