LONDON (Reuters) - There is an old cliche that has followed Tottenham Hotspur around pretty much since the club’s glory days in the 1960s.
A bit “Spursy” is the expression that has often summed up their football, meaning style without substance.
Harsh or otherwise, the perception was that Tottenham could not be relied upon under pressure.
Seven years ago, when the north London club reached the knockout phase of the Champions League at the first attempt under then manager Harry Redknapp, they went to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the quarter-final first leg and lost 4-0.
Memories of that chastening defeat came to the fore when Juventus’ wily striker Gonzalo Higuain, part of that 2011 Madrid squad, scored twice in the opening nine minutes at the Allianz Stadium on Tuesday as the Italian giants seized control of the last 16 tie.
What followed was 80 minutes of near-total domination by Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side as they stormed back to earn a 2-2 draw with goals by Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen.
This was a Juve side featuring seven starters from last year’s final, who had conceded one goal in their previous 16 matches in all competitions and who had never let slip a two-goal lead since moving to their new stadium in 2011.
The measured way Tottenham pushed Juventus deeper and deeper sucked the life out of the Serie A side and silenced their fans. Victory on the night would have been fully deserved.
It was all very “un-Spursy”.
While admirable, Tottenham’s quarter-final run in 2010-11 was built very much around Gareth Bale and Luca Modric — the only two players who would get into the current Spurs starting side.
Pochettino has assembled a team with no obvious weaknesses and world-class back-up on the bench to boot.
In the likes of goal machine Kane, cultured defender Jan Vertonghen, keeper Hugo Lloris, Mousa Dembele and Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Toby Alderweireld he boasts players with the big game mentality.
South Korean Son, a revelation this season, did not even make the starting team on Tuesday, while Alderweireld did not travel. In their places, Erik Lamela and young Colombian defender Davinson Sanchez were superb, as was England midfielder Dele Alli whose season is now blooming.
Another young England international Eric Dier was a ‘steady Eddie’ in a holding role.
Tottenham have not suffered defeat since a 4-1 loss to Manchester City in the league on Dec. 16. In their last four matches they have beaten Manchester United, came back to draw 2-2 at Liverpool, outplayed Arsenal at home and on Tuesday rocked Juventus with arguably their best away performance in Europe under Pochettino.
Add in a 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu against holders Real in the group phase and a 3-1 home rout of the Spaniards, plus home-and-away defeats of Borussia Dortmund and with good reason the London club are now being taken seriously.
“They are growing in stature all the time and are now believing in themselves that they can achieve things,” former Tottenham skipper Gary Mabbutt told the BBC on Wednesday.
“They showed that against one of the most respected defences in the game, they took the game to them. Kane bossed (Giorgio) Chiellini as he bossed (Real Madrid’s Sergio) Ramos.
“After 10 minutes they dominated the game. Tottenham now have no fear and believe they can beat these teams. The Tottenham youngsters are growing as a team all the time.”
Juve must still be finished off but whatever happens at Wembley on March 7, Tottenham are unlikely to be “Spursy”.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge