Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino was overcome by emotion after the extraordinary Champions League semi-final victory over Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday and who could blame him? Few managers have had to deal with what Pochettino has this season — from being the only European club to make no signings in consecutive transfer windows to playing home games at Wembley because of delays in the completion of the club’s new stadium.
On top of that, many of Tottenham’s squad were involved deep into the World Cup finals with England, Belgium and France and it showed in recent weeks when the losses started piling up, with players running on fumes.
Tottenham arrived in Amsterdam on the back of three successive defeats and with top striker Harry Kane watching from the stands as he recovers from an ankle injury sustained in the first leg of Tottenham’s quarter-final win over Manchester City.
At halftime on Wednesday they looked down and out with Ajax, already 1-0 up after the first leg, leading 2-0 thanks to goals by Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech.
But Tottenham, once mocked by rival fans for being soft-centred, showed immense spirit and forced their way back into their first European Cup semi-final for 57 years.
Lucas Moura, who would not even have been playing had Kane been fit, wrote himself into Tottenham folklore with a 35-minute hat-trick to send the away fans into delirium and Pochettino into floods of tears.
Tottenham’s Champions League campaign had looked all but over after they picked up one point from their first three group games.
They needed late winners in consecutive games against PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan and a draw in Barcelona, earned with Moura’s goal, to get into the knockout phase.