Insane. Improbable. Inconceivable. I just…AHHH!!!
After Liverpool’s improbable comeback yesterday against Barcelona, I hoped Spurs could ride that momentum and use it to fire themselves up for their clash today in Amsterdam. The blood still hasn’t left my head, my heart is barely back in my chest, and Spurs are through to the Champions League Final. I genuinely cannot believe it. My roommate may now be deaf (sorry, Mike), and I probably won’t be able to yell like that for a while. His immediate reaction was JESUS FUCKING CHRIST (my sincerest apologies for him taking the Lord’s name in vain), and I didn’t explain what was happening. I was basically Steve Nash…
AJAX’s road to the semi-final
Although I was much happier to face Ajax than Juventus, it was going to be no small feat. The Dutch giants had a fairytale run to the semi-final after making it through two qualifying rounds, a playoff, and going toe to toe with the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Juventus. They’re an incredibly young side, and they fought until the end. After going undefeated in the group stage, they lost the first leg in the round of 16 at home to Real Madrid before smashing them 4-1 in the reverse fixture. Two losses in the competition. Both at home. And the last one is a stunning blow.
Raise a glass to Ajax. They’ve helped put Dutch football back on the map. If they can hold on to their core (aside from Frenkie De Jong making the move to Barcelona this summer) they can be right back here next year.
Tottenham Hotspur and the Tale of Two Seasons
And then there’s Tottenham. Spurs have truly been the strange case of Jekyll and Hyde this season. At one point earlier this year they were 4 points off the top of the Premier League. Now they’re struggling to not lose games. Yet, in the Champions League, they’ve been on another level. They barely mustered enough points in the first three matches of the group stage to have any chance of making it out. It wasn’t until Lucas Moura scored a late equalizer in Barcelona on match day 6 that Spurs were going through. Talk about saving it until the last minute…
Then they marched rather easily through Borussia Dortmund, and faced an all-English quarterfinal against Premier League leading Manchester City. Those two matches against City were the best I may have ever seen this team play since I became a Lilywhite. They somehow came out of the craziest match I’ve ever seen with a 4-3 loss to City, but moved on due to being tied 4-4 on aggregate and having a superior number of away goals.
Speaking of saving it until the last minute, Lucas Moura scored at 95:01 to complete his hat trick and send Tottenham through to the Champions League final for the first time in their history. So let’s get to this one…
Ajax came out swinging again in the first half. Spurs were up for it much more so than in the first leg, but couldn’t see any of their chances through. Ajax captain, 19 year old Matthijs De Ligt, headed home in the 5th minute. Spurs kept trying, but had their pockets picked in the final third so many times it seemed as though it would be one of those nights. Then, in the run of play in the 35th minute, Ajax won the ball over Kieran Trippier and the followthrough of the boot caught the Spurs fullback square in the face. Tottenham wanted a foul, but play continued on, and Hakim Ziyech slotted home a beauty to put the home side up 2-0. My heart sunk.
It wasn’t looking good for Spurs. They were now down on aggregate 3-0, which both essentially nullfied Ajax’s away goal in the first leg and mad the mountain that much harder to climb.
“We wouldn’t have been able to look ourselves in the mirror if we went down 3 or 4 nil. We had to fight back. We had no other option.” Christian Eriksen said in his post game interview when asked about the state of the clubhouse at halftime.
And fight back they did. Victor Wanyama, who looked like a lost puppy in the first half, was replaced by Fernando Llorente and immediately Tottenham shifted into a different gear. They needed to get a couple back early to keep the pressure on Ajax until the end. And again, they did just that. Lucas Moura scored after a stunning run through the central defenders in the 55th minute. I perked up. Four minutes later, after a comedy of errors and the soccer ball looking more like a pinball, Moura netted his second. Suddenly, I’m believing again. And desperately trying to pay more attention to the call I was on than the game.
2-2. It was on. Both sides saw opportunities get squandered, and both keepers were immense. Andre Onana prevented Spurs from scoring after an onslaught saw them put another two or three on target over the next 25-30 minutes. And Hugo Lloris did the same on the other end. The woodwork played its part in defense as well, and the next thing we knew we were into five minutes of added time.
Then the unthinkable happened. Onana was booked for time wasting in the 95th minute before driving a goal kick deep into Spurs territory. Spurs played it out, and worked the length of the pitch in a 30 second span. That span finished with Dele Alli beautifully flicking the ball around an Ajax defender and on to Moura, who neatly slotted home the winner.
I screamed that deafening, blood-curdling scream, and that was that. I lost my mind. Spurs lost their minds. Mauricio Pochettino erupted into tears. I erupted into tears. Spurs are on to the Champions League Final. I only wish I could have been at the Kinsale back in Boston to witness this moment with them.
Champion’s League Final
Tottenham will face Liverpool on Saturday, June 1st in Madrid. For European glory. This is just the second time the top European competition has been comprised of two English teams. The only other occurance was when Manchester United downed Chelsea on penalties in Moscow in 2009. Overall this is the sixth time two teams from the same country have faced off in the European final.
The competition began in 1955, and it wasn’t until 2000 that two Spanish teams made history by facing off in the final. Spain has done it three times, Italy once, and England now twice. What’s even more insane is Arsenal and Chelsea have the opportunity tomorrow to make it an all-English Europa League final as well. That English co-efficient is about to skyrocket.
I don’t know if I can put into words what I’m feeling. It’s going to be hard to wait until June. In the wise words of Pochettino, “you need to settle your dreams in the infinity and beyond.” It’s time to believe. And why not? They’ve made it this far.
COME ON YOU SPURS!!!
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