Tottenham's Champions League comeback

Spurs' New 'Superhero'

An ecstatic Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino finding it hard to control his emotions after his team's fightback to defeat Ajax 3-2 on Wednesday and going through to the Champions League final on away goals. The Argentinian has yet to win a troph
An ecstatic Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino finding it hard to control his emotions after his team's fightback to defeat Ajax 3-2 on Wednesday and going through to the Champions League final on away goals. The Argentinian has yet to win a trophy in his managerial career and will be hoping to do so against Liverpool on June 1.PHOTO: REUTERS

Moura lauded for hat-trick which puts team in first Champions League final against Reds

LONDON • On June 1, Tottenham have a shot at the ultimate prize.

If they overcome Liverpool in their first Champions League final, there will surely be statues erected, not just for Lucas Moura, but for all the players and manager Mauricio Pochettino.

As it stands, Brazil forward Moura is in line to have a bust outside their new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium alongside one already planned for Bill Nicholson, the club's most successful manager with eight major trophies, including the 1961 double.

Christian Eriksen led the calls for his teammate to be enshrined after his hat-trick ensured Spurs went through 3-3 on away goals after the second leg of their Champions League semi-final tie with Ajax on Wednesday.

Having lost the first leg 1-0, Spurs got off to the worst possible start in Amsterdam, going 2-0 down on the night to goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech.

The reverse leg turned on its head after half-time, however, as Moura scored twice in quick succession before netting a 96th-minute effort to complete his treble - only the fifth player in the competition's history to do so in the semi-final stage.

  • 5th min

    AJAX 1-0 (AGGREGATE: AJAX 2-0) An early goal like the first-leg winner by Donny van de Beek. Captain Matthijs de Ligt gets away from Kieran Trippier into the box and outjumps Dele Alli to plant a header that leaves Hugo Lloris rooted.

    35th

    AJAX 2-0 (AGG: AJAX 3-0) Hakim Ziyech's wicked left-foot curler, set up by Dusan Tadic, comes as Trippier fails to track back after looking for a foul in vain for a Tadic high foot. Game over?

    55th

    AJAX 2-1 (AGG: AJAX 3-1) Not quite. A sweeping Spurs counter-attack, started by Danny Rose who nutmegs de Ligt, ends up with Lucas Moura reducing the deficit after exchanging passes with Alli. Game on.

    59th

    2-2 (AGG: AJAX 3-2) A goalkeeper-defender mix-up, created by the hugely influential substitute Fernando Llorente's point-blank effort, allows Moura to make space in a crowded box to set up a grandstand finish.

    96th

    SPURS 3-2 (AGG: 3-3) As the clock just ticks past the five minutes of added time, Llorente knees the ball to Alli, who lays it off cleverly for the charging Moura to slot into the corner for his hat-trick. Spurs go through on away goals.

The Denmark midfielder Eriksen said of the 26-year-old: "Today it was non-tactical, more of a fight and heart performance and Lucas Moura. He deserves it.

CAST IN STONE

Today it was non-tactical, more of a fight and heart performance and Lucas Moura. He deserves it. It has been a roller-coaster of a season, for him to get us in the final, I hope he gets a statue in England after this.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN, Tottenham midfielder, on Brazilian teammate Lucas Moura.

"It has been a roller-coaster of a season, for him to get us in the final, I hope he gets a statue in England after this. We are blown away."

Ironically, Moura, whose January 2018 arrival remains the last player Spurs have signed, would probably not have started the second leg had injured striker Harry Kane been fit.

But Pochettino has instilled an ethos that "the team is more important than any name".

The Argentinian, who has yet to win a major honour as a manager, can now end the term with the biggest prize in European football.

With the endgame close, Pochettino was understandably in tears, branding Moura a "superhero".

He said: "To have brought the club to the final of the Champions League is very close to a miracle.

"No one believed in us at the beginning of the season, we are so close, almost in the top four and in Madrid, playing the final.

"This amazing season in our new home and this chapter that we are going to close now, to close the chapter playing a final, and if we win, it would be an amazing book."

Pochettino also spoke of "no pain, no gain" in the aftermath - in reference to his five-year stint since arriving from Southampton, a period in which he has fought to establish the club as a top-four force in the Premier League and regulars in the Champions League.

Rival fans have long mocked his team's history of perennial underachievement as "doing a Spurs".

However, that has changed under Pochettino despite the lack of silverware. The 47-year-old has worked wonders with a comparatively smaller squad to the other "Big Six" teams and a non-existent budget; they are the only club in league history not to have bought any players in the last two transfer windows.

The possibilities for the future are endless. They are overwhelming favourites to finish in the top four again for their fourth straight Champions League campaign.

And while Spurs have won just one of their last 14 matches against the Reds, there will be no shortage of belief from Pochettino's players.

They might even have Kane back for the trip to Madrid, with the England striker telling BT Sport "rehab is going well".

For now, Pochettino will bask in the glow of a "50-year highlight" for Spurs, saying: "There will be time to talk about Liverpool.

"They are heroes too, and it's going to be an amazing final between two English teams."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

Reds' win more impressive, say fans

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2019, with the headline 'Spurs' New 'Superhero''. Print Edition | Subscribe