Tottenham, Harry Kane dazzle in deserved 1-1 draw at Real Madrid
Here are three snap thoughts from a damp Bernabeu as it finishes Real Madrid 1-1 Tottenham in Tuesday evening's Champions League Group H clash.
1. Tottenham get deserved point at Bernabeu
Champions League royalty Real Madrid were matched step-by-step by young pretenders Tottenham in Tuesday's 1-1 Group H draw at the Bernabeu. Raphael Varane's own goal under pressure from Harry Kane gave the Premier League side a shock lead midway through the first half, and Cristiano Ronaldo equalised from the penalty spot before half-time.
Duelling forwards Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo eventually shared top-billing with goalkeepers Hugo Lloris and Keylor Navas by the end, with the latter pair responsible for the lack of goals after half-time. Madrid had the better chances over the 90 minutes, but as time went on, the feeling grew that each coach was content with what he had, especially with Borussia Dortmund only drawing 1-1 at APOEL Nicosia in the group's other game.
Tottenham began bravely, pushing up the pitch and trying to press Madrid back. The home side quickly dealt with it and had the better chances early on, with Ronaldo pinging a fierce header off the post and Benzema guilty of failing to score from the rebound. A lovely exchange between the hugely influential Luka Modric and Benzema then opened a shooting chance for the Portugal captain, who shot just wide of the far post.
But Tottenham rode it out and attacked again. Kane was a huge menace up front for Sergio Ramos and Varane. Referee Szymon Marciniak should even have pointed to the spot when Casemiro caught Fernando Llorente in the Madrid box.
The Bernabeu grew quieter, and the opening goal was not a huge surprise. A sweeping move took out Madrid's midfield cover, and Serge Aurier's cross found Kane, whose attempt at a back-flick sent the ball beyond Navas via Varane's feet. Madrid responded quickly, though, and wing-back Aurier's next significant intervention was a rash challenge when Toni Kroos burst into the area. This time, Marciniak pointed to the spot, and Ronaldo sent Lloris the wrong way to join Kane on five Champions League goals already this season.
Ronaldo and Benzema might have made it 2-1 early in the second half, but Lloris denied both with impressive reflex stops. As the game ebbed again, Kane and Christian Eriksen were denied at the other end by excellent Navas saves.
In the end, a point each was a fair result, and the group looks set to be decided when these sides meet again at Wembley in two weeks' time.
2. Kane shows his class on a big night
This was a big night for Harry Kane, with pre-match doubts among some pundits and fans in Spain as to whether the "traditional English number nine" was really galactico quality. But the England international showed he belongs on this type of top European stage, coming very close to making an even bigger impression.
During the first 45 minutes, Kane did pretty much everything he could to wrestle the game Tottenham's way. He almost opened the scoring with a powerful header from a corner that was well tipped over by Navas. He then brushed past Ramos down the wing, providing the cross from which strike partner Llorente was tripped by Casemiro for what should have been a penalty. Finally, his movement and presence unsettled Varane, who could only knock the ball in for the opening goal.
The Tottenham front two were well on top of their markers again when Llorente set up Kane for what could have been his coup de grace. He had time and space 15 yards out, but his accurate, low shot wasn't powerful enough, and Navas was able to save.
"Harry Kane, he's one of our own," the 4,000 Tottenham fans sang at various times during Tuesday's clash. There was enough in the 24-year-old's performance to suggest that the Londoners could soon face a battle to hold on to their favourite son.
3. Youth matches experience
On Tottenham's last visit to the Bernabeu six years ago, Harry Redknapp's happy-go-lucky side were walloped 4-0 by Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid. Pochettino's squad are a much more tactically sophisticated outfit, and they matched Zidane's super-experienced side, though at times paying the price for some youthful impetuosity.
Pochettino is regularly talked about as a future Madrid manager, and tactically, he had the upper hand for much of the match. His 3-5-2 shape caused Madrid plenty of problems, just as a similar formation deployed by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte did when winning at Atletico Madrid last month.
With his team having done so well to get in front, Aurier's rash challenge from the penalty must have been a big source of frustration. There was a feeling, though, that Pochettino's side were playing close to their max, while Zidane's side were more likely to raise their game when needed.
Overall, Modric was the game's most influential player, and against his old club, with his control of the pace and direction of the play a lesson to his successors, Eriksen and Harry Winks (though both also played well). Experience suggests that Ronaldo would probably have taken one of his clear chances had a trophy been on the line.
Madrid are now unbeaten in 11 straight games against Premier League teams, though Tottenham deserved their point, having given Real as good a test as any other English side have over that spell.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan