SINGAPORE — It usually takes a lot to upstage the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo. On Sunday (21 July) at the National Stadium, Harry Kane took just one swing of his prodigious right foot to do so.
No one at the stadium was really sure quite how the Tottenham Hotspur striker summoned his moment of outrageous inspiration to lob the ball from the centre circle – with his first touch, with barely a look at the goal, and with a defender breathing down his neck – over the outstretched arms of Juventus’ goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
What the 50,443-strong crowd could comprehend is that his wonder goal, in the second minute of stoppage time, capped a sensational International Champions Cup (ICC) match in which Spurs came out 3-2 winners over Juventus.
A match with everything
By far, it was the better game than Manchester United’s narrow 1-0 win over Inter Milan on Saturday, even though the Red Devils and the Nerazzurri drew a bigger crowd of 52,897.
Indeed, Sunday’s match had everything – comebacks by both teams, superb team play by both sides, a Ronaldo goal, a penalty no-call, and even a pitch invasion by a young boy.
And it provided the iconic moment for the tournament in Kane’s magical winner, one that will be talked about whenever fans reminisce about this ICC competition.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino could only smile as he talked about the goal during the post-match media conference. He said, “The goal happened because of the quality of the player – to have the vision, the ability and the bravery to attempt the shot.
“Of course, Harry also had a bit of luck in his accuracy, because you can try many times, and still the ball would not go in.”
Kane: I had just one thought in my head
For Kane, it was also case of fatigue setting in that compelled him to seek a late winner, instead of heading to a penalty shootout if the match ended in a draw at full time.
He told the official Spurs website, “Once the ball dropped to me, I had just one thought in my head and that was to give it a go, because it was the end of the game, and there were a couple of tired legs out there as well. Sometimes they come off and thankfully it did today.”
Thankfully too for the paying fans that both Spurs and Juventus put on a terrific display that showcased the best sides of both teams.
Tottenham showed why their pressing game was so effective, as they troubled the Juventus defence early on, harassing the defenders into losing possession and then pushing forward rapidly to catch their opponents off guard.
They opened accounts with a wonderfully-crafted goal in the 30th minute. South Korean forward Son Heung-min made a purposeful run down the centre of the field before laying the ball off for 17-year-old forward Troy Parrott.
Juventus fight back with Ronaldo goal
The youngster’s shot was parried by veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, but the ball fell to an onrushing Erik Lamela to tap into an empty net.
Juventus, however, showed why they will be a force to be reckoned with in Europe this season, when they roared into life in the second half with two superb goals in four minutes.
After surviving a big shout for penalty when Spurs substitute Lucas Moura was seemingly tripped in the box early in the second half, the reigning Italian Serie A champions equalised in the 56th minute with a well-constructed goal.
Midfielder Miralem Pjanic’s short pass found substitute striker Gonzalo Higuain just outside the box, and the Argentinian made a deft one-two pass with Federico Bernardeschi, before launching a crisp shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Four minutes later came the moment most fans were waiting for. Left-back Mattia de Sciglio’s cross found Ronaldo, who had been ineffective in the match until then.
The five-time World Player of the Year’s first-time shot took a deflection of Jan Vertonghen but still managed to find the net to give Juve a deserved 2-1 lead. Cue a huge roar of delight from the fans as Ronaldo celebrated with his trademark pose at the corner flag.
Had the match ended then, most fans would have gone home happy, having witnessed a goal by one of the sport’s greatest and most popular players.
Pitch invasion by young boy
But Spurs had other ideas, as they brought on new signing Tanguy Ndombele. With his first touch in the 65th minute, he began repaying his £55 million (S$93 million) transfer fee as his beautifully-weighted pass found Moura in the box to sweep the ball home and make the score 2-2.
Before Kane’s stupendous winner, there was time for a young boy to run the width of the pitch to hug Ronaldo, who had been substituted and was sitting on the Juve bench.
While it took an uncomfortably long time for security to eventually take the kid away from the pitch, Juve coach Maurizio Sarri was unconcerned by the interlude.
“When a young fan comes onto the pitch, it’s not an invasion, it’s actually a joyful occasion,” the former Chelsea manager said with a smile.
And what joy the match brought to the paying fans, who did their part in loudly cheering for their favourite teams and eventually went home with an indelible memory of an extraordinary winning goal.