Former Tottenham midfielder Rafael van der Vaart has admitted that he did not think Tottenham stood any chance of staging a comeback after Ajax raced into the three-goal lead on aggregate in last season’s semi-final.
Tottenham had a mountain to climb when they travelled to the Johan Cruyff Arena for the second leg of the Champions League semi-final last season after being beaten 1-0 at home by a young and energetic Dutch side.
The home side played some blistering football in the first half and were seen 2-0 up on the night, with Van der Vaart believing that he thought it was game, set and match.
The midfielder had divided loyalties having come through the ranks at Ajax and went on to have a successful spell at Spurs later in his career.
Speaking to talkSPORT about the game that has since been dubbed the ‘Miracle of Amsterdam’, the midfielder said: “Of course I grew up at Ajax, that’s my team, that’s my club still and of course I had a great time at Tottenham as well.
“I was ten years old when I started playing at Ajax and I stayed there for almost 13 years, but I also love Tottenham.
“We still have contact, and people inside the club were always so nice to me, so I will always have a special feeling for the club.
“So for me, it was a semi-final just to sit, watch and enjoy. It was a terrible end for Ajax fans, but an unbelievable game and some of the most exciting games ever played in the Champions League
“This was the year Ajax showed as team how good they were. When you beat Real Madrid and you beat Juventus, that means something.
“I was 100 per cent sure Ajax were going to beat Tottenham because I thought they were the better team, and I still think that – they showed that over the two games. Ajax were smashing them at White Hart Lane.
“But then, at the end, with Lucas Moura’s hat-trick, the whole of Holland were like, ‘how?’
“I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t disappointed straight away because I was happy for Spurs, but it was just disbelief.”
The former Dutch international admitted that he even wrote a congratulatory message to Ajax’s chief executive officer and former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar at half-time, only to delete it later on.
Van der Vaart added: “I remember at half-time, 2-0 up, I wrote a text to Edwin van der Sar saying ‘congratulations for making the final’.
But, I don’t know why, I deleted it, and at the end of the game I was so happy I did!
“I never thought Tottenham were going to score one or two goals, so scoring three I thought was impossible, especially in the last few minutes.
“But in the second half you had that feeling, Tottenham came back and you thought, ‘ohhh, maybe the young stars are getting a bit nervous now’, and that’s actually what happened.
“That’s what the all the newspapers wrote the next day, that they played like youngsters and not like men.
“But at the end of the day I think everybody enjoyed watching Ajax that year and of course in that game Tottenham worked so hard, they kept trying, trying, trying and in the end, maybe it was not deserved, but they did well.
“It was the most special game I’ve ever seen. A team that had seemingly no chance, and was almost knocked out, they fight, fight, fight and came back to win.”
Spurs Web Opinion
We might not have won the trophy but the memory of that night will be forever edged in the memories of Spurs fans around the world. The run we had to the final last season had unbelievable highs and lows given how close we were to being knocked out in the group stage as well as looking dead and buried in the quarter-final against Manchester City.
Even if we go on to win the competition sometime in the future, the emotional rollercoaster that we experienced last season will probably never be repeated.
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