Amsterdam: There are plenty of times when sport can feel like an overblown thing, pumped up on its own self-importance, a book of stories that speaks only to itself. And there are also moments like these. The last couple of nights in the Champions League, the miracle of Anfield, the miracle of the Amsterdam suburbs – have been notable for two things.
Sports is funny, but at the same time things can be harsh and brutal and this was witnessed after 96 minutes of perfect soccer. There were suddenly seven, eight, maybe even nine Ajax players flat out on the pitch, their faces buried into the turf, not wanting to see any more. Somehow, Spurs had done it and in those moments we were reminded, once again, about the glories of this sport, about how brutal football can be and how, every once in a while, there is a story that can make your bones vibrate.
That rang the bells, end of another resounding champion League campaign for this young Dutch side, Ajax.
Lucas Moura’s last-gasp strike took Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League final for the first time in their history on Wednesday, completing his hat-trick and sealing an incredible 3-2 win over Ajax to leave the Dutch side heartbroken.
Ajax’s improbable European run seemed set to go on all the way to the final as they led 3-2 on aggregate deep in stoppage time in the second leg of the semi-final at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
That was when the ball broke to Lucas in the box and the Brazilian sent a low shot beyond the despairing dive of Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana to seal their comeback, making it 3-2 to them on the night, 3-3 on aggregate, and taking Mauricio Pochettino’s men through on away goals.
The Ajax players slumped to the turf, their fans stunned, as they go out and Spurs advance to face fellow comeback kings Liverpool in an all-English final in Madrid on June 1.
Leading 1-0 after the first leg, the thrilling young Dutch side appeared to have killed the tie after captain Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech both scored in the first half here.
That left Tottenham needing a comeback to match that of Liverpool against Barcelona the previous night but in an even shorter amount of time.
A quickfire brace by Lucas early in the second half gave them something to cling to, before he struck the decisive blow, denying Ajax a first final since 1996.
Erik ten Hag’s team, who had already eliminated the holders, Real Madrid, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus this season, were applauded by their devastated fans at full-time and must now somehow lift themselves to try to win the Dutch title.
They had been dealt a blow just minutes before kick-off when Brazilian winger David Neres pulled out of their starting line-up after the warm-up, his place taken by the young Dane, Kasper Dolberg.