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  • Tottenham's mature display at the Bernabeu netted a key Champions League point, while Liverpool had its best day under Jurgen Klopp in Slovenia to go top of its group.
By Jonathan Wilson
October 17, 2017

Hugo Lloris made two spectacular second-half saves as Tottenham held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu in Tuesday's Champions League headliner. A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty canceled out an own goal from Raphael Varane, with the two Group H leaders splitting the points and not losing any ground in the process.

In the other game in the group, Borussia Dortmund was surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by APOEL in Cyprus. Mickael Pote had put the hosts ahead after a terrible mistake from goalkeeper Roman Burki, but Sokratis Papastathopoulos headed in an equalizer five minutes later to salvage the point, Dortmund's first in three games in the competition.

Elsewhere, Manchester City won its 10th consecutive game–its third in the Champions League–producing a brilliant first-half performance to beat Napoli 2-1. City seemed to be cruising after goals from Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, but Napoli came back into the game with an Amadou Diawara penalty and was left ruing an early missed spot-kick from Dries Mertens.

Shakhtar Donetsk is second in that group after surviving the dismissal of Yaroslav Rakitskiy to hold on for a 2-1 win away to Feyenoord. Steven Berghius had given the Dutch champion an eighth-minute lead, but two goals from Brazilian forward Bernard transformed the game.

On a good night for the Premier League sides, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah both scored twice as Liverpool won 7-0 away to Maribor. Jurgen Klopp’s side shares the top spot in the group with Spartak Moscow after the Russian side beat Sevilla 5-1, with Quincy Promes capping an excellent display with two goals.

Besiktas cemented its place at the top of Group G as it won its third game out of three in the Champions League, beating Monaco 2-1. Radamel Falcao had put Monaco ahead with a neat finish, but Cenk Tosun headed in a Ricardo Quaresma cross to level before bundling a Ryan Babel cross past Danijel Subasic to keep the Turkish champion perfect.

RB Leipzig is second in that group, five points behind after a 3-2 home win over Porto, with all the goals coming in the first half.

Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:

Spurs produce smart, savvy performance at the Bernabeu

This was billed as the biggest test yet for Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham and it just about came through it, producing a disciplined and intelligent display–and riding its luck–to hold the European champion Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw.

Tottenham unexpectedly began with a back three, using Jan Vertonghen at left wingback in the absence of Ben Davies and Danny Rose, who was fit enough to return to the bench after several months out with a knee injury. Harry Kane, meanwhile, started slightly deeper than usual, behind Fernando Llorente.

Madrid had the better of the game, but as against Dormtund in the opening game in the group, Tottenham showed a newfound capacity to resist and play off the back foot. Cristiano Ronaldo hits post, and it was Spurs that took a 28th-minute lead, with Moussa Sissoko’s cross toward Harry Kane spinning in off the shin of Raphael Varane, the first goal Tottenham had scored in five games against Madrid.

Just as the thought began to arise that Madrid might be facing its first home group stage defeat in eight years, though, Serge Aurier recklessly lunged in on Toni Kroos to concede a penalty that Ronaldo converted.

The second half was far more one-sided. Hugo Lloris made extraordinary saves from Karim Benzema and Cristaino Ronaldo. The longer the game went on, though, the more Llorente began to cause Madrid problems, creating opportunities for Kane and Christian Eriksen. The draw left both sides on seven points, six clear of the other two sides in the group.

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Man City's run of form goes on

Manchester City’s extraordinary form at the start of this season continued with victory over Serie A-leading Napoli. Pep Guardiola selected the same XI that began the 7-2 win over Stoke City on Saturday, and they began with similar fluency and verve. Napoli has a 100% record in Serie A this season but in the first half was made to look deeply ordinary, the pressing that has characterized its play overwhelmed by City’s energy and quality.

Raheem Sterling knocked in the loose ball after a Kyle Walker shot had been blocked after eight minutes and Gabriel Jesus added a second four minutes later after another precise cross from Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian then smashed a shot off the underside of the bar and Gabriel Jesus had a shot cleared off the line by Kalidou Koulibaly. Having been brilliant for half an hour, though, City eased off before halftime and conceded a penalty as Walker needlessly pulled at Raul Albiol. The opportunity was squandered by Dries Mertens, driving his shot straight at Ederson. As the players left the pitch at halftime, there was a clear disagreement between De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho, seemingly born of frustration over how they had allowed their domination to slide in the final minutes of the half.

City never recaptured its domination after the break, and Diawara pulled one back from the penalty spot after being brought down. If City wasn’t quite hanging on by the end, the game was worryingly open. Its defensive capability remains the major doubt about Guardiola’s side against high-class opposition.

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Seventh heaven for Liverpool

Liverpool had won only one of its last eight games in all competitions, and after drawing its opening two group games it needed to win in Slovenia. On a soggy pitch and in a tight stadium, Maribor could have been an awkward test but its defense folded to give Liverpool its biggest win yet under Jurgen Klopp.

Roberto Firmino, operating as a false nine, had a key role. He scored the first after four minutes, turning in Mohamed Salah’s cross after the Egyptian had been presented with possession. Then, dropping deep into midfield, he was instrumental in the second after 13 minutes, working the ball wide to Salah who played in James Milner to cut the ball back for Philippe Coutinho for the Brazilian sweep in from the edge if the box. Two more followed before halftime, both for Salah. Firmino laid on the first of them after Emre Can had won the ball back high up the pitch and Alberto Moreno set up the second with a low cross.

A flicked header from Firmino guided in a Coutinho free kick to make it five, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain notched his first Liverpool goal and Trent Alexander-Arnold banged in a deflected shot to complete the 7-0 win and send Liverpool–with one dominant showing–to the top of the group.

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