UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
SEMI-FINAL (1st leg)
TUESDAY 30TH APRIL, 2019
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0) AFC AJAX 1(1)
Van de Beek, 15
Referee:- Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP)
Assistants:- Pau Cebrián Devís (ESP) & Roberto del Palomar (ESP)
Video Assistant Referee:- Alejandro Hernández (ESP)
Assistant Video Assistant Referee:- Juan Martínez (ESP)
Fourth official:- Alberto Undiano Mallenco (ESP)
Spurs (3-4-1-2/4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen (sub Sissoko, 39); Trippier (sub Foyth, 80), Wanyama, Dele, Rose (sub Davies, 79); Eriksen; Lucas Moura, Llorente
Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Walker-Peters; Dier, Skipp
Ajax (4-2-1-3):- Onana; Veltman, De Ligt (Capt.), Blind, Tagliafico; Schone (sub Mazraoui, 65), De Jong; van de Beek; Ziyech (sub Huntelaar, 87), Tadic, Neres
Subs not used:- Varela; Magallan; Sinkgraven, De Wit; Dolberg
Booked:- Tagliafico (foul on Eriksen), Veltman (foul on Dele)
This is not over yet!
The biggest crowd seen so far at the new stadium watched the biggest game seen in the stadium’s short history. Most of those present were disappointed by their team’s performance and of course by the result, but they all know that this tie is not over yet!
Ajax were everything we were led to expect. They are youthful, energetic and highly skilful without question. They took “new White Hart Lane” by storm in the opening stages and scored the only goal of the game after a quarter of an hour. Martin Jol, a former manager of both sides, had warned of the high press of Ajax, and my word, that is what we saw with what looked like a front four at times with goalscorer van de Beek sitting behind the front three of Ziyech, Tadic and Neres. Spurs played three at the back until a horrible head injury to Jan Vertonghen who was laid flat and seemingly motionless in the Ajax area after he had a clash of heads with Toby Alderweireld as they challenged the Ajax keeper. Controversy surrounded the fact that Vertonghen was allowed back onto the pitch by the Spurs medical staff, but he was clearly unable to play, and now we have another key injury to be concerned about for our remaining games. That could be three or four more matches, depending upon how we do in Amsterdam next week.
My how we are missing Harry Kane and the suspended Son Heung-min. Son will be back on Saturday at Bournemouth and next week against Ajax. We certainly need his goal power – something which was so lacking from our front men in this game Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente. When Vertonghen had to go off, we were cheered by the insertion of Moussa Sissoko whose drive and power improved Spurs greatly. His arrival was cheered to the rafters, and his name was sung often during the game.
Once again “To Dare is to do” was displayed by the South Stand and with flags being waved around the rest of the stadium the atmosphere at the start of the game was all we could have wished for. Ajax kicked off and played towards that South Stand in the first half. There was an early battle between the number sixes. Sanchez versus De Beek. Ajax won a corner, and dominated Spurs until they took the lead. It looked all too easy as the ball was played forward by Ziyech, and collected with ease by De Beek, who even feinted Hugo Lloris before hitting his right footed shot. There was a VAR review, but that was over very quickly, and I understand that Kieran Trippier had played de Beek onside.
Ajax cut Spurs open again after 23 minutes with fine passing and a move ending with Tadic’s ball to de Beek, whose shot from the left of goal was saved by Lloris. Spurs a had a free kick when Lucas Moura was fouled towards the right. Trippier took the kick and Llorente met the ball, but headed wide.
Both Alderweireld and Vertonghen were down after that aerial clash, but Toby was quickly up, whilst the bloodied Vertonghen needed lengthy treatment. I understand he was physically sick when he eventually did have to go off. The best Spurs could manage before five minutes of time added onto the first half was a cross by Lucas Moura, held by Onana. Another free kick, taken by Trippier, was headed onto the top of the net by Alderweireld. After Dele’s pass, Llorente teed up the advancing Sissoko whose shot was just over.
Spurs were out early for the second half, and from the kick off had a chance when Llorente fed Dele, whose shot was blocked. At the other end Tagliafico hit a shot just wide of Lloris’s left post. In truth there were very few shots on target at either end. After a touch by Lucas Moura, Dele had another shot and this one was saved by Onana.
After 55 minutes, Danny Rose advanced and passed inside to Dele and Lucas Moura, who fed the ball to Trippier. Trippier crossed and Dele headed over. Sissoko’s arrival had allowed Dele to play in a more advanced position. After Veltman’s booking, the Spurs free kick by Trippier simply went straight to the keeper.
Dele was not showing good form but he did receive from Sissoko in a tight situation passing forward to Llorente, whose touch gave Eriksen the chance to feed Danny Rose, whose shot was blocked to give Spurs a corner. Ajax generally looked happy to consolidate, but they did have a great chance to increase their lead when they worked the ball from right left with substitute Mazraoui and Tadic getting the final passes before Neres beat Lloris with his shot across the goal, with the ball rebounding back into play off Hugo’s left post.
Mauricio Pochettino replaced both his full backs, and the only other chance Spurs could muster was an Eriksen free kick after Lucas had been fouled. Alderweireld met the kick but headed over.
This was a great occasion, of that there is no doubt. Unfortunately Spurs’ quality (or lack of it) could not match the occasion, and with that Neres shot hitting the post, we should be thankful the deficit is only one goal. An early goal next week would put the cat amongst the pigeons. Maybe two early goals by Son (as we saw at The Etihad) could do it for Spurs!
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