Ajax welcomed Tottenham to Amsterdam, for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final, holding a slender 1-0 advantage from the first match in London.
Ajax was high on confidence as they had dismantled Willem II 4-0 in the Dutch Cup final, to secure the first trophy of the Erik ten Hag era whereas, Tottenham was struggling for form having suffered a 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League.
Spurs had three former Ajax players starting the match, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen while Ajax’s young Brazilian forward David Neres aggravated his injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Kasper Dolberg in the starting line-up.
Johan Cruyff Arena had a brilliant atmosphere, as the fans were dreaming of a first final in 23 years. It was a high octane start to the match as Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt’s thumping header gave the hosts the lead in the fifth minute.
Son Heung-min hit the post soon after that as Spurs looked for a quick response. Dusan Tadic had the next significant effort as he twisted past Toby Alderweireld but couldn’t hit the target around the half-hour mark.
The Dutch side played some scintillating football to make it 2-0 as Hakim Ziyech’s first time shot found the net in the 35th minute. Ajax's coach, Erik ten Hag, who is a former Bayern Munich youth team coach, was excited as his team had one foot in the final. Spurs looked deflated and lacking in confidence as the first half came to an end.
Mauricio Pochettino made a tactical switch at the start of the second half by replacing the ineffective Victor Wanyama with Spanish target man Fernando Llorente.
Spurs were looking to go little more direct with this move. They started the second half better as Ajax shot-stopper Andre Onana made a big smart save to deny Dele Alli.
Lucas Moura gave Spurs a glimmer of hope in the 55th minute with a calm finish. Pochettino’s men were not going out without a fight and Moura scored again in the 59th minute to draw Spurs level. Hugo Lloris made a couple of important saves and Ziyech was denied by fine margins as he hit the post.
But gone were the pretty patterns of Ajax as they were suddenly not sure anymore as Spurs’ dejection had turned into optimism. And the knockout blow arrived in stunning fashion in the 96th minute.
Moura, the former PSG player who was making his 50th Champions League appearance, stroked the ball into the Ajax net to complete his hat trick and a remarkable turnaround.
Within a period of 45 minutes, Spurs fans had gone from despair to ecstasy. They have found their new hero, Lucas Moura. The Brazilian’s name will forever be etched into Spurs folklore.
Tottenham will be up against Liverpool in an all English affair in the Champions League final at Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid.
(Featured Image: Twitter/Tottenham)
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Studied at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi. Lives and breathes Football, the beautiful game.