OPPONENTS Ajax at the Johan Cruyff Arena
COMPETITION Champions League  Semi-Final Second Leg
DATE Wednesday 8th May 2019
PREVIEW Well, the first leg showed u just what a good side Ajax area, with the likes of Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek, Stefan de Vrij, David Neres and Nicolas Tagliafico in the team.  They adopt the philosophy of Ajax teams past (and a few aspects of Tottenham's past sides) in moving the ball quickly to utilise players in space.  It is not a new idea, but it is the way they make it look effortless, when, in fact, it actually takes a lot of energy. 

The "Pass and Move" tactic was used by Arthur Rowe in the 1950s at White Hart Lane, with some of his former team-mates and coaches spreading the word to the continent, with a couple ending up at Ajax.  Total football, as it was once named, sees that style taken a step further, with players comfortable in a number of positions, interchanging to break out of a traditional shape and cause problems for the opposition, who have to try and counter that.  Ajax play a modern version of Total Football, with their players adaptable and popping up in unaccustomed positions.  Spurs will need to put in a lot of work to make sure they can cope with that and also to then create chances themselves.

Having taken a 1-0 first leg lead away from home, Ajax go into the match favourites to progress and without Harrys Kane and Winks, Tottenham's task is considerably more difficult.   However, with the return of Heung-Min Son from suspension and Jan Vertonghen being able to play after his facial injury in the previous game with Ajax, it perhaps offers a little more hope.  What Tottenham have to do is be quicker in moving the ball forward through the team and also to improve on their crossing, as they were too easy for Onana to deal with in the main.  He wasn't overly tested at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with only one effort on target.  The Ajax keeper needs to be worked to see how goof he actually is.

The other hope for Spurs is that Ajax try to protect their lead and sit back, but I don't think that is in their nature, so we will need a start like we had at Manchester City in the quarter final.   Not in letting a goal in inside four minutes, but getting Son in good spaces in the early stages to worry Ajax. We saw what an early goal can do to the other side as Liverpool went through against Barcelona.   Whether we would be able to hold onto a lead, we would have to see.  It will also be a factor that the bulk of the side played 44 minutes with nine men on Saturday, while Ajax rested players in the Dutch Cup final.  

The atmosphere will be tense, with both sides looking to make the next step in their development by reaching the final, with Ajax having made the Europa League final a couple of years ago and having beaten Real Madrid and Juventus in this campaign.  Spurs have made steady progress in the competition considering they have not been playing Champions League football for four seasons.  Being so close to getting to the final should inspire the team to go further.  Big match experience with Lloris in a World Cup final and Toby Alderweireld having been with the Atletico Madrid side who reached the CL final in 2014.  Other players have made appearances at World Cups and European Championships, so there should be enough nous there to put in a performance agianst Ajax.

A clean sheet would be fantastic, but I cannot see that, so a narrow win might just be enough to squeak past the Dutch side, with hopefully a good performance making the night one to forget for the Amsterdam side.

PREDICTION Ajax    1        Tottenham Hotspur    2
Champions League Semi-Final Second Leg Kick off 20:00
Ajax  2 (2)  
Tottenham Hotspur  3 (0)
(Agg :  3-3 - Spurs win on away goals)

de Ligt  04m  03s
Ziyech  34m 56s



Moura  54m 42s
Moura  58m 05s
Moura  90+5m 01s

Crowd :   52,641 Weather :  Mild
Referee : Felix Brych (GER) Assistant Referees :  Mark Borsch (GER); Stefan Lupp (GER)
Fourth Official :  Deniz Aytekin (GER)  
Video Assistant Referee : Bastian Dankert (GER) Assistant Video Assistant Referee :  Marco Fritz (GER)
UEFA Delegate : Tormod Larsen (NOR) UEFA Referee Observer :  Rune Pedersen (NOR)
Spurs kicked off and played towards the - end in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 9 minutes.
Dolberg (foul on Rose)  50 
Ziyech (persistent fouling - foul on Rose)  77 
Onana (time-wasting)  90+4 


Sissoko  (foul on Tagliafico)  17
Rose  (throwing ball down )  76


Ajax : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
24  Andre ONANA     

12  Noussair MAZRAOUI
  4  Matthijas de LIGT  (c) 
17  Daley BLIND
31  Nicolas TAGLIAFICO

20  Lasse SCHONE  (  3  Joel VELTMAN  60)
21  Frenkie de JONG
  6  Donny van de BEEK  (18  Lisandro MAGALLAN  90)
22  Hakim ZIYECH      

10  Dusan TADIC

25  Kasper DOLBERG       (  8  Daley SINKGRAVEN  67)

Unused subs: 
28  Bruno Semedo VARELA
30  Dani de WIT
23  Lassina TRAORE

    1  Hugo LLORIS  (c)

  Kieran TRIPPIER  (11  Erik LAMELA  81)
  3  Danny ROSE       (33  Ben DAVIES  82)

