Amsterdam: Tottenham have a shot at becoming champions of Europe for the first time in their history after a hat-trick from Lucas Moura pulled off a dramatic victory against Ajax in the second remarkable turnaround in the competition in as many days.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino sobbed in joy after Lucas’ goal six minutes into injury time set up the first all-English final against Liverpool since 2008 in Madrid on June 1.
The last-gasp victory on the away goals rule — the tie finished 3-3 overall — came 24 hours after Liverpool had destroyed Barcelona with an unlikely 4-0 victory.
Ajax, a team captained by outstanding 19-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt, seemed set for the final as they grimly held on to a 3-2 lead on aggregate deep in stoppage time in the second leg of the semi-final at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Then Lucas, a Brazilian who was released by Paris Saint-Germain and sold to Spurs for a cut-price fee, delivered the killer blow. When the ball broke to him in the box, Lucas shot beyond Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana to seal the comeback, making it 3-2 on the night.
“It is one of the most important nights in my life,” said Pochettino.
Lucas was also swept away in the emotion.
“Football gives us moments like this that we cannot imagine,” said Lucas. “We need to enjoy it. Look at me — it’s the best moment in my life, my career.”
Cruel blow for Ajax
The Ajax players slumped to the turf after having a first Champions League final since 1996 snatched away from them.
Leading 1-0 after the first leg, the thrilling Dutch side appeared to have killed the tie after De Ligt and Hakim Ziyech scored in the first half in Amsterdam.
That left Tottenham needing a comeback to match that of Liverpool against Barcelona the previous night, but in an even shorter timespan.
Two goals in quick succession from Lucas early in the second half gave them something to cling onto, before he struck the decisive blow.
Erik ten Hag’s team must now lift themselves to try to complete a Dutch league and Cup double.
Their team is then likely to be broken up before the new season begins — Frenkie de Jong has already signed for Barcelona and De Ligt could reportedly join him at the Camp Nou, although Manchester United are among a host of other suitors.
“I told the players it is very hard to find the right words in a moment like this and that football is cruel,” said Ten Hag.
“We have to endure the cruel side tonight but we have to go on.”
Lucas Moura is superhero: Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino wept tears of joy as the emotional Tottenham manager hailed “super-hero” Lucas Moura for the incredible hat-trick that fired Tottenham into their first Champions League final.
It was all too much for Pochettino, who danced with delight before burying his head in the turf as he let his emotions run wild.
When the final whistle went, Pochettino sobbed uncontrollably and he was still misty-eyed when he spoke to the media.
“It’s still difficult to talk. The emotion is amazing, thank you to football. My players are heroes — in the last year I was telling everyone this group are heroes,” Pochettino told BT Sport.
“They are all heroes but Lucas was a super-hero. Unbelievable hat-trick. He deserves it, he is a great guy.
“The second half they were amazing. Thank you football! This type of emotion without football is not possible.”
Tottenham were written off in some quarters before the match after losing the first leg at home 1-0, a match that Ajax dominated for long periods.
And Pochettino took a subtle swipe at the doubters when he said: “Thank you to everyone who has believed in us. To describe this in words is difficult.
“We were talking before the game that when you work and when you feel the love it’s not stress, it’s passion of the team.
“We showed we love the sport and football.”...