Tottenham had one point through its first three group games, was decimated by injury and suspension and faced a three-goal deficit in the second half of a semifinal. Yet Spurs are on to their first Champions League final.

By 90Min
May 09, 2019

"[Our chances of qualifying] are nearly over. We'll see what happens now in the game between Barcelona and Inter but with only one point after three games, it will be so difficult."


October 24, 2018: Mauricio Pochettino begrudgingly clasps Mark van Bommel's outstretched hand. Harry Kane's protests at referee Slavko Vincic fall on deaf ears. Hugo Lloris stares down the barrel of a one-match suspension after getting sent off.

With three group stage games remaining, and just one point to show for their efforts, it feels like the end for Tottenham.

So how on earth did we get here?

How did we get to the stage where Pochettino is crying on the pitch in Amsterdam? How did we get to Christian Eriksen calling for a statue to be built in Lucas Moura's honor? How did it all come to this?

It's a cliche, but it all starts with the right attitude. The never say die spirit. The idea that magical things can happen against the odds, with the right belief and application.

That's exactly what saw from both Liverpool and Tottenham this week.

After that stirring comeback at Anfield, it seemed like all the magic of the Champions League had been used up, seemingly resigning Tottenham to a low-key exit in the Netherlands, following a pretty tame performance in the first leg of their semifinal against Ajax.

And that script was followed closely during the opening 45 minutes: Matthjis de Ligt shrugged off Kieran Trippier to guide a header past Lloris from a corner in the opening five minutes, before Hakim Ziyech smacked a stonker to put the tie to bed.

Tottenham, was dead and buried with no hope.

But let's take a second to rewind.


GROUP STAGE

Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

Spurs take one point from their opening three games, needing victories against PSV and Inter at Wembley. They get the job done, with late drama all over the place. 

Needing a draw at Camp Nou and a favour from PSV against Inter, Spurs concede early after Kyle Walker-Peters' horrendous error allows Ousmane Dembele a run toward goal. He's quick. He's fast. He's got pace. He scores.

Tottenham hammers Barcelona's reserves in the second half, but Jasper Cillessen is having the game of his life.

When all hope is lost, the away side finally puts the ball into the net past the Dutch goalkeeper, with Moura tapping home Kane's low cross to finish off a flowing move featuring key contributions from Eriksen and Erik Lamela.


"We suffered because when we finished the game we did not know the result at Inter. It was two very difficult minutes, but in the end of course we were so happy. It's so important for the club."


LAST 16/QUARTERFINALS

Written off against Borussia Dortmund, Spurs went through 4-0 aggregate winners in the first knockout round. Son Heung-min, Jan Vertonghen, Fernando Llorente and Kane gave the club's fans a memorable few weeks without too much tension with two wins over the then Bundesliga leaders.

The quarterfinal draw pits Tottenham against Manchester City, arguably the best team in Europe, charging toward another Premier League title despite constant pressure from Liverpool. Methodic and ruthless in their approach, it's the perfect draw for Guardiola's side. 

On April 9, in the first leg at Tottenham's new stadium, Danny Rose is adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area, but Sergio Aguero sees his spot kick saved by Lloris. 

Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Before the hour mark, Kane goes off injured after his ankle buckles under Fabian Delph. Just under 20 minutes of constant City pressure on their goal ensues, but Spurs hold out.

And then Son strikes. Tottenham has the slimmest of advantages to take to the Etihad, but everyone backs City to overturn the deficit, and rightly so: Guardiola's side usually scores plenty at home.

And they do just that, but, and here comes the twist, Son scores twice and Llorente bundles one in with his hip. There was also a disallowed Raheem Sterling goal late on, with VAR having a pivotal and influential say about which English side goes on.


“No one believed in November we would be in this position in April. But we had the belief and that is the most important thing."


SEMIFINAL STUNNER

On April 30, Donny van de Beek scores inside the opening 15 minutes, and Tottenham looks woefully out of its depth. Victor Wanyama is being mercilessly mugged off by Frenkie de Jong in central midfield, and without the suspended Son and injured Kane up front, Spurs fail to land a meaningful punch throughout the 90 minutes, with both de Ligt and Daley Blind comfortable in central defense.

A goal down heading into the second leg, Tottenham seems done. Down and out. Nobody gives Spurs a chance against an Ajax side heralded for its breathtaking play, fearlessness and youthful exuberance. They're clearly on another level to Spurs and headed for something magical.

So how did we get here? How did we get to the third resurrection? 


"Thank you, football; thank you these guys. I have an amazing set of players who are heroes. This type of emotion, without football, I think it is impossible to live."


Lucas Moura is now a certified Spurs icon and Mauricio Pochettino may have ditched that damaging 'nearly man' tag that's been weighing him down over the last few years, even if his side does end up losing the final.

Ultimately, this past week has taught the football world one crucial lesson: never stop dreaming. Even if your team has one point from its first three group games. Even if it has to score three goals in 50 minutes against a team that looks like a side of destiny.

Soak it in. You can never predict the next twist in a story as exhilarating and unpredictable and Tottenham's.


"The emotion we showed today is the passion. We love the sport, football."

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