12  Victor WANYAMA       (18  Fernando LLORENTE  46)
17  Moussa SISSOKO     

20  DELE Alli 

Christian ERIKSEN
27  Lucas MOURA     

  7  Heung-Min SON

Unused subs: 
15  Eric DIER
1  Juan FOYTH
  Oliver SKIPP

Manager :  Erik van Tag Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino
Sponsor :   Ziggo Shirt sponsor :  AIA
Kit Supplier :  adidas Kit Supplier :   Nike
Match report

Sometimes, just sometimes, football can be stranger than fiction and this match defied all suspended belief, as Spurs stuck by theirs and went on to record a historic victory at the very death to propel them into the Champions League final, where they will face a familiar foes in Liverpool.  Lucas Moura stepped up and scored a hat-trick in 35 minutes to turn around a 0-3 deficit against a youthful and talented Ajax side.  But following Pochettino's tactical change, they could not handle the pressure that Tottenham exerted and finally crumbled under a 96th minute winner that sealed an unbelievable turnaround.

Spurs were much the same XI who played the home leg, with Wanyama coming in for Dier from Saturdayís game at Bournemouth and Ajax replaced Veltman with Mazraoui, with Kasper Dolberg replacing David Neres, who pulled up in the warm-up. The tiny Spurs section was tucked away in a corner, with the majority of the stadium a red and white mass, but that didnít stop them making themselves heard above the home crowd.

When the game kicked off, Ajax were pressing hard to make it difficult for Tottenham to play the ball out from the back and were passing the ball confidently, with Spurs needing to throw a couple of blocks in the box after a poor clearance. Lloris had to be ready to exercise his reflexes when Trippier deflected a Tadic shot that made the keeper dive full length to push it wide. From the corner, de Ligt rose to head in, with Vertonghen left on the floor when tangling with van de Beek.   De Ligt was Trippierís man to pick up and then he rose above Dele to head across Hugo, but once more we let one in from a dead ball situation this season.

It was nearly an immediate response from Spurs as they worked the ball on the left and Son hit the foot of the post from a narrow angle, with Eriksen just a foot away from getting the rebound. De Jong denied Dele as he ran through and from the second phase, Eriksen played him in to shoot wide, but he was offside. While Spurs were enjoying possession, they were having it taken off them too easily to build any pressure on the home goal, while Ajax were enjoying some flicks, with players knowing instinctively where team-mates would be. Things werenít helped by Felix Brych (who sent off Crouch in Madrid and OíHara in Udinese) awarding soft free-kicks to Ajax.

Twenty two minutes in, Lloris played the ball out and Rose worked it inside to Dele. His pass, in front of Son in the box, produced a shot, but it lack power to get past Onana. Dele then set Lucas into the area and he laid it back to Eriksen, who drilled straight at the keeper, just a minute later. For possibly the first time in the tie, Spurs were camped in the Ajax half, with the home players being pulled across the pitch. Even then, Tadic broke after Wanyama lost the ball on the halfway line and luckily for Spurs, he pulled his shot across Lloris and the goal.

Both sides were loose in possession, with Tottenhamís final ball not weighted properly and the Barcelona bound de Jong showed that he will do well in Spain by throwing himself into Wanyama and winning a free-kick.

Ajax broke and were outnumbering our defenders, so, when it was played to Ziyech from Tadic, the Moroccan swept a shot from the left channel across Hugo and in to make the task mountainous to achieve. In the build-up, Trippier went down holding his face, but it was a battling spirit needed rather than giving up the ghost. It was all going very wrong.  For the last five minutes of the half, Ajax dropped deep and stopped pressing, making it tough for Spurs to break them down, but when we did get forward, Son lost his train of thought and on the edge of the box, he touched it to de Jong, The much heralded return to the side was not quite happening for Sonny.

With Danny Rose seemingly a free kick for the Ajax players, with the referee doing little to chastise their players for a string of fouls on him, half time came with Spurs having little but pride to play for.  To ask for three goals in a quarter of the tie when they hadnít scored one, was a big ask indeed. So, when Llorente replaced the disappointing Wanyama, it looked as though Pochettino was going for it.  At the start of the second half, Spurs won the ball and got to the edge of the Ajax penalty area, when he flicked it over the defence and when Dele was lurking de Ligt shanked the ball off for a corner, when it could have gone anywhere. Ajax were sloppy and when Rose burst through the middle, he played a nothing ball into the box that gave Dele no chance of doing anything with it. On 52 minutes, Christian bent a ball across the box from the left on the floor and Dele got on the  end of it, but from a tight angle with the ball bouncing up, Onana blocked it at his near post.

Rose brought the ball out of defence, by megging de Ligt and sent Dele on his way, but he brought the ball back inside to let Lucas run it on into the box and slip it past Onanaís left hand with his left foot from ten yards out. It was the goal that Spurs required to step things up, as Ajax had come out and were playing with a little too much over-confidence. Eriksen played the ball to Trippier inside the box on the right when he played a low ball into the goalmouth. Llorente was there and I am not sure how he didnít score with two efforts, but Onana was right on top of him, but the keeper spilled the ball and Lucas Moura got it, with four men around him. Showing deft footwork to fashion a shooting chance and the ball was shot through de Jongís legs and buried past a defender on the line. 2-2 and the shock could be felt around the stadium.

With Llorente up front, there was a lack pf pace, but he took the ball off Mazraoui and decided to shoot, but it blazed well over. Blind got a bit closer at the other end, but it went a couple of feet over and then a cross in from Trippier caused panic, with the ball dropping to Lucas, with de Ligt having to five in front of him to deflect the ball wide and stop the Brazilian getting a hat-trick. Just before that Ziyech had hit a first time shot from Tadicís pass inches wide of Llorisí left hand post. defensive substitutes came on for Ajax as they tried to stem the tides of Tottenhamís attacks and Llorente was doing very well as a target man up top. Trippier was having a much better second half, when he got a foot in when Ziyech lifted a pass to the far post and he had two red and white shirts to deal with. From the corner, the ball ended up at the far post with de Ligt, who drilled a low ball into the six yard box and Lloris beat it out. Just beyond Tagliafico and Spurs cleared.

Ajax were looking better on the ball now and they were finding their men in the Tottenham half, but  Spurs kept trying to build moves with them playing off Llorente. Corners were not our strong point, but Trippier picked out Alderweireld and the ball drifted agonisingly wide. Moura broke on the right and pulled the ball back, but only to an Ajax player.

Bookings went each way and then Blind took a dive with an arm out from Llorente that he ran into to break up a Tottenham attack. With 12 minutes left, Ziyech swung in another shot that bounced off the foot of Llorisí left post as the chance came with Ajax players having space on the edge of the box. When Ziyech hacked Rose down again, the referee only showed interest in a Spurs substitution with Lamela replacing Trippier. Davies then came on for Danny Rose, who had been outstanding.

From an Eriksen corner in the 85th minute, Vertonghen got highest to Llorenteís flick on and smacked a header against the bar, and then from the rebound had his shot blocked on the line, then as the ball came back in, Son tried a shot from the tightest of angles and it fizzed over at the near post. Ajax were hanging on with five minutes time to be added.  Tadic broke and waited for his pass through to find de Jong, but Toby had covered well to block his shot. Three minutes into added time, Lloris had to beat out a Ziyech shot from 15 yards out and then Tadic shot over from the loose ball.

A last-minute corner saw Lloris go up for it, but Llorente headed the ball over the bar and with seconds left, it might have been the last chance. With Onana getting booked for wasting time, his kick out looked as though it might take the ball away from his goal for the last time, but it came back with interest ! It was won at the back by Toby and Ben, with the ball coming to Son in the centre circle. He played the ball back to Sissoko, who hoisted a high ball to Fernando, who stretched out a leg and flicked it on to Dele. He touched the ball into the box and into the path of Lucas Moura, who did not hesitate in taking the shot on first time before a tackle came in and it was sent along the floor past Onanaís left hand as he dived to try and stop it. It was almost a replay of the first goal and with seconds seemingly remaining, the crowd went silent, the Ajax players fell to the floor and Spurs fans went nuts !! Poch was on his knees and the subs were in the corner in front of the Spurs fans swamping Lucas.

The referee still found some time for Ajax to get the ball forward, chucking a long throw in, but when we won the ball, Lamela tried to dribble the ball out and lost it, but it was won back and it was run up the pitch and Ajax didnít have the legs to chase back and the foul on Sissoko brought the final whistle. The third goal had knocked the stuffing out of the young side, but the second half  performance by Spurs, similar to the better second half showing in the first leg, was rewarded with  three goals to go to the final on away goals. Ajax had played well, but their second half performance was not up to the level they had produced in the foregoing 135 minutes. They still hit the post twice in the second half, but Janís header against the bar came just as close.

I never thought that I would see Spurs in a Champions League final in my life. The feeling watching at home was incredible, but for those fans there, it will be a night never to forget ! It is the realisation of a belief that Spurs can do things their own way. Having beaten an Ajax side who have just started spending a bit of money and hope to retain their best players and in the final we will face a side that has spent a lot of money. The project that Levy and Pochettino devised may be bearing  fruit sooner than they thought, but this campaign has been a rollercoaster ride of emotion and thrills.

This win means that it will continue for one more night.

Marco van Hip

Match facts


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Other semi-final score :
Liverpool  (win 4-3 on agg) 4 Barcelona (SPA) 0 Tuesday

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