Tottenham Hotspur managed to grind out what could prove to be an invaluable point following their 1-1 draw with Champions League holders Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The opener came courtesy of Los Blancos defender Raphael Varane turning the ball into his own net midway through the first half to give Spurs their first ever goal against the La Liga giants. However, the dream result was dampened slightly just before the break as Cristiano Ronaldo levelled from the spot after a moment of madness from Serge Aurier.
The result leaves both the North Londoners and one of the tournament’s hottest favourites level on seven points apiece after their opening three games, with the return leg at Wembley Stadium now just over two weeks away.
It was a high-tempo opening and the hosts almost manufactured the perfect start, as inside five minutes the travelling Spurs contingent had their hearts in their mouths after Ronaldo crashed his header off Hugo Lloris’ upright, following a smart cut back by teenager Achraf Hakimi from the right-hand side.
With the French custodian left floored following his attempts to claw the 32-year-old’s effort away from goal, the ball fell kindly to Karim Benzema around the penalty spot with the net gaping. But, somehow the striker could only drag, what was a superb opportunity, wide, giving Tottenham the biggest of let-offs.
The following 10 minutes consisted of Madrid continuing their opening onslaught, with Hakimi persistently causing make-shift left-back Jan Vertonghen’s life troublesome – and the rising pressure almost paid off.
Ronaldo ended up latching onto a pass following silky build-up play between the Spanish right-back and Benzema on the edge of the Premier League side’s area, and with only one thought in his mind, the four-time Balon d’Or-winner left Lloris scrambling as the Portugal international’s long-range effort trickled inches wide his right-hand upright.
But following a monetary respite and a rare venture into the Los Blancos half, Harry Kane almost snatched the most undeserved of leads. The Englishman ghosted into the Real area before forcing a sublime save from hosts’ goalkeeper Keylor Navas after evading marker Casemiro and sending a bullet header goal-bound from a perfectly-flighted Christian Eriksen corner.
Following their first clear-cut opportunity of the evening Mauricio Pochettino’s side finally began to show the tempo and qualities that has made them such a formidable force in English football, and just before the half-hour mark the visitors grabbed the lead.
It seemed the man-of-the-moment Kane was on-hand to continue his stupendous goalscoring form, however on closer inspection it was in fact the Champions League holders’ Varane who had turned the ball into his own net to send Spurs ahead.
A tricky, fizzing cross was whipped in from deep on the right-hand side by Aurier towards the Madrid area where the 24-year-old striker attempted an audacious flick. The effort seemed to be skewed and harmless, however the unfortunate outstretched boot of the French centre-back turned the ball past the helpless Navas to mark the North Londoners’ first goal in their history against Tuesday’s opposition.
As the half ticked on Zinedine Zidane’s side’s frustrations began to surface, but the 12-time kings of Europe levelled things up three minutes before the break, as Ronaldo leathered home from 12 yards to mark his 110th Champions League goal.
Aurier, the hero just 15 minutes previously, instantly became the villain after needlessly hacking-down the advancing Toni Kroos inside the area – leaving Polish referee Szymon Marciniak with no other choice but to point to the spot and send the tie into half-time level once again.
The opening of the second 45 followed a similar vein to the first, with Madrid flexing their muscles early on and setting up camp high in the Spurs half.
However, striker Benzema could have done no more when offered the chance to send his side into the lead for the first time of the evening, but Lloris, with arguably the save of the season, was there to deny his fellow countryman from extremely close-range.
The 29-year-old striker latched onto a beautifully-flighted Casemiro cross, but the frontman’s bulleted header from less than six-yards-out was somehow, somehow kept out of the back of the net by the left foot of the highly-decorated 30-year-old Tottenham custodian.
But as the tie entered the final 20 minutes it was Madrid goalkeeper Navas’ turn to produce a vital stop – albeit slightly less dramatic, no less skilful or important.
Fernando Llorente was found after some intricate one-touch football outside the Los Blancos area before sliding in goal-machine Kane with a beautiful first-time pass.
With the prolific Englishman one-on-one, those inside the Santiago Bernabeu were simply waiting for the net to bulge, but amazingly the Costa Rican was able to get the slightest of fingertips to the shot and divert the sure-goalbound attempt wide.
As the highly-entertaining tie fizzled out, the travelling army went away even happier thanks to witnessing the return of left-back Danny Rose, who managed to rack up his first 10 minutes of first-team football following his long lay off.
The two meet again in just over two weeks time, when Pochettino’s side will hope they can go one better than their heroics of Tuesday night and take control of Group H by clinching three points at Wembley.