Mauricio Pochettino was sobbing on the pitch, on his knees. Harry Kane was sprinting towards his team-mates, in defiance of a stricken ankle ligament.
The rest was silence. We were five minutes and 15 seconds into injury time and Tottenham, somehow, were going to the Champions League final.
Ajax players lay strewn around the pitch. Heartbroken, inconsolable. A vibrant, noisy Johan Cruyff Arena appeared to have been sucked into a black hole. How did this happen? How had they been denied?
Tottenham booked their place in the final of the Champions League with an incredible second-half comeback against Ajax
Lucas Moura scored a second-half hat-trick to turn tie on its head with the winning goal coming in sixth minute of added time
The Brazilian forward latched on to Dele Alli’s flick-on and fired a left-footed shot beyond the Ajax goalkeeper to win the tie
Lucas is mobbed by his Tottenham team-mates after the last-ditch winner, which came six minutes into stoppage time
Ajax’s players were left inconsolable at the final whistle after they surrendered a 3-0 aggregate lead on Wednesday night
Pochettino and star man Harry Kane embrace on the touchline as Spurs booked their place in the final in Madrid on June 1
Pochettino and his players celebrate in front of the travelling Tottenham supporters following the incredible climax
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was reduced to tears at the end as Ajax’s players lay on the turf in Amsterdam
With 35 minutes of the tie remaining, Tottenham trailed 3-0. Like Liverpool trailed Barcelona but with less time to influence the match. And less chance, too, considering their first-half performance. It wasn’t good. They went a further two goals down and were not playing like a team who had revival in them.
Yet, from somewhere, it came. A second miracle. We might have to stop defining them as such, really, when they happen every night to English teams in Europe.
Indeed, if one didn’t know better, it might be claimed that these narratives across the last 48 hours were fixed, or scripted. That they were the product of a team of writers, like Game of Thrones, or were choreographed, slam by brutal slam, like WWE.
Except no pen could produce drama like this. Not if it was supposed to masquerade as reality. Game of Thrones has dragons. These are men out there, flesh and blood. Yet there it all was. The return from the dead, the swing of Lucas Moura’s boot when all seemed destined to end in heroic failure. Moura’s hat-trick, completed with virtually the last kick of the match. It truly was the most incredible Champions League moment since — er, the previous night.
Even Pochettino surrendered all composure, lost in the fantastic, following his celebrating substitutes on to the pitch, thinking better of it and falling to his knees.
Central defender Matthijs de Ligt had opened the scoring for Ajax after only five minutes, heading a corner into the net
The young Ajax captain rose above Dele Alli and powered a header past Hugo Lloris to put the home side 2-0 up on aggregate
De Ligt is mobbed by his team-mates after he put them one step closer to the Champions League final on Wednesday night
Hakim Ziyech put Ajax 2-0 ahead on the night – 3-0 up on aggregate – with a sumptuous left-footed effort on 35 minutes
Lloris dived full-stretch to his left but he was unable to prevent the curling shot from nestling in the far corner of the net
Ziyech drops to his knees and points to the sky following his brilliant goal as Spurs players are left dejected in Amsterdam
Long after the locals had left the stadium, Tottenham players and staff were still milling around the turf, disbelieving, trying to take it all in. Moura, a match-winning hero as unlikely in his own way as Divock Origi for Liverpool on Tuesday, went over to collect his match ball which a team-mate had kicked teasingly across the pitch. It took him in front of the travelling fans, delirious in their celebrations.
Soon after Pochettino joined them, bowing down to the away end in worship, then turning to salute his staff in similar fashion.
Minutes later, the whole club was back on the pitch: players, staff, some still in green kit, others in tracksuits unused but no less valuable. Ajax groundsmen tended the other, empty half, forlornly picking at divots.
Here’s what you could have won, lads.
The fans never stopped believing, they will tell you, but they probably did. Three goals down and struggling to cope with Ajax’s counter-attacking, this wasn’t like Anfield on Tuesday, when Liverpool came ferociously out of the blocks.
Had Tottenham played again as they did in the first half, they would have lost.
So there will be another all- English Champions League final — the first since 2008 — between two teams that somehow came back from the dead. It would make more sense, really, if there was a Champions League writers’ room conjuring nights of exquisitely crafted drama.
Early in the second half Moura sparked Spurs’ brilliant second-half comeback after finishing off a lightning break
On 55 minutes, the Brazilian ran on to a loose ball and directed his shot beyond Andre Onana from just inside the box
Four minutes later Tottenham were level on the night after Moura worked space in a crowded penalty area and fired home
The forward gestures to the travelling supporters inside the Johan Cruyff Arena as Spurs mounted a spirited fightback
Mauricio Pochettino celebrates after his side levelled the game, while Ajax’s players show their frustration on Wednesday
This Tottenham side looked to have expired in Europe so many times this season, yet in each game has risen again. Jon Snow’s resurrection had nothing on this. This truly was a tale of fire and ice. And the final will have its first new name since Chelsea 11 years ago, too.
And so the match. Tottenham came back into this game because in 204 seconds Moura scored twice. Then they won it, five minutes into injury time, because he scored again. In those slivers of time Ajax, so composed and impressive in the first half, finally looked their tender age. They had deserved their two first-half goals and their three-goal advantage across the tie. They had made Tottenham look ordinary. Yet Pochettino has a way of reviving this team at half-time. He introduced Fernando Llorente for Victor Wanyama — and that changed it all.
First, the goals that took Tottenham to the brink. Ajax did not open the scoring with a 50-pass move, but a clever set-piece, and Tottenham looked soft defending it. The corner was won by Dusan Tadic, who couldn’t always get in the team at Southampton, but has scored 34 goals for Ajax this season — a renaissance like that of Mohamed Salah since departing Chelsea. He broke down the left flank and unleashed a shot which clipped the heel of Kieran Trippier and flipped up, forcing an excellent save from Hugo Lloris.
When it was whipped in, however, Tottenham were dozing. Matthijs de Ligt ran off Trippier — and if the full back was meant to be picking him up, it prompts the question why — and ended up outjumping Dele Alli by some margin, to steer his header past Lloris at the corner.
Son Heung-min, who returned to the Spurs starting XI after missing the first leg through suspension, was dangerous early on
Dusan Tadic tested Lloris with a deflected shot and from the resulting corner De Ligt headed the home side ahead
Jan Vertonghen was restored to the Tottenham team – sporting a facemask – following his nasty head injury in the first leg
Alli was bright for Spurs and was denied an early scoring chance by a brilliant covering tackle by Frenkie De Jong (L)
Optimists were quick to observe that the order for Tottenham had not changed — they still required two goals to progress, but that wasn’t the point. If there was one lesson from 24 hours earlier it was that cup football is often about momentum — and Tottenham had surrendered that within five minutes.
Worse followed before half-time and Tottenham were weak again. Not just Trippier this time but also Wanyama, both of whom seemed to be bullied off the ball by one man, Donny van de Beek. He fed Tadic on the left and continued his run, screaming for the ball, but Tadic instead cut it back inside to Hakim Ziyech. He weighed up the shot to achieve a better angle, and then left fly — a quite beautiful goal.
Maybe it was a simple misunderstanding. ‘We’ve got to go out and do what Liverpool did,’ Pochettino told his players. ‘Right-ho, boss,’ they replied, and promptly went 3-0 down on aggregate.
If that was what it took to shake them out of slumber, however, it did the trick. Tottenham were a different team with Llorente leading the line after half-time — and so were Ajax, sitting back and inviting their opponents on. Whether this was coach Erik ten Hag’s instruction, who knows, but it was a costly mistake.
Spurs midfielder Moussa Sissoko was the first player in the book following a clattering challenge on Nicolas Tagliafico
Tottenham boss Pochettino dishes out instructions to his players during a full-blooded first half in Amsterdam
Alli was among the Tottenham players to fashion first-half chances to respond but the visitors could not make any count
Tadic fires inches past Lloris’s left-hand post just moments before Ziyech doubled the home side’s advantage on Wednesday
Alli and Ziyech come face to face as tensions flare during a dramatic second half at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Wednesday
Moura’s first two goals, minutes apart, came in the same period of the second half in which Georginio Wijnaldum undid Barcelona. For Tottenham’s opener, Alli played the through pass and Moura spotted the gap in Ajax’s ranks, haring through and slipping the ball smartly past goalkeeper Andre Onana.
For the second, Llorente should have scored but was somehow thwarted by Onana. Ajax’s goalkeeper is not their strong point however, and he then lost the ball before Moura turned and fired it in.
After that? Carnage. Ziyech hit a post for Ajax, masked man Jan Vertonghen hit the bar and then had the rebound turned off the line at the other end.
And then, just at the moment when all seemed lost, when Onana had been booked for time-wasting and Ajax were simply winding down precious seconds, Alli floated the ball in, Moura hit it sweetly from 18 yards and the impossible happened. Twice.
That’s showbiz. Or, more accurately, that’s football.
Spurs brought on Fernando Llorente for Victor Wanyama at half-time as they looked to bolster their faltering attack
Former Ajax, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Galatasary and Holland star Wesley Sneijder was among the crowd in Amsterdam
Ajax supporters created quite a scene outside the stadium, letting off pyrotechnics ahead of kick off on Wednesday night
One Ajax supporter made his way to the top of a street lamp as the atmopshere built in the hours before the second leg