Manchester City and Tottenham played what is likely to be considered an all-time Champions League clbadic on Wednesday night. While City won the match 4-3, the three away goals for the Spurs, combined with their 1-0 victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last week, were barely enough to reach the first semifinals of the League of Nations. Champions in its history. They will play against Ajax, who dispatched to Juventus on Tuesday.
I've been a fan of Tottenham Hotspur since 2007 and I do not think I felt the mixture of overwhelming fear and absolute joy I felt when I saw that game, no, maybe, since the Spurs beat City in 2010. they got their first top four final and qualification for the Champions League. Wednesday's game was crazy, easily the best match of the Champions League so far, and somehow the Spurs managed not to step on a rake in the process.
There are many, many talking points of this game that we could talk about. Here are five things we learned from this wild result at the Etihad Stadium.
WHAT ABSOLUTELY WAS BONKERS!
In 2014, Jon Bois of SB Nation did what is probably my favorite tweet. At that time, I thought it was very funny, and I've referred to it several times over the years, but I'm not sure I understood it right up until Wednesday's game.
Why watch overtime in the hockey playoffs when you can just suck cocaine and ride a motorcycle in a helicopter?
– Jon Bois (@jon_bois) April 17, 2014
Four goals in 11 minutes? A clamp from Son Heung-Min in two minutes? A goal by Fernando Llorente that went off his hip and possibly his arm? A City goal two minutes from the time I would have sent them through that was then (correctly) returned by VAR for the offside? A loss of 4-3 that is still probably a win for the Spurs?
After the first half, I tried my own Boisian tweet to try to explain how absolutely crazy this match was. I'm not sure I captured it completely.
You, a brother of American baseball: Soccer is so boring!
Me, taking ketamine from a cup of coffee: [gestures wildly at this match]
– Dustin Menno (@dustingm) April 17, 2019
There are no words in the English language for what I am feeling now. "Happy" does not even begin to describe it.
Spurs are running out of players.
When Moussa Sissoko fell with what looked like a groin injury at the end of the first half, he looked terribly bad for the Spurs. The only senior midfielder they had on the bench was Oliver Skipp, 18 years old. Eric Dier and Harry Winks are injured and did not make the trip, and central midfield has been a problem for most of the season.
In a surprising move, Mauricio Pochettino replaced Sissoko with Fernando Llorente, leaving Dele Alli deeper in midfield. It really did not work, since City dominated the first half of the second half, although Llorente more than rewarded Poch's faith in him by scoring a goal of the series at the end of the second half.
However, it can not be denied that the Spurs are seriously beaten and at the worst possible moment. With Erik Lamela re-entering the warm-ups prior to the game, the Spurs are now without six first-team players: Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Harry Winks, Serge Aurier, and now Lamela and Sissoko. The Spurs still need to win 9 points in their last five league games, and they also have a series of Champions League semi-finals against Ajax looming. This is a team attached to a rope at this time; they will need players to recover quickly or deepen their banking for some of the next important matches.
Hugo Lloris was immense.
It may seem strange to say this about a goalkeeper who threw four goals in a Champions League defeat, but Hugo Lloris managed some saves in this match. Yes, there were a couple of scary moments, the salvation that spilled and that was included by Danny Rose in particular, and he could have done better with Agüero's goal in the near post, but he had a series of fantastic diving stops and stops that prevented the Spurs from being expelled.
City is an absolutely incredible offensive team. Raheem Sterling scored two fantastic goals, and Bernardo Silva's strike deflected Dany Rose and overtook Hugo. But if it were not for Hugo's heroic acts, the Spurs could have been expelled from the Etihad. As it was, it was a clbadic, and the captain of the Spurs club was one of the main reasons.
VAR is fine again.
There is no doubt that VAR has its share of detractors, but it got it all on Wednesday night. First, (correctly) left Fernando Llorente's last goal that put the Spurs back on the away goals – the repetition during the broadcast, which is what the official used for the review, seemed to indicate strongly that the ball he did not hit Llorente's arm the way in. Another repetition after the game showed that, in fact, he hit Llorente's forearm before getting rid of his hip and overtaking the goalkeeper, but if the match official had access to that angle it is unlikely that he would have been considered "intentional" enough to dump the call.
Then, Sterling's third goal was called again with reason after Sergio Agüero was out of the game in the initial movement. The call was tight … but also the right one, and it was enough to send the Spurs. Fans of the city may feel aggrieved, but if this is what VAR is for, then it is being used correctly.
The road does not become easier.
The Spurs' next game is this Saturday, again against Manchester City in Etihad, although this time in the Premier League. The dynamics of this game will be fascinating: the Spurs are very injured and the City will try to prove something, although there is also an argument that this could be the kind of defeat that could derail their campaign for the title.
And after that, the matