Twenty-four hours after the Reds’ comeback against Barcelona, Spurs were dead and buried at half-time of their semi-final second leg in Amsterdam as they trailed 3-0 on aggregate.
But Lucas Moura completed a stunning second-half hat-trick, with the third coming deep into injury time, to sends Spurs through to a first ever Champions League final and spark amazing scenes in the Johan Cryuff Arena.
Pochettino was reduced to tears after the game after performing what he called a “miracle” and they will now meet Jurgen Klopp’s side in Madrid on June 1.
The Spurs boss, who said on the eve of the game that he could leave the club if he won the competition this season, has long described his players as heroes for performing in tough circumstances this term.
But he has upgraded that description to “superheroes” as he celebrated one of his most significant nights.
“It’s difficult with words to describe my feelings and my emotions,” he said.
“I think it’s one of the most important nights in my life. How the game finished, everything that happened, the first half, how we planned to play, how the plan was down after three minutes when we conceded the goal, and I think everything was amazing.
“The most important thing I want to say is to congratulate my players. They own the football, they delivered a great job.
“For me, they are heroes. I’ve told you the last six months, I repeat this sentence.
“I think they are superheroes now. To get the club to the final of the Champions League I think is very close to a miracle.
“No one believed in us from the beginning of the season. We are so close to the top four and have the opportunity in Madrid to play the final against Liverpool.
“It is an amazing season in our new home. This chapter that we’re going to close now, until June 1, it can be amazing to close the chapter playing a final. In case we won it should be an amazing book.”
Both Liverpool and Spurs may think their name is etched on to the trophy given the manner of their respective comebacks and Pochettino thinks the Madrid showpiece will be a thrilling encounter.
“Allow me to relax a little bit, there is going to be time to talk about Liverpool,” he said.
“I want to congratulate Jurgen Klopp and all the players and Liverpool, because I think they were amazing.
“We enjoyed a lot, watching the tie against Barcelona, they are heroes too and of course it is going to be an amazing final between two English teams that for sure we are going to enjoy.”
For Ajax, a brilliant run in this competition, where they beat Real Madrid and Juventus in previous rounds, ended in the most heartbreaking of ways.
They were seconds away from a first Champions League final since 1996 and with their side set to be picked apart in the summer, they are unlikely to have a better chance of winning European football’s premier club competition than this.
Provided by Press Association Sport
Ajax‘s magical Champions League run came to an end in heartbreaking fashion on Wednesday, as a 95th-minute winner from Tottenham‘s Lucas Moura stunned the Dutch side in the second leg of the semi-final – which Ajax had at one point led 2-0.
That fast start had put the Eredivisie leaders three goals up on aggregate, but that lead was wiped out in the second half as Erik ten Hag’s side succumbed to Tottenham’s relentless pressure.
Here’s a closer look at how it all went wrong for Ten Hag and Ajax.
Goals – 2
Shots – 16
Shots on target – 4
Possession – 40%
Passing accuracy – 73%
Chances created – 16
Ten Hag was forced into making a late change to his starting XI as winger David Neres pulled up in the pre-match warm-up, with the manager choosing to insert striker Kasper Dolberg into the line-up instead.
Though that meant a reshuffle as Dusan Tadic was moved out to the left wing from his usual false nine position, it didn’t seem to cost Ajax much as they raced out to a 2-0 lead. But it all came crashing down in the second half as they lost their rhythm and attacking verve.
TACTICAL TALKING POINT
Stick or twist indecision costs Ten Hag and Ajax
As Spurs took control of the game in the second half, Ten Hag faced a difficult choice: abandon the attacking mentality that had gotten his side this far, or keep playing to his team’s strengths?
He ended up not doing either. Right-back Joel Veltman came on for midfielder Lasse Schone, with starting right-back Noussair Mazraoui moving into midfield, the position he played before this season, while midfielder Daley Sinkgraven came on for the lacklustre Dolberg.
But the substitutions signalled a retreat from Ajax – and the Spurs pressure eventually told.
"As a coach, there are matches where we don't play, there are matches where we play very bad but there are matches where we play very well and Ajax in the 2nd half needed him to play very well and he played like his team:not very well."— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) May 8, 2019
Mourinho on Erik ten Hag😳#beINMourinho pic.twitter.com/Ntwj0I1Wk5
This result is so heartbreakingly harsh on Ten Hag and his side. They were seconds away from a thoroughly deserved Champions League final appearance, after they knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus to get here.
Ten Hag may perhaps rue his team’s inexperience. No one in the Ajax side knew how to calm the game down when Tottenham were building up a head of steam – though all the experience in the world didn’t help Barcelona in a similar situation on Tuesday. In the end, his own second-half tactics probably cost Ajax.
RATING – 6/10
The drama of the Champions League got even better on Wednesday as Tottenham stunned Ajax with a second-half comeback to reach the final, with Lucas Moura capping off a hat-trick with a 96th-minute winner.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side looked down and out after falling behind 2-0 in the first half, but for the second straight night an English team needing three goals in the second half to advance to the final achieved the feat.
Here’s a look at how Pochettino pulled it off.
Goals – 3
Shots – 24
Shots on target – 7
Possession – 60%
Passing Accuracy – 80%
Chances created – 19
With Son Heung-min returning, Pochettino fielded an attacking lineup, with Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Moura, and the Korean all in the XI. It was the exact same XI that survived the second leg of the quarter-final against Manchester City.
Yet Spurs looked lost at sea in the first half as Ajax were playing them off the park on the way to a two-goal lead. Pochettino intervened at half-time, and Spurs turned the game on its head, before winning in dramatic circumstances.
TACTICAL TALKING POINT
In-game substitutions do the trick
Pochettino was perhaps forced into one substitution, with Victor Wanyama picking up an injury in the first half, but choosing to bring on Fernando Llorente instead of, say, Eric Dier was an attacking decision that reaped rewards.
But his boldness didn’t end there. Spurs played the final 15 minutes or so with Eriksen as the lone midfielder, with Moussa Sissoko moving over to right-back after Kieran Trippier was taken off for forward Erik Lamela. The decision to go all-out for the win worked perfectly.
"Thank you football. Thank you my players, they are heroes."— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 8, 2019
"Without football it is impossible to live."
No, thank you 🙏
Mauricio Pochettino cries during his post-match interview with @DesKellyBTS.
This means everything to him... pic.twitter.com/ArpQwwnwDH
What a run it’s been for Tottenham. On matchday four of the group stage, they were trailing 1-0 at home to PSV Eindhoven and crashing out of the Champions League. They turned it around, beat Inter Milan, got a draw against Barcelona – thanks to a late goal from Moura – outclassed Borussia Dortmund, had that madcap quarter-final against Manchester City, and now this.
Pochettino has been working wonders with this team – they’ve made no transfers this season, remember – but this was his finest moment yet.
RATING – 9/10