Spurs got into the last four of the Champions League for the first time in their history last night after a breathtaking 4-4 away goal aggregate victory over Manchester City at the Etihad. After a whirlwind start to proceedings that left City 3-2 up on the night after just twenty one minutes, Sergio Aguero’s angled finish looked like it would send City through before an already hotly debated VAR goal from Fernando Llorente goal put Spurs back in control. In an unbelievable climax, Raheem Sterling sent the Etihad into delirium after completing his hatrick to make it 5-3 on the night before a VAR offside decision ruled out the goal, meaning Pep Guardiola’s sheer joy was turned to utter agony and it was instead Mauricio Pochettino and his side who were celebrating a famous victory.
After a somewhat timid first leg at the Tottenham Stadium, no one could have expected what was to come last night and the levels upon levels of drama that took place in Manchester. By the end of proceedings Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who were heavily panned for a severe dip in recent form after looking like they could make it a three way premiership title race, were left with a feeling of almost disbelieving joy. Labelled for so long as a team that crumbles in the big occasions, Spurs stayed in the fight and despite riding their luck heavily at times saw the job out to earn what is surely one of the biggest results in the history of the club. The look on Pochettino’s face at the final whistle told a thousand stories, perhaps mainly one of vindication after so many questions about his sides’ inability to handle occasions such as those of last night.
And now his team are just three football matches from what would be by far the biggest achievement in the club’s history. Despite being matched against the young and exciting side that is Ajax in the semi final, after overcoming a huge mental barrier over the two legs versus what on paper is perhaps the world’s best squad, few would now would back against Spurs making it to Madrid on the 1st of June.
Indeed, much like Liverpool under Klopp before this season, the format of the competition perhaps suits Spurs in the fact that they can give any team in the world a game on their day. Generally poor away form versus big six rivals in the league doesn’t come into it when it comes to their current Champions League journey. Doubts and assumptions about Spurs’ ability to maintain league winning form over a season are now irrelevant. Barring extra time they now have two hundred and seventy minutes to do the unthinkable, which is a position they have never been anywhere close to, even in the Pochettino’s era at the club. Their joyous manager said his side ‘are still in a dream’ after last night and he will hope that they don’t wake up just yet as in this insanely competitive modern club football era, they may not have a better chance of bringing the Champions League trophy to London for a second time.
Meanwhile for Guardiola’s City, last night will likely leave a mark that might take a while to fade. After thinking that they had done it in such dramatic and potentially famous fashion, to then be denied victory in such a brutal way will be hard to take. Though, City’s players gave it everything and in truth bar two highly avoidable defensive errors at the start of the game, they perhaps would have seen off Spurs with a much lower degree of drama. In Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling they have two of the world’s best attacking players among the host of talent they possess in both every part of the pitch and on the bench. It’s hard to look past last night’s drama however many will assert that City lost control of the tie in the first leg, where Guardiola controversially left out both De Bruyne and Leroy Sane which in part allowed Spurs to grow in confidence in their magnificent new home stadium.
Though Guardiola may again point to the fact that missed chances alongside defensive errors across the two legs were the reason for his team going out by the cruelest of margins. If Sergio Aguero had scored that penalty in London last week this article would have probably never been written and a trio of defensive errors over the two legs no doubt cost City the tie, with their attacking players just unable to counter the failings of their defensive counterparts. City had 66% of the ball last night, including 20 shots at goal with eight on target and let’s not forget they won the game. So perhaps it’s simply a case of City being unable to capitalise on their superiority rather than an issue with Guardiola’s management in the latter stages of European competition, as has been suggested by some in media and fanbase quarters.
Either way, for the first time time in a while Guardiola is back under intense pressure as his side, who will now miss out on an historic quadruple (which let’s face it isn’t particularly shameful), have to face those same Spurs faces again on Saturday lunchtime before having a midweek trip to Old Trafford to deal with. For most sides you would say that last night’s brutal loss will derail their ability to defend their premiership title. However, when it comes to City you would be utterly foolish to assume anything negative against a side, who in thesixyardblog’s eyes are still one of if not the best team in the world. What a title race we are in store now though eh? Oh and also we have two English sides in the last four the Champions League. And breathe.
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