AMSTERDAM (AFP) – 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 semifinal 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 king Liverpool in an all-English final in Madrid on June 1.
Liverpool dumped Barcelona, 4-0, the other day to advance to the final with a 4-3 aggregate.
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.
That last-minute switch did not perturb the Dutch club, though. Far from it, Dusan Tadic moved to the left wing, and Ajax set about tearing into their opponents right from the off, just as they had done in the first leg.
They won a corner after Hugo Lloris had stretched to his left to beat away a Tadic shot, and from the delivery that followed from Lasse Schoene, De Ligt rose to head home a fifth-minute opener.
Spurs – without Harry Kane but with Son Heung-min back after missing the first leg due to suspension – did threaten an immediate reply as a Son cross hit the near post, but Ajax escaped and came again, a Tadic shot that fizzed just past the far post acting as a prelude for what was to follow in the 35th minute.