Uefa Champions League semi-final second leg Ajax 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3 (3-3 on aggregate, Spurs win on away goals)
Can this week get any crazier? Twenty four hours after Liverpool produced against Barcelona what some described as the greatest comeback in Champions League history, Tottenham staked their own place for the accolade.
So dramatic was Spurs’ revival against Ajax that it left manager Mauricio Pochettino in tears. “The emotion is amazing!” he declared. “Thank you football - this type of emotion without football is not possible.
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“Thank you to everyone who has believed in us. To describe this in words is difficult.”
Pochettino will have thanked no one more than Lucas Moura, whose second-half hat-trick propelled Tottenham into their first Champions League final next month against Liverpool.
The striker, standing in for the injured Harry Kane, has struggled to win over the Spurs faithful since arriving from Paris Saint-Germain 18 months ago. But he is the toast of Tottenham this morning after his three goals sunk Ajax.
Dead and buried
Such a scenario seemed beyond the imagination of Hollywood’s most fanciful script-writer when 19-year-old Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt headed the hosts in front after just five minutes. That made it 2-0 on aggregate, the Dutch side having won 1-0 in last week’s first leg in north London.
When Hakim Ziyech made it 2-0 on the night ten minutes before the break with a thumping strike Tottenham looked dead and buried.
But Moura resurrected his side in the second half with three glorious goals, the first coming on 55 minutes and the second just four minutes later when he somehow threaded the ball through a crowded penalty area as the Ajax defence got in each other’s way.
Build a statue
The young, inexperienced Ajax side fought furiously to defend their fragile away goal advantage but six minutes into stoppage time Moura struck the winner into the corner past the despairing dive of goalkeeper Andre Onana.
“I hope he gets a statue in England after this,” exclaimed Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen, giddy with excitement after his team-mate’s exploits.
Moura, however, was modesty personified as he reflected on superb hat-trick.
“It’s the best moment in my career,” he said. “It’s about not only me but my team-mates and teamwork. Everyone worked really hard. It’s difficult to play here against Ajax but I always believed in my team-mates. Even without key players we did really well.”
Amazing final awaits
Asked about the prospect of taking on Liverpool in Madrid on 1 June in the first all-English Champions League final since Chelsea lost to Manchester United in 2008, Pochettino said: “We enjoyed a lot, watching the tie against Barcelona, they are heroes too and of course it is going to be an amazing final between two English teams.”
What they’re saying about Spurs’ sensational comeback
Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham manager: “I said before my players were heroes - now they are superheroes.”
Christian Eriksen, Tottenham midfielder: “Today it was non-tactical, more of a fight and heart performance, heart and Lucas Moura - he’s how we won the game.”
Erik ten Hag, Ajax head coach: “It is difficult to process… I told the players in the break that it wasn’t over yet, you could tell by the attitude of the Tottenham players. They still believed in it.”
Gary Lineker, former Tottenham striker and now TV pundit: “I love my job. What a delight and a privilege to have witnessed 2 of the greatest comebacks in the history of the beautiful game. Absolutely magical.”
Harry Kane, Tottenham striker: “I’m a fan first and foremost and I know how much it means to the club. The lads dug deep and showed passion and that is all you can ask for.”
How Twitter reacted to another night of drama
Newspaper headlines: Moura the same!
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