Gonzalo Higuain of Juventus celebrates the first goal of the match with Tottenham Hotspur. (AP photo)
Manchester City took a giant step towards the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 4-0 thrashing of Basel at St Jakob-Park.
At the same time, Christian Eriksen capped a remarkable Tottenham comeback to rescue a 2-2 draw after an early Gonzalo Higuain double seemed certain to sink Spurs’ Champions League hopes in Turin.
Pep Guardiola’s side tore Leicester City to pieces 5-1 in the Premier League at the weekend and resumed in similarly menacing mood against the Swiss champions.
Basel were left to rue Dimitri Oberlin failing to punish City’s early defensive vulnerability and having a penalty shout turned down as a blistering spell of three goals in the space of nine first-half minutes from Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero took the game away from them.
Gundogan did his World Cup hopes no harm with a sublime second as Germany boss Joachim Low looked on from the stands and, by the time that showpiece comes around, Guardiola could be reflecting on a history-making return in Manchester.
League One Wigan Athletic are up next in the fifth round of the FA Cup before a Wembley date with Arsenal in the EFL Cup final.
Throw in a 16-point lead in the Premier League and this coruscating form, and a belief that all things are possible might start to course strongly through the Etihad Stadium.
In Italy, Higuain, who set numerous records during his time in Serie A, volleyed Massimiliano Allegri’s men ahead before converting a penalty inside 10 minutes as an entranced Spurs side were left chasing shadows.
Harry Kane pulled one back for the visitors before the interval to give the Lilywhites hope at the Allianz Stadium, before Eriksen struck in the second half to level the tie.
It means Mauricio Pochettino’s men hold the advantage ahead of the return leg at Wembley in three weeks, where a draw could see them through to the quarter-finals.
Spurs had barely seen the ball when they found themselves trailing, the hosts bagging inside 90 seconds and registering their fastest Champions League goal since 1997.
Argentina international Higuain received an inch-perfect delivery from Miralem Pjanic on the edge of the box, and in one intricate, swivelling volley, redirected the ball inside the far post.
Pochettino’s side looked in disarray, with Juventus twice opening up an ordinarily sturdy Spurs defence only to be denied by the offside flag.
Those warnings were not heeded though, and when Wales international Ben Davies clumsily brought down Federico Bernadeschi in the box there was a strong sense of inevitability about the result.
Higuain clinically doubled the lead, picking up his second from 12 yards, despite Hugo Lloris getting a strong hand on the spot-kick.
But Tottenham’s horizontal pulse tremored slightly on 18 minutes when Kane appeared to be shoved to the floor by Mehdi Benatia – only for referee Felix Brych to wave away the calls.
Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon, with plans to retire at the season’s end, showed no signs of decline when he pulled off an instinctive save to keep Kane out from point blanc range.
Buffon once more came to the Old Lady’s rescue with a fingertip save to keep Kane out, but hope was rekindled for Spurs when Alli played Kane through, and the 24-year-old coolly rounded the World Cup winner to register an away goal for Pochettino’s men.
With 20 minutes remaining, Denmark international Eriksen slammed a low free-kick under the wall – not unlike Kevin de Bruyne – and beyond the grasp of Buffon to send the visiting fans into elation.