Even though Tottenham did not go on to win the Champions League title, this comeback will forever be remembered as one of the best in the competition’s history.
It has been three years since the world witnessed Tottenham Hotspur’s miraculous comeback against Ajax in the 2019 Champions League semifinal second leg. The memories are still fresh. It is hard to explain how a Tottenham side that was outplayed for three halves of football still managed to overturn the massive deficit in the final 45 minutes of the semifinal. After losing the first leg 1-0 in London, Spurs had a big job to do in Amsterdam but they looked out of the tie at the half-time break, as the home side took a comfortable 2-0 lead. But an inspired comeback from Mauricio Pochetinno’s side saw Lucas Moura net an incredible hat-trick – the third of which came deep into injury time – to break the hearts of the home supporters.
The final aggregate score was 3-3 but Tottenham Hotspur prevailed on the away goals rule. It had to be one of the most impressive fightbacks in the history of the competition. The match also happened just 24 hours after Liverpool overcame a 3-0 first-leg deficit to beat Barcelona 4-0 at Anfield in the second leg. The scintillating fightbacks by both sides resulted in an all-English Champions League final. It was also Spurs’ first final in that competition. The London club would go on to lose the title match 2-0 against Liverpool. Nonetheless, their incredible run to the final was an inspirational story in its own way. In particular, the semifinal comeback will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Tottenham supporters.
? #OTD in 2019, an astonishing Tottenham fightback in the semi-finals at Ajax!
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 8, 2022
Drawing inspiration from Liverpool’s mind-blowing comeback a day earlier against Barcelona, Tottenham set out on a mission to overcome a deficit themselves. They were trailing 1-0 from the first leg and were looking for a positive start. Their jobs were made much more difficult when promising young defender Matthijs de Ligt scored in the fifth minute to give Erik ten Hag’s young Ajax team a dream start. Spurs pushed hard to get the equaliser and nearly found one when Heung-Min Son hit the post from the left immediately after the opener. Moura and Dele Alli then tested Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana, who made a couple of good saves.
Tottenham continued to push for the leveler but received a killer blow just before half-time when Dusan Tadic made the most of a mistake from Kieran Trippier. He laid it out for Hakim Ziyech to make it 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate. Even though Tottenham suffered a significant setback, Pochetinno deserves credit for devising a strategy to prepare his players for a historic second-half comeback. The visiting manager brought on Spanish striker Fernando Llorente, who started to make an impact in the final third. Ajax were finding it difficult to deal with the tall physical forward and this allowed Moura to run from in behind him.
In four short minutes, Tottenham leveled the game, all thanks to Lucas Moura’s impressive finishing. A quick counter-attack saw Alli set up the Brazilian for the first goal. Soon after Llorente’s close-range effort was saved by the goalkeeper, but Moura pounced on the uncertainty in Ajax’s defence to score the equaliser. Spurs kept pushing for the winner and they finally found a way. Deep into stoppage time, with only seconds left, Moura found the bottom corner to send the away supporters into wild celebrations, as the home fans and players were left shell shocked. Even though Tottenham did not go on to win the Champions League title, this comeback will forever be remembered as one of the best in the competition’s history.