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Ajax 2 - 3 Tottenham Hotspur: Incredible second half comeback sends Spurs to Madrid


Ajax v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The improbable, unlikely dream has come true. Tottenham Hotspur are in the Champions League final after overcoming a three goal deficit in Amsterdam thanks to a Lucas Moura hat trick, winning the tie on away goals with a 3-3 aggregate.

It didn’t take long for the match to pop off. Dusan Tadic for Ajax ripped a shot far post that took a deflection on the way to net. Hugo Lloris, forced into action right away, made a diving save. The ensuing corner kick was far less fortunate for Spurs. Mathias de Ligt came free into the penalty area and headed the ball home to give Ajax a 1-0 lead, 2-0 on aggregate. The quick VAR check on a possible foul upheld the goal.

Spurs responded well, going into the attacking third due by way of a run by Son Heung-Min. His attempt from a difficult angle bounced off the post and was prime for a rebound, but nobody could get a boot to it to bang it home.

The match cooled off for a short spell but picked up with several fouls, including a booking to Moussa Sissoko that seemed like the referee never called a foul for. Spurs had a couple of chances after, including a through ball to Sonny but just couldn’t pull the trigger. Shortly after, Lucas got free and passed back to Christian Eriksen and fired a shot, but hit it right at Onana.

Ajax almost got a second goal for the match in the 30th minute. A turnover by Victor Wanyama sprung the break to Dusan Tadic. Toby forced him wide in the box, making Tadic shoot from a sharp angle. The shot almost kissed off the post on its way across the net, just enough to raise everyone’s pulse for a few seconds. It felt as though there were more goals coming; it was just a matter of when.

It didn’t take long to prove that theory correct as Ajax’s press continued giving problems to Spurs. The home side pushed on another attack and Tadic fed a perfect ball to Hakim Ziyech, who one-timed it into the side netting past a diving Lloris to make it 2-0 on the night, 3-0 on aggregate. The bad night continued to get worse with little hope of seeing a turnaround unless a drastic change happened.

Second Half

Pochettino opted to bring on Fernando Llorente to bolster the attack, subbing off Victor Wanyama. The move put Moussa Sissoko as the lone midfielder that can play the six with everyone else pushed forward in a 4-1-3-2.

It took a few minutes to get going but Spurs started putting together an attack. A nice ball into the box found Dele on the far post who attempted a jumping volley for the top shelf. Onana was up to the challenge in making a jumping save, however, to keep his clean sheet.

Spurs persisted and finally got the goal they so desperately needed. Dele led the charge down the middle and either passed it or made an over-dribble that went to Lucas. The Brazilian made one touch and slotted it past a diving Onana to get one back. 3-1 on aggregate and still some work to do, but Spurs had a lifeline they needed.

The north Londoners weren’t done by any stretch of the imagination. An attempt was saved by Onana and subsequently knocked off of Llorente’s knee by the keeper, but he could not take control of the ball and spilled it to Lucas. After some fancy footwork, Lucas found a yard of space and buried it in the corner. Suddenly, it was tied on the night and Spurs were down just one goal on aggregate with 30 minutes left to play.

Ajax came back after being rattled for 15 minutes, getting a couple of corner kicks on attacks. De Ligt had the best chance during the push, firing a low ball from a very sharp angle that Hugo parried away from the chaos in the penalty area. Ziyech almost had the dagger in the 79th minute on a great low attempt but put the ball off the far post to keep Spurs’ hopes alive.

Pochettino burned his remaining two subs within a minute, bringing on Erik Lamela for Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies for Danny Rose, who was on a yellow card. Poche had played his cards and it was up to the players to come up with the winner. The next ten minutes or so would determine if they could answer.

Spurs came damn close in the 86th minute off of a corner kick. Vertonghen thought he had the winner but Onana made an incredible save. His rebound attempt was cleared near the goal line by de Ligt to end the chance. Even with the big chance, it felt as though Spurs could get one more chance to send them to Madrid, though it would have to come in the five minutes of stoppage time if they could get it.

Unfortunately, the chance never came. There was one final corner kick in the fourth minute of stoppage but Llorente’s header F*CK ALL THAT NOISE BECAUSE WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED!?!?!

In the absolute last breath, Spurs pulled out another miracle. Llorente managed to chest down a ball to Dele, feeding it to the man of the night, Lucas Moura. The Brazilian capped off his hat trick with one final strike that was a lightning bolt to all of Ajax’s hopes and dreams, going past a diving Onana to win the match. An eruption came from the away section, Lucas was mobbed by his teammates while Mauricio Pochettino started to cry.

Thoughts on the Match

  • Rational thoughts: What in the hell did I just see?!? That was the greatest comeback in Champions League history in HOURS! HOURS I TELL YOU!
  • Lucas Moura is a damned legend. What a second half.