Tottenham end Man City’s quadruple bid after crazy, bonkers night
Mauricio Pochettino’s leads side to first ever Champions League semi-final
Fernando Llorente of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal during the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Manchester City 4 Tottenham Hotspur 3 (4-4 on agg, Tottenham win on away goals)
Where to start? It was an epic night, full of drama and incident, and when the final whistle went it was the players of Tottenham who were cavorting. They had finished Manchester City’s hopes of the quadruple and, in the process, reached the semi-finals for the first time. Their celebrations at the end were long and joyous.
That, however, tells only part of the story of a night when City led 1-0, trailed 2-1 and then led 3-2, all in the opening 21 minutes. All night, the game was brilliantly poised and when Sergio Agüero scored City’s fourth goal it looked as though Pep Guardiola’s team were going to save themselves.
Yet Spurs were still not done. Son Heung-min had already scored twice and the night was settled ultimately by their substitute Fernando Llorente bundling in a 73rd-minute corner. Even then, there was the drama of a VAR check-up before the Turkish referee decided to give Llorente the benefit of the doubt.
Even more incredibly, City thought Raheem Sterling had scored a stoppage-time winner only for VAR to rule it out because of a marginal offside decision against Agüero.
City’s players had argued that the ball had gone in off the Llorente’s elbow but maybe in time they will come to reflect the night went away from them because of their inability to score an away goal in the first leg.
Spurs managed two of their own in the seventh and 10th minutes and on each occasion Son put the ball past Ederson the calculations changed again. At 1-1, City needed at least three to go through. Three minutes later, that had become four. Yet they already had one courtesy of Sterling’s first of the night, four minutes in, and when Bernardo Silva made it 2-2 the complexion of the game changed again.
Spurs were still in a position of strength but they had held the lead for barely a minute. Then Sterling popped up again to score the next one and City’s supporters could start thinking more seriously about a remarkable feat of escapology. It was not easy to keep up sometimes, or know how it might end.
It made for an absorbing spectacle, containing all sorts of possibilities as the game swung in favour of the home side, then the away team, then back again. It was rare to see a Champions League quarter-final being played this way and one thing, in particular, was clear: Spurs really ought to have made it a more straightforward evening once they had established a 3-1 aggregate lead.
That was the time a more experienced side would have tried to slow the tempo, subdue the home crowd and play the game at their own pace. Instead, City’s next goal arrived so quickly it meant there was never a concerted period during that bewitching, often bewildering, blitz of goals, when Guardiola’s players looked out of it. Bernardo Silva’s response deflected in off Danny Rose for the equaliser and Spurs suddenly found themselves up against it again.
It culminated with Sterling stealing in from the left to turn in Kevin De Bruyne’s right-sided delivery at the far post. The same two players had also combined for the opening goal when De Bruyne set off on a diagonal run, exchanging passes with Agüero, and noticed that Kieran Trippier had left Sterling in far too much space.
Sterling loves to cut inside and aim for the far corner when he is operating as a left-sided attacker. This was a curling right-foot finish whereas his next one was from closer range with his left foot. They were his 23rd and 24th goals of the season and Guardiola’s decision to start him on the left made it a difficult evening for Trippier.
For Spurs, the frustration at this stage was that all three goals for City had come from dangerous opponents being disregarded by their markers. Yet the away side could also be greatly encouraged by the shortcomings of the opposition defence.
Perhaps it was because Fernandinho was only fit enough for the bench that City looked so vulnerable through the middle. Yet Spurs played with great adventure during that opening period and Son gave the impression he might have been affronted by the suggestion that Spurs might miss the injured Harry Kane.
His second goal, in particular, was a beauty, curling an elegant shot past Ederson after a move that started with Aymeric Laporte losing the ball inside his own half.
Laporte had also been culpable for Son’s first goal, when the defender tried to cut out Dele Alli’s through ball to Christian Eriksen and succeeded only in diverting it into the path of the scorer. Son, playing with immense confidence, let fly with his right boot and the ball skimmed beneath Ederson, who should probably have done better.
It seemed like a goal drought as the score remained 3-2 throughout the remainder of the first half. Yet City still had an entire 45 minutes to hunt for more. Spurs, meanwhile, continued to look dangerous but the substitute Llorente could not take a headed opportunity in the 57th minute and City scored with their next attack. Again the brilliant De Bruyne was involved. Agüero was close to the position where he scored what they know here as the 93.20 goal. His right foot was drawn and City were ahead on aggregate for the first time.
This time, however, it was not the decisive moment. Should Llorente’s goal have stood? The referee took an age to make up his mind. His decision was that it came off the striker’s thigh and it will be Spurs who meet Ajax in the last four. – Guardian
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINALS
Tottenham v Ajax
Liverpool v Barcelona
Ties to be played April 30th/May 1st & May 7th/8th