For a moment, it seemed as though time had stopped.
All eyes were firmly etched on the increasing trajectory of the ball, and there was a growing sense of anticipation that something, just something might happen.
Stupendously, a bulge of the net later, it did happen, cue contrasting emotions of disbelief, despair, and delirium all around the stands.
Just like that, without even a whisker of warning, Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur scored one of the greatest goals in the history of the National Stadium in the 93rd minute to hand the English side a dramatic 3-2 win against Italian giants Juventus in the 2019 International Champions Cup last night.
It was an act of pure genius from the Englishman, a sublime effort from the half-way line that caught Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny completely off-guard, and one befitting of winning any game in world football.
For the 50,443 supporters who bore witness, it will, without doubt, remain long in their memory.
“I think it was a great goal, absolutely unbelievable from Harry,” stated Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino at the post-match conference. “Look, this type of situation happens because (of) the quality of the player to see the position of the keeper. Sometimes, you try and it is possible to touch the net, and sometimes you try, and the goal is out.”
“That is why he is one of the best strikers in the world.”
“I am happy for him because after the Champions League final (defeat to Liverpool), (starting) pre-season in the first game and (scoring) a goal like this is going to give him confidence, and that is always good for the team.”
Kane’s incredible winner was the icing on the cake to an enthralling match that saw a plethora of goalmouth action, a stark contrast to the rather drab affair between Manchester United and Inter Milan the night before, which ended 1-0 to the Red Devils.
Even before kickoff, there was an evident buzz around the stadium as supporters rubbed their hands in glee at the prospect of watching Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest footballers of the modern era, play before their very eyes.
The Portuguese superstar was named in the Juventus starting 11, but neither he nor his teammates performed to their expected levels in the opening 45 minutes as Tottenham largely dominated proceedings.
After a flurry of early misses by their South Korean talisman Son Heung-min, the North London outfit took the lead just after the half-hour mark when Argentine midfielder Erik Lamela struck from close-range – after Juventus custodian Gianluigi Buffon palmed a shot from teenager Troy Parrot straight into his path.
Juventus almost levelled instantly when striker Mario Mandzukic saw a powerful header from close-range saved by Paulo Gazzaniga in the Tottenham goal. Just before half-time, crowd favourite Ronaldo found himself in acres of space but flashed his effort just wide.
Both sides made positive substitutions at half-time, with renowned names such as Adrien Rabiot, Moussa Sissoko, Lucas Moura, Gonzalo Higuain, and Kane entering the fray. This led to an increase in attacking tempo right from the get-go, and fans were duly rewarded with an astonishing three goals in a nine-minute spell.
First, in the 55th minute, Higuain sneaked a shot into the bottom right-hand corner to level the scores after finding space in the penalty area. Then, on the hour mark, the moment that most supporters in the stadium had been waiting for arrived when Ronaldo thundered a first-time effort into the back of the net from Mattia De Sciglio’s left-wing cross.
The 34-year-old ran towards the corner flag, jumped, turned, and let out a roar of “Siii!” (which means “Yesss!” in Spanish), a trademark celebration of his, which was echoed loudly by almost everyone in the stands to hair-raising effect.
Ronaldo was substituted two minutes later, and his departure was met with rapturous applause from all corners of the stadium.
The mad goal-rush reached its climax in the 64th minute when Moura latched onto a pinpoint pass from debutant Tanguy Ndombele, who joined Tottenham from Lyon earlier this month for a club-record fee of £65 million (SG$110.5 million), and smashed a shot in from close-range to make it 2-2.
Just as it seemed as though a penalty shootout would be required to settle the contest, Moura nicked the ball off Rabiot in the middle of the park deep into injury time, and Kane pounced with an astonishing first-time strike that looped over Szczesny and into the back of the net.
After grinding out the win, Pochettino said he was impressed with his side’s fitness levels.
“We are happy with the performance but the most important thing is that we are happy that all the players finished in a good condition to train tomorrow and build step by step our fitness,” explained the Argentine. “Of course, I am happy because that atmosphere when you beat a team like Juventus is (of) happiness”.
“The result, though, is not important, it is about the performance and how we are doing in our fitness – that is our priority for the rest of pre-season.”
On the other hand, Maurizio Sarri, who was appointed as the Juventus manager just last week following his departure from English side Chelsea, believes his side have plenty to work on in the coming weeks.
“(It was a) difficult match today, and preparation for this match has been difficult,” he stated. “We had to improve in the first half as we weren’t pressing high enough, we didn’t do well to defend in attacking positions, and we were too far back.”
“We did better in the second half, and had a good 20-minute spell where we scored a couple of goals.”
“For the goals conceded due to balls lost, possession lost, it reflects our need to prepare (better) for the (upcoming) season.
Juventus: Buffon, De Sciglio, Bonucci (C), Rugani, Cancelo, Can, Pjanic, Matuidi, Bernardeschi, Ronaldo, Mandzukic
Tottenham: Gazzaniga, Walker-Peters, Alderweireld (C), Tanganga, Georgiou, Winks, Skipp, Lamela, Dele, Son, Parrott
Photos by Ngau Kai Yan of the DANAMIC team.