Mauricio Pochettino hailed his ‘superhero’ Lucas Moura after his second-half hat-trick saw Spurs produce a stunning comeback to rival that of Liverpool’s 24 hours earlier and set up an all-English Champions League final.
Trailing 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate after 45 minutes at a raucous and partisan Johan Cruyff Arena, Spurs needed to score three times in the second half and hope that their hosts did not add to their tally.
It looked unlikely given how poor they had been in the first half but, with some of their players later admitting they were inspired by Liverpool’s heroics against Barcelona, Moura scored twice just before the hour before striking in the fifth minute of stoppage time to silence the locals and send the away following into a frenzy.
Mauricio Pochettino heaped praise on Lucas Moura following Tottenham’s win over Ajax
Moura bagged a hat-trick as the visitors wiped out a three-goal deficit in Amsterdam
Pochettino broke down in tears and buried his head in the turf after leading the club to their first ever final in Europe’s premier club competition.
The Argentine was still shaking with emotion when he came to reflect: ‘It is still difficult to talk. The emotion is amazing, thank you football. Thank you these guys, they are heroes.
‘In the last year I am telling everyone that I have a group that are heroes and they showed big balls today. To take this club to the final of the Champions League is very close to a mriacle.
‘The second half was amazing. This type of emotion is impossible without football. Thank you to the fans, those who believed in us and to achieve this is fantastic.
‘We were talking before the game that when you work, and when you feel the love, it’s not a stress, it’s a passion. We showed that tonight.
Pochettino (right) labelled the Spurs forward a ‘superhero’ after his match-winning display
‘I think in the game against Man City (quarter-final) and today it is amazing. It was a joy to watch this type of game. I am so grateful to be a coach, to be in football and living this moment.’
Of his match-winner, Pochettino added: ‘Superhero Moura! It was an unbelievable hat-trick. He deserves it, he’s a great guy.
‘But everyone deserves it for all the tough moments we’ve been through over the five years. The chance to play in a final, it is for my family, for all the people who supported us in that moment. It is amazing.’
Moura remained on the pitch long after full-time and chased after his cherished matchball when team-mate Moussa Sissoko booted it towards the away fans in jest.
The Brazilian said it was the best moment of his career.
The Brazilian netted the winner in the 96th minute to book Tottenham a place in the final
‘It’s impossible to explain what I am feeling at this moment,’ he said.
‘I am very happy, very proud of my team-mates. We always believed it was possible and gave everything on the pitch. I think we deserved this moment, we are a family.
‘It’s impossible to explain, I am so happy. It’s a big gift from God and I’d like to share it with my team-mates and fans.
‘It’s difficult to play here against Ajax but I always believed in my team-mates and their qualities, even without key players. I am really proud. Football is amazing, it gives moments like this that we cannot imagine. We need to enjoy it.
Moura wheels away in celebration after scoring the biggest goal of his footballing career
‘It’s the best moment in my career and I only need to say thank you to my team-mates because what I am living here at Tottenham is unbelievable.’
Former Spurs manager Glenn Hoddle said that he was happy to be alive to witness the occasion after suffering a heart attack last year.
‘I’m so glad that I’m still around to see that,’ he told BT Sport. ‘Incredible. Two footballing miracles in two nights. I’ve never been happier. What a proud moment that was.’
Left-back Danny Rose was one of the few to emerge with any credit after the first half and he revealed that words were exchanged at half-tine.
‘There were a few words said and we then played like that,’ he said. ‘We saw Liverpool last night and it just goes to show it’s not over until it’s over.
The 26-year-old (centre) is mobbed by his team-mates following the semi-final victory
‘We can beat anyone when we play like that. The gaffer mentioned it at the hotel before we left and said that’s the right attitude. How we started against Ajax in the first leg was not right and now we’re looking forward to the final.’
Former Ajax defender Toby Alderweireld spoke of his pride at being part of the comeback.
‘After the first leg everybody was saying “Ajax Ajax”, but we showed today we wanted it more,’ said the Belgian.
‘Of course it was mentally difficult but then we started playing better, playing football and that changed the game for us.
‘Lucas deserves a lot of credit, he was very clinical. You have to show Ajax a lot of respect, they have a great philosophy so credit to them, but I’m very proud to play for Spurs. We’re fourth in the league, people are complaining about us but we’re in the final.’