Champions League Review: Spurs beat City in thriller; Liverpool breeze
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool join Barcelona and Ajax in the semi-finals of the Champions League after a crazy, crazy night of action.
It was going to take something teeth rattling to barge past Manchester City in the Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Champions League, and boy did they rattle as Tottenham Hotspur made it through to the Semi-Finals in a seven-goal thriller that had everything.
Oh, how crucial Son Heung-min’s late goal at Wembley turned out to be as they arrived in the place where most leave with nothing but motion sickness. City had won 12 on the trot in this place. It’s now 13, but it will rank as the most meaningless victory of them all.
What a start.
The game began in champagne supernova fashion with five goals inside the first 25-minutes.
City, who have trademarked early goals, opened the scoring in the fourth minute when Raheem Sterling curled in a beauty after fab work from Kevin De Bruyne.
Then three minutes later, a mistake in the City backline saw the ball fall to the feet of Son, and he managed to squeeze the balls through Ederson’s legs to restore the Londoners’ advantage.
The scoreboard attendant barely had time to change the score when Spurs scored again, leaving City needed to score three. Christian Eriksen found Son in the box and the Korean curled the ball into the back of the net.
City’s response was rapid and raucous.
Within two minutes, Sergio Agüero found Bernardo Silva in the penalty area, and although Danny Rose took the sting off the shot, it deflected past Hugo Lloris as he flung himself in the wrong direction.
City went into the half time break level on aggregate, but behind on away goals, after another brilliant run and ball from De Bruyne found Sterling at the far stick, where Sterling always is these days, and the man recently valued as City’s most expensive player scored from close range.
The second half began with chances at both ends. Lloris pulled off a world-class save to deny a thunderbolt from De Bruyne, and Ederson stopped Fernando Llorente from scoring with a near-post header.
Then came the moment the City fans yearned for.
De Bruyne set off on another of his driving runs; he freed Agüero in the box, the man who has scored more goals for Man City than anyone alive or dead, smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
City was ahead.
All they had to do was batten down the hatches and defend for their lives, and the quadruple would still be on.
Fernando Llorente had other ideas.
With 73-minutes on the clock, Spurs won a corner, Llorente made his way to the near post, and the ball ended up in the back of the net. But what body part did the Spaniard use? The VAR team signalled the referee to check the replay. The stadium fell silent, only to be permeated by singing Spurs fans, when the referee indicated that the ball had come off Llorente’s hip.
It was a spine-tingling moment for the teams, fans, and millions watching around the world.
Then it got even tinglier.
With only two minutes of injury time remaining, and City needing another goal to go through, the ball found Agüero off the toe of Silva, the Argentine found Sterling right by his side, shifted responsibility, and Sterling scored to send City into the next round.
All over the pitch, Spurs players sank to the turf knowing it was over. There was no time left. Hearts broken. On the sidelines, Mauricio Pochettino looked crestfallen, as Pep Guardiola danced down the side of the pitch like a madman. The noise from the crowd was deafening.
The referee pointed to the VAR screen.
The oxygen left the stadium.
Agüero was in an offside position when he collected the ball from Silva. The switch in emotion in the stadium was palpable. Nobody knew what the hell was going on. The players lined up for the restart and before reality registered the referee had blown the final whistle and Spurs was in the Semi-Final of the Champions League where they would face Ajax.
In the night’s other tie, there was none of this emotionally jarring nonsense. Liverpool strolled past Porto 4-1 to go through 6-1 on aggregate, and will now face Barcelona for the opportunity to play either Spurs or Ajax in the final on 1 June.
Barcelona 3 v 0 Man Utd (4-0 Agg)
Juventus 1 v 2 Ajax (2-3 Agg)
Man City 4 v 3 Spurs (4-4 Agg, Spurs win on AG)
Porto 1 v 4 Liverpool (1-6 Agg)
Champions League Winning Odds
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