Football. Don’t you just love it? After the comeback of all comebacks the previous night, Tottenham matched the drama a few hundred miles north of London on Wednesday as they erased a 3-0 deficit to set up an all-English Champions League final with Liverpool.
Down 1-0 from the first leg, at home, Mauricio Pochettino’s men seemed dead and buried when Ajax went 2-0 up to leave them 3-0 in front on aggregate. But a second half from the realms of pure fantasy was produced as Lucas Moura’s 95th-minute goal devastated the Dutch and sent Spurs soaring.
Here we dissect the performance of the difference maker for Spurs, Moura.
Well, if we thought the second semi-final couldn’t possibly live up to the drama of the previous night, Spurs and Ajax seemed determined to prove us wrong.
The hosts seemingly had the tie killed off by the break with a breathtaking first-half display in which captain Matthijs de Ligt nodded them in front before Hakim Ziyech arced in a fine finish to leave Spurs needing a lifeline.
Step forward Moura whose rapid double set up a grandstand finish – both teams looked like titanic, teetering heavyweight boxers trading blow after blow. The hosts looked like they would hang on, but Moura came up with a stunning knockout punch.
Goals – 3
Shots – 5
Shots on target – 3
Touches – 48
Passes – 33
Pass accuracy – 65.5%
Key passes – 1
Aerials won – 3
GOT RIGHT – CATALYST
No Harry Kane, no Son Heung-min in the first leg, Kieran Trippier far from fit, Jan Vertonghen wearing a protective facemask and Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen not at their best – step forward star man Moura to light up the darkness for Spurs.
Lively in the first half but blunted by porous Spurs creativity and stoic home defending, he sprinkled a bit of stardust on proceedings to liven up a tie that looked dead at the interval.
His first goal was an assured, composed finish at a perfect time. His second was nothing short of ridiculous, twisting and turning before firing a shot – without looking at the goal – through Frenkie de Jong’s legs and into the corner. His third was pure instinct and annihilated poor Ajax.
GOT WRONG – NOT A STRIKER?
How can you pick holes in the performance of a player whose scored a hat-trick to send his side into their first-ever European Cup final?
An intrinsic figure in the context but considering he’s filling the void of Kane, Moura’s slight build often leaves him mismatched against defenders. He’s far better running onto through balls rather than holding them up, evidenced by his 65.5 per cent pass accuracy.
Having said that, he won three aerials and thrived off super sub Fernando Llorente’s muscular presence when he entered the fray. More importantly, he scored three goals. So just revel in a joyous performance.
He doesn’t carry the star status of the rising rank of English youngsters Kane or Alli. He’s not the classy Korean import Son. But Moura’s £25 million acquisition from Paris Saint-Germain in January 2018 now seems a steal of a deal.
In a season during which so much has been achieved, but so much also sacrificed, he has been the beacon Spurs have looked to at the most crucial of times. A star without the status. He’s certainly in the spotlight now.
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