What an emotional experience, what a great result, totally amazing, totally draining.
We’ve done something that not even the tremendous double side of the sixties could do, get to the final of the European Champions League (and they did try, getting to the semi-final against Benfica 1962).
After going three down (agg.) we thought it was all over, then this fantastic comeback, which shocked everybody in the stadium, if not the viewing public throughout the world. This was a bigger come back than Liverpool over Barcelona (the night before).
The night before the semi-final I stayed in London. In the morning (4.30 am) I got a taxi from Goodmayes to London City airport. Met up with Martin P and his dad (George). Through the usual checks and balances and we were off. Arrived in Amsterdam 45 minutes later. Got a hotel shuttle bus to our hotel. We then waited for Martin T, Steven and Martin’s two sons.
The problem with that day was not knowing what to wear (it was forecast rain, and we ended up seeing very little of it). Luckily I dressed lightly.
Checked in and then made our way to Amsterdam where we had a meal in an Argentian restaurant. From there we made our way to the Tottenham Fanzone, then Martin P, his dad and I parted from the others. Eventually, we made our way to the stadium (a Metro train ride). This must have been about two-and-a-half-hours before kick off. Got an Ajax motif souvenir (as I do for all European away games).
Then we made our way to the Spurs entrance (away end), but because of George (and my leg/ back), we were escorted to the lifts and up to our section. We then parted, as Martin P and his dad sat in a different area. However, I ended up sitting next to Martin T, Steven and Martin’s two sons. It seemed that people were sitting wherever they liked (or at least in our section).
We sat down to take in the atmosphere and the spectacular view before us. When it was near the time for kick-off, the Ajax fans raised their flags to give a striking waving effect. Then the players came out to loud cheers from both sets of fans.
The whistle finally went, and we were off.
Remember; we were trailing 1-0 from our first leg (if you needed any reminding!). My thoughts before kick-off were that we would win 2-1. I felt that if we could get our kicking in first then we would be equal on the away goal rule, after that anything could happen. I was positive, as I am sure almost every Spurs fan was throughout the stadium and watching on TV.
As I said, we were trailing 1-0 from the first leg, but the misery didn’t end there (and on that day). We made the worst possible start in the Ajax stadium when a towering fifth-minute header by 19-year-old Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt doubled the advantage for Erik ten Hag’s young side. We sat or stood in shock. This wasn’t the end, obviously, we had a long way to go, but the concern was there. I thought that we weren’t getting our rhythm right. We had shots, but they weren’t going where they should have gone. We hit the post through Son before Hakim Ziyech doubled Ajax’s lead on the night (3-0 overall) with a sweeping finish after an assist by former Southampton winger Dusan Tadic. By then we thought it was all over, bar the shouting. We looked at each other, that sinking feeling was in our guts. “We can’t come back from this,” the voices around me were saying. But then some of us said, optimistically, “It isn’t over yet, and there is still a long way to go”. Only 35 minutes had gone by, and there are still 55 minutes to play for (“a piece of cake” we said self-importantly).
We kept pressing, they kept pushing, and we continued to be on the edge of our seats. The home supporters were delirious. As far as they were concerned, they were in the final, what could go wrong? Finally, the half-time whistle went, and their supporters cheered their players off the pitch. We also did, but a bit less enthusiastically. We had gone as far as we could, or some had thought. We chatted amongst ourselves until the players came back on the pitch.
Ten minutes, ten-slow-minutes went by, but we kept pressuring.
We were 3-0 behind on aggregate, yet, in another pulsating semi-final, we scored twice within five minutes in the second half. We did a double take, “what!”. Then we started – again – dreaming that impossible dream. Moura reduced the deficit with a composed finish before the Brazilian’s shot on the turn, after keeper Andre Onana had denied substitute Fernando Llorente, levelled the scores on the night and left us requiring one goal to reach the final in Madrid on 1 June.
When our first goal went in we went crazy, hugging each other. Everybody around hugged, slapped hands/ high fives and went mad. But it was still 2-1 on the night, 3-1 on aggregate. Still a mountain away. Then four minutes later we scored, again we were ecstatic. I was next to steven, and we hugged each other, then the person next to me hugged me and hand slapping from those behind us. “No,” we screamed, “is this really happening, could we do it?” Thirty minutes travelled by at speed, but they were still in the driving seat. Their goalkeeper wasted as much time as he could (even getting booked for it), then normal time was over (4 minutes added on). They pressed, we pressed, toing and foing until we started to get dizzy from it all.
We threw everything at them, including the kitchen sink. As the minutes ticked by our hearts were in our mouths, in a pulsating finish, and finally, Vertonghen headed against the bar from four yards before Moura completed his hat-trick with a left-foot shot from 16 yards deep into stoppage time as we won on away goals to reach our first Champions League final. We hugged each other for hours (or it seemed), we went crazy – emotionally draining – while the Ajax supporters sat stunned and in tears. Shell shocked you could say.
As I was hugging Steven, or he was hugging me, or better still, we were hugging each other, somebody jumped on us to hug us both. After he let go Steven was gasping for air. It seemed the person who jumped on us almost strangled Steven. I slapped hands with Martin T and whoever wanted a piece of my hand slapping/ hugging (and I didn’t even charge for the privilege). Love was certainly in the air. If we were male and female, I am sure babies would have been produced (ok, let us not exaggerate, we don’t want to give the wrong impression!).
We were held back over an hour. Pochettino and the team came out (including backroom staff and Daniel Levy), and they all got overwhelming cheers and ovations. Pochettino and a few others were in tears. Finally, we were allowed out. As we were up in the gods, on the way out we saw a Spurs Steward/ Ajax Steward, and they escorted us (Martin P, George and myself, plus a few other walking wounded) to the lifts.
At last, we were outside of the stadium, then the long slow walk to the station (under escort). From there to wherever we went (I can’t remember), but I do know we had a long wait for our next Metro train, so found a place to get a drink and something to eat. Finally getting the train at 1.45. Got to the hotel after 2 am and went to bed (had a shower first). Got up at 8 am, breakfast and then a walk around Amsterdam (taking in a boat ride and restaurant on the way). Got to the airport (6ish) and finally back to Goodmayes, had a cup of tea and left for my daughter’s to pick up my dog (10.45 pm). Got home and bed. Totally shattered/ knackered, tired, exhausted and drained. Got up the next day at 9.30 am (still knackered and emotional).
The Spurs/Liverpool final will be the second all-English one in the competition after Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties in Moscow in 2008.
Can we do it, that is win the final? You bet we can.
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