Champions League roundup: Tottenham arrives, Aguero breaks record, Napoli on the brink

Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Harry Winks, Christian Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko celebrate a goal during Tottenham’s win over Real Madrid. (Getty)
Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Harry Winks, Christian Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko celebrate a goal during Tottenham’s win over Real Madrid. (Getty)

For so long, there has been a strange sort of skepticism about the sustainability of Tottenham Hotspur’s rise. There have been expectations of regression – of returns to second-tier status.

Wednesday might just have been the day that all that skepticism went flying out of the window.

Mauricio Pochettino’s first season in London was one of transition. His second was aided by the underachievement of those around him. His third was slightly marred by a Champions League group stage exit.

In his fourth, there are no longer reasons to be unimpressed with Tottenham. There are no longer reasons to refrain from gushing about what Pochettino has built. He has constructed a talented, balanced, tactically flexible team that can compete with any in the world.

Just ask Real Madrid.

Two weeks after Spurs went to the Santiago Bernabeu and held out for a 1-1 draw, they ripped the European Champions apart at Wembley.

Tottenham 3-1 Real Madrid

Spurs weathered the occasional Real storm, and ravaged a Madrid midfield and defense that were out of sorts. Kieran Trippier exposed Marcelo’s poor positioning on multiple occasions down the Tottenham right. On one, when played over the top by Harry Winks, he fed Dele Alli – back from European suspension – for Spurs’ opener:

Madrid threatened to pull itself back into the game, but also left itself exposed at the back. Alli doubled the lead after halftime via a deflection. Christian Eriksen punished Real for its openness shortly thereafter:

Cristiano Ronaldo pulled one goal back for a struggling Madrid outfit with 10 minutes remaining, but it was nothing more than a consolation. Wednesday was Spurs’ night at Wembley. And it might be remembered as the one when Tottenham truly joined the European elite.

Napoli 2-4 Manchester City

Napoli is one of the best teams in Europe. And in two games against Manchester City, it has given the Premier League leaders stiffer tests than anybody in England. But it has nothing to show for 180 minutes of toil, and, as a result, is on the verge of crashing out of the Champions League.

The Serie A leaders went ahead through Lorenzo Insigne early on, which made them the first team to hold a lead against City since August.

City answered with two headers from center backs Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones. The visitors were then pegged back by a questionable penalty, which Jorginho buried to bring the score level at 2-2.

But Napoli’s second gave Aguero the chance to break City’s all-time goal-scoring record on a big stage. He punctuated a 69th-minute counter with a convincing finish. It was his 178th goal in a Man City shirt, one more than the previous record holder, Eric Brook:

Aguero’s goal was fortified by a stoppage-time clincher from Raheem Sterling that sealed knockout-round qualification for City. The Citizens, along with Spurs, became the third and fourth teams to book places in the Round of 16, joining PSG and Bayern Munich.

On the other end of the spectrum, with Shakhtar Donetsk beating Feyenoord 3-1, Wednesday’s loss put Napoli six points back of second place with two matches to play. Maurizio Sarri’s side will now need two victories, and some help from City, to progress.

FC Porto 3-1 Leipzig

A 13th-minute goal from Mexican international Hector Herrera and 61st-minute winner from Danilo Pereira lifted Porto into second place in Group G, two points ahead of Leipzig. And four behind Besiktas, because …

Besiktas 1-1 Monaco

The Turkish champs dropped their first points of the European campaign, but equalized via a second-half penalty, and kept Monaco winless. Besiktas can clinch top spot in the group with a win or draw at home against Porto on Matchday 5.

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 APOEL Nicosia

Dortmund dropped two points at home to the Cypriot minnows, and is still without a European win in 2017-18. It will be eliminated from Champions League contention if Real Madrid beats APOEL on Matchday 5.

Liverpool 3-0 NK Maribor
Sevilla 2-1 Spartak Moscow

Liverpool cruised, Sevilla took care of business, and order has been restored in Group E. The Reds are on top with eight points. Sevilla is one back on seven. Spartak, though, is still within touching distance on five, and gets Maribor at home on Matchday 5.