Twenty-four hours after Liverpool’s dramatic comeback, three second half goals by Lucas Moura overturned a 2-0 deficit to send Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League final on away goals in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
Tottenham were facing a challenge to qualify for the final having lost 1-0 at home in the first leg, and their challenge only grew when Matthijs de Ligt slammed in a header inside five minutes, but Moura’s stunning solo performance proved the difference.
Hakim Ziyech dealt a further blow to the Lilywhites 10 minutes before half-time when he whipped a left-footed strike past Hugo Lloris from the left-hand side of the box.
Where Georginio Wijnaldum scored in the 54th and 56th minutes at Anfield, Moura struck in the 55th and 59th to haul Tottenham right back in the tie.
The first one came with the Brazilian bursting through the middle to latch onto Dele Alli’s turn-cum-pass and finish one-on-one, and the second followed a tremendous close-range save by Andre Onana and prompted some magical footwork and a tidy finish from Moura in a crowded penalty area.
Ziyech hit the post and forced a springing save from Lloris late on, but the young Dutch team were left in tatters when Alli shovelled Fernando Llorente’s knock down through to Lucas whose timely finish rolled into the bottom right corner with wild scenes ensuing for the visitors.
Tale of two competitions
Tottenham have been woeful in the Premier League since the middle of February, losing seven out of their last 10 games and falling way off the top two, only just clinging onto fourth place.
Their form in Europe has been of stark contrast to that of their domestic campaign, however, as they have overcome a Borussia Dortmund side that was leading the Bundesliga at the time, arguably the best team in the world in Manchester City and Ajax who had been in similarly rampant form in the Champions League.
The Londoners were dominant in the Round of 16 against Dortmund, and against City and Ajax they have rode their fair share of luck, but showed grit and desire to dig deep and reach the final when heavily favoured against.
In the first half in this match, they sat off the Dutch league leaders and allowed them to play around them too easily, and it was the introduction of Llorente that changed the swing of momentum.
Having their resident target man on the pitch allowed Spurs to play more direct, to really go for the jugular and play fearless attacking football.
Exactly what this victory meant to Mauricio Pochettino was clear to see as he let his emotions out after the final whistle, in possibly his greatest managerial achievement in his young career.
Ajax bow out with pride
How this young team have earned the appreciation of football fans the world over. Erik ten Hag’s team has come from nowhere to put Dutch football on the map once again.
De Ligt, the youngest captain ever in a Champions League knockout game and a semi-final, has shown maturity and quality beyond his years, scoring the winner against Juventus in the last eight and getting his team off to a perfect start in this match.
After somewhat stagnating at Southampton, Dusan Tadic moved to the Dutch capital and has been a revelation, scoring six goals in the Champions League on top of three strikes in the qualifiers and a magnificent 24 in the Eredivisie.
Barcelona’s impending signing Frenkie de Jong alongside Donny van de Beek has created a phenomenal midfield and David Neres has also impressed in the final third.
If they can resist European powerhouses from poaching these star players as well as their coach, who is rumoured to be on Barcelona’s radar, then there is definitely more where this came from for de Godenzonen.
All English affair
For the first time since 2013, the winner of the Champions League will not be Barcelona or Real Madrid and there will be a first English winner since Chelsea rose above Bayern Munich in 2012.
The last time two English sides met in the decider, Manchester United triumphed over Chelsea on penalties in Moscow 11 years ago.
Both Tottenham and Liverpool have shown in their journeys to the final the resolve and character of mental giants, at times beating technically superior sides with their passion and fight.
The two teams should be able to call on key players that they were left without in the semi-finals, with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino returning for the Reds and Harry Kane and Davinson Sanchez for Tottenham.
It will be a fantastic battle in Madrid in June, with Tottenham looking for a first Champions League title and Liverpool, who could well be Premier League champions by then, aiming to break their long trophy drought and banish the demons of last seasons final defeat against Real Madrid.