Spurs prove that football has gone bonkers; little to choose between Leinster and Saracens
Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team
Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris celebrates their third goal scored by Lucas Moura as Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong hits the ground during the Champions League semi-final second leg. Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
Well, it’s official: football makes no sense anymore. There was a time when a three goal lead meant something but that time seems to be slipping further and further into the past these days. If it wasn’t enough for Liverpool to overcome a three goal defecit against Barcelona at Anfield on Tuesday, Spurs only went and repeated the feat 24 hours later. Except they did it in the space of just 45 minutes. And they were away from home. There’s something in the air when it comes to comebacks in this year’s Champions League and Lucas Moura certainly got the scent of it in Amsterdam last night as his brilliant second half hat-trick, completed with a 96th minute strike, sent the Spurs fans high up in the gods in the Johan Cruyff Arena into delirium and many others trying to suss out the best route to Madrid on the first weekend of June to see their team meet Liverpool in the Champions League final. Spurs had been dead and buried after Matthijs de Ligt and then Hakim Ziyech found the net in the first half to put Ajax 3-0 up on aggregate but, as Mary Hannigan writes this morning, “we’re talking Twilight Zone stuff here, the madness of it all enough to make you hug the Champions League, the most cynical money-making machine in the history of the sport.” Afterwards Mauricio Pochettino held back the tears of joy to laud his players as “superheros” after they completed a miracle in Amsterdam. So, on to the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid. If the rest of the competition is anything to go by then the final should be a cracker.
While Spurs have only gone and almost overshadowed the heroics of Liverpool from Tuesday night, the drama of that occasion in Anfield is still very much alive and, writing a guest column in The Irish Times this morning, Mark Lawrenson says that it even topped the comeback in Istanbul in 2005. “Anfield has had many magical nights down through the years, but for me this one topped them all. I would even put it ahead of Istanbul, and I genuinely never imagined anything bettering that,” he writes. And will it be an all-English final in both European competitions? There’s certainly a good chance of it as Chelsea and Arsenal both head into their Europa League semi-final second leg encounters with the advantage this evening. Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea take an away goal and a 1-1 draw back to Stamford Bridge although their build-up to the game was overshadowed somewhat yesterday by the news that their appeal against a Fifa transfer ban has been turned down and they will now take it to the court of arbitration for sport. Meanwhile, Arsenal lead 3-1 after the first leg against Valencia but they will take to the Mestalla pitch knowing the tie is far from over. Also this evening it’s a big night for the Ireland under-17s who know that a win against Belgium at Tallaght Stadium will guarantee a spot in the knockout stages of the European Championships while a draw might be enough depending on the result between Greece and Czech Republic.