Somebody said to me before the match, if we win, will we get the credit? The simple answer is no. They lost, so the focus has been on them and their one less trophy failure. Some even believed that UEFA and TV wanted a City/ Barcelona final, which will pay out more. What a load of crap. People want to see good football, the fans are fed up with the same old same old. There are new kids on the block, and they’ve been there some time building up their credit. Give credit where credit is due, not keep going over what would have been if City or whoever had got to the semi-finals. We did it, and we are there, not City.
We did question amongst ourselves whether we could do it before the match, but the camp was positive. Even when we went behind our resolve was positive. The Spurs of old would have let being a goal down get to their psyche. But that Spurs has long be banished and the new, improved fighting Spurs, under Pochettino, is raring, fighting and has a never giving up determination.
For us, this was the rollercoaster night to top them all, our players and coaching staff were dragged through every possible emotion before joining our supporters in joyous celebration at the final whistle. We hugged, loved and kissed our way to joy (and what a lovely woman, Joy was). But it wasn’t all easy going. City were there to get that goal that would take them to the semi-final, and when they did score, from a Sterling goal, after 4 minutes, they thought they were there. They felt the job done or nearly done (the fans thought it, as well and that was the feeling in the atmosphere). We did feel a bit down when that goal went in, but only for 3 minutes. Then Son went on the rampage. Two goals from him in three minutes. Then we felt the atmosphere change in our favour. After such a bright start, Pochettino’s wonder boys then struggled to weather a City storm that culminated with Aguero putting them ahead in the tie, before Llorente’s goal renewed our hope once more.
We then had to deal with the gut-punch of Sterling’s stoppage-time goal, only to be hit by a wave of relief and joy at VAR’s final decisive intervention. And that wave of relief was incredible. City, after Sterling scoring, went berserk, their players and coaching staff run to Sterling to congratulate him. We felt shell shocked and almost in tears. We stood or sat emotionless. After all, he got that goal in injury time, and it was basically all over. Then amazingly the hand of Nicholson appeared in the guise of VAR and said, “wait a minute… just wait a minute”. It was then for City’s fans to be uneasy. They waited, we waited with crossed fingers and then finally the referee pointed, no goal, there was an offside. This time the City fans sat their emotionless, blood draining from their faces, we couldn’t believe it, we had snatched their joy right from them and took over from where they had left off. Everybody who was connected to Spurs went crazy, it was unbelievable. Then the whistle went, and we went even more insane, if that was possible!
When Sterling thought he was on his hat trick Pochettino had taken his jacket off and threw it on the floor. Now the whistle had gone the players and Pochettino, plus subs all rushed to the Spurs away end and celebrated with joy (Joy, again… doesn’t she get into wonderful positions). When we finally got into the changing rooms we let rip again.
This was all done without our striker and talisman Harry Kane, but once again Son rose to the responsibility, the classy South Korean typifying our magnificent bold approach with his superb movement and those two vital early goals.
Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris – rightly criticised after his mistake gifted Liverpool victory at Anfield recently – also deserves huge praise after his penalty save from Aguero in the first leg and crucial stops from the Argentine and De Bruyne in the return.
This was a Spurs side who needed a draw in Barcelona to reach the group stage after a damaging defeat at Inter Milan and draw at PSV Eindhoven (oh, and don’t we remember those times, and dropped heads). But it is a tribute to the flexibility of this squad – and Pochettino’s management of his resources – that we not only achieved what we achieved but now stand two games away from our first Champions League final.
We survived an all-out assault from Premier League Champions City, to achieve it. How we deserved those celebrations and the credit.
City’s fans gave their players a standing ovation for their doomed efforts, a condemned team at the gallows being applauded as the hangman pulled his lever.
City’s downfall was the sloppy defending that let us back in after Sterling’s opener, the normally reliable Laporte diverting Dele Alli’s pass into Son’s path for the equaliser before the Frenchman’s heavy touch led to Son’s second.
So, there you have it, we have reached the semi-finals of the Champions League/European Cup for the second time in our history, also doing so in 1961-62 under Bill Nicholson. We are the seventh English side to reach the Champions League semi-finals (also Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Leeds). England are now the nation with the most unique semi-finalists (overtaking Spain).
Five goals were scored in the opening 21 minutes of this game – the shortest amount of time it has taken for five goals to be scored in a Champions League match.
Finally, Son Heung-min is the highest scoring Asian player in Champions League history with 12 goals, overtaking Maxim Shatskikh of Uzbekistan.
A fantastic night, it took me back to the Glory nights when, as now, all dressed in white, standing proud, the players raised themselves to an even higher platform after winning the double back in the season of 1960/61.
A new stadium… with a new beginning. Next up will be Manchester City again, and again at their stadium, but this time in the league. This time they will want revenge, but for us, nothing has changed. One down, just another one (or same) to take its place; for us to do what we always come to do, and that is to win.
A proud and brilliant night that will live on in the annals of history.
It has been a pleasure to witness a magnificent performance and victory. We may have been defeated on the night, but over two legs we were like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes of the old White Hart Lane ground to a new and brighter dawn.
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