Thanks to John Ellis for this view on Wednesday night's historic game
Ajax Amsterdam 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
(3-3 on aggregate- Spurs go through to the Champions League Final on the away goals rule)
Oh what a night!!!! Tottenham most certainly did play on a Wednesday night!!! In years to come, this match will be relived and talked about as one of the great Champions League matches. Unimaginably the drama of the quarter final against Manchester City had somehow been eclipsed.
In 40 minutes or so Lucas Moura elevated himself from skilful bit part squad player to Tottenham Hotspur legend!
His sweetest of hat tricks dragged his team back from the brink to fire Spurs into the Champions League final!
He was more than ably supported by a masterclass in hold up play by Fernando Llorente who came on and bullied the Ajax defence into submission. He was simply superb.
Behind him there were many heroes. Sissoko was again a beast in midfield in breaking up Ajax attacks and rampaging forward to create Spurs attacks. Dele was much more influential than of late. Lloris kept Spurs in the match with a string of fine diving saves. The Alderweireld and Vertonghen partnership was the rock upon which the team was anchored. Rose was at his swashbuckling best and not least in starting the move for the first Moura goal. The long forgotten Lamela came on to show his silky creative skills which unnerved the Ajax back line.
Then there is the man.... Mauricio Pochettino. Just when you think you cannot possibly love him anymore than you already do, he does something and on this night many things which takes our love to use his own words... To infinity and beyond! What a man. He could yet do the unthinkable and overtake Bill Nicholson as our greatest ever manager. Imagine the fun we will have in the coming years if he does!
The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and what a stadium it is. The Ajax fans were loud and expectant.
The game started in a cacophony of noise. After a free flowing opening few minutes Lloris was called into action to make a diving save. Rose, with all the time in the world, wasnít aware there wasnít a threat anywhere near him and elected to turn the ball out for a corner.
Unbelievably Spurs yet again conceded from a corner. The challenge was still the same of needing to score two goals but now there was no margin for error whatsoever. Spurs initially responded with Son shooting across goal against the post and Dele shooting wide but then they seemed to lose their way. Finally a further chance was created but Son shot tamely into the keeper's arms.
On the half hour mark, Wanyama lost the ball deep in the Ajax half. The home side broke quickly and a cross shot just eluded the far post with Lloris stranded. The tie was effectively over (Ed: or so some might have thought!) in the 35th minute when Trippier played a blind pass inside. The ball was intercepted and Ajax broke to sweep a low drive across Lloris into the left hand corner of the net. It was an excellent goal...
The frustration was that Spurs as for most of 2019 just hadnít turned up....
It was so disappointing to see so many Spurs players performing so badly. Be it Son, Dele, Moura or Eriksen in the final third to Lloris being unable to distribute from the back. Such a massive game and the players were just not at the races. The half time whistle blew with Spurs in need of a miracle. Not many inside the stadium believed in miracles...
In the 53rd minute Spurs moved the ball well. Eriksen put Dele in but the keeper made an excellent point blank save. Almost immediately after another fine move involving Rose, Llorente put Moura through to finish with aplomb. Surely too little too late?
Spurs suddenly gained belief and confidence. Another great move released Trippier to put Llorente in, the keeper saved point blank. Llorente should surely have scored. No matter - Moura with twinkle-toed footwork did! Oh my!!!!!! 2-2 !!!! !!
With 30 minutes to go Spurs were one goal from the Champions League final....
In the 63rd minute Ajax attacked and fired a shot just went wide. Spurs responded with Moura on a hat trick having a shot blocked for a corner. Ajax to their credit took the game to Spurs and in the 71st minute only a fine diving save by Lloris kept Spurs in the tie. In the 79th minute Sissoko gave the ball away to allow Ajax to attack and Spurs used up their umpteenth Champions League life when the ball cannoned back off the post.
With less than four minutes to go Vertonghen headed against the bar, had his follow up effort cleared off the line and saw Sonís cross shot fizz just wide...
Lloris pulled off another good save in added time. Could Spurs fashion one last chance...With literally seconds remaining, Sissoko hoisted a long ball forward. Llorente headed on (Ed:- it was a boot Fernando got to the ball!), Dele turned his man and suddenly there was Moura with a turn of pace to pounce on to the loose ball. He broke into the box....surely not! Moura somehow showed remarkable composure under the most incredible pressure to steer his shot beyond the despairing dive of the keeper into the bottom corner of the net! Ajax 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur!!! What a hat-trick! OMG!!! Can you believe it???
Tottenham Hotspur are in the Champions League final!!!
Moura ran to the corner flag with the Spurs fans high above. He was mobbed by the entire team and it seemed the whole squad ran across the pitch to join in as well. Above them, the Spurs fans went absolutely crazy in sheer unbridled joy! They had seen their team come back in the most incredible circumstances imaginable to snatch a last minute, no thatís not right, last second victory in the semi final of the Champions League!
Tears of joy were shed by many an old seasoned campaigner. The scenes were of chaotic joy. Fans hugged each other in disbelief! This sort of moment never used to happen to Spurs. How many times have this side been written off in this Champions League campaign. After three group games, they were bottom of the table on one point and five points behind Inter Milan. At that stage, the odds were 50/1 to just get through the group stages.
Only late goals in each of the final three games versus PSV, Inter and Barcelona gave Spurs a glimmer of hope which became a stunning reality in the Camp Nou when news filtered through that Inter had failed to beat PSV at home. Spurs then prevailed against Dortmund through the heroics of Lloris to eventually take a comfortable passage into the quarter finals to face the might of Manchester City. Aguero missed a penalty before VAR intervened in the most dramatic of circumstances to take Spurs through to the semi finals.
Then the semi final...Time and again Ajax could and should have put the tie beyond Spurs reach but they didnít and Spurs completed the most amazing of comebacks to book their place in the final in Madrid. Oh what a night!!!
And what an occasion Sunday promises to be for the last game of the season at the new stadium when Spurs should confirm their place in next seasonís Champions League.
∑ Spurs Odyssey match report
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