The Ivory Coast international almost let his teammates down at the Allianz Stadium, and it’s a trend that will worry Mauricio Pochettino
When Christian Eriksen sent a low free kick past Gianluigi Buffon to complete a major comeback for Tottenham Hotspur against Juventus on Tuesday, with Spurs having been 2-0 down, the Curva Sud were sent into a stunned silence.
They’d just seen their side let a two-goal lead slip.
To put things into perspective, this was the first time since December 30, 2017 that Massimiliano Allegri’s side had conceded a goal, let alone two.
In the UEFA Champions League, you’d have to wind back further, to February 23, 2016, to find a game where the Turin side conceded two at home. That was against Bayern Munich.
In those two years, Juve had only conceded three goals on their turf (even Barcelona couldn’t breach this defence), which makes the Londoners’ achievement even more remarkable.
However, things could have panned out differently had Gonzalo Higuain taken advantage of a reckless moment by Serge Aurier on the stroke of half-time.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side had done really well to recover from an atrocious start to half the deficit in Turin and the Argentinian was probably set to give a rousing team-talk at the break to spike the growing confidence of his players even more in an attempt to see them complete the comeback.
So, it surely wouldn’t have been shocking to see the manager and travelling supporters cover their eyes in horror when the Ivory Coast international made a rash challenge on the rapid Douglas Costa.
It was a poor judgement call when the better decision would have been to match the Brazilian stride for stride and force him down the byline. In one moment, the Lilywhites’ hard work could have been undone and Aurier would have had himself to blame.
They were saved by the crossbar and certainly the right-back would have gone in at the break the most relieved man in Turin.
He surely had to have seen the error in his moment of madness and was going to keep a lower profile in the second half, wouldn’t he?
Except the Ivorian’s nightmare at the Allianz Stadium continued when he was booked two minutes after the restart after a silly tackle on Alex Sandro. Granted, things could have turned out differently and some would plead giving Aurier the benefit of the doubt, but you just wonder if the defender would have been that thoughtless in the tackle had he been booked by referee Felix Brych after his concession of a spot-kick before the break.
Knowing how unpredictable the firebrand can be, it would be one of those things that are a bit too close to call!
The booking means the former Toulouse man will now miss the return leg at Wembley Stadium, and deep down, Spurs’ fans might be happy they won’t have to live on the edge of their seats when Juve visit.
Pochettino has the ever-reliable Kieran Trippier to call on and wouldn’t necessarily see the Ivorian’s absence in London as bad news.
Also recall Aurier’s actions in the West Ham United game at the London Stadium recently, and you start to feel if his manager and teammates aren’t starting to lose a bit of faith in him.
For those who need a refresher, the full-back received two yellows in the space of six minutes (64, 70) to put his side in a precarious position against the Hammers.
When you then take into account Spurs were in 3-1 in front at the time of his sending off, and you probably start pulling your hair out at the prospect of a player who can appear to be working against his teammates.
West Ham rallied, but Pochettino’s men hung on for their lives as the contest ended 3-2.
Admittedly, the defender apologized for his needless early bath in the derby, but his latest actions against Juventus will water the seed of doubt that was probably planted in East London.
On the flip side, and not wanting to throw the Ivorian under the bus, you have to question the entire Tottenham defence for their fearful start in northern Italy.
How they managed to lose Higuain (a proven goalscorer in Europe) for the Black and Whites’ first is anyone’s guess, while Ben Davies’ momentary loss of spatial awareness resulted in the foul on Federico Bernardeschi and the resulting penalty was tucked away by the Argentine hitman.
Perhaps you could blame nerves and inexperience for such a poor start, or maybe a bit of mental fatigue having played so many big games in the space of 14 days, yet you have to credit the resilience of the north Londoners.
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For Aurier, though, it should be noted that it’s not all doom and gloom for the full-back.
He successfully (well, to a certain degree) nullified the threat of Mohamed Salah in Tottenham’s 4-1 over Liverpool at Wembley back in October, which means he can put in a shift without putting a foot wrong when he’s on his game.
However, following two unpunished indiscretions, those keeping scores might be first to call him out when he eventually costs the side a game with his recklessness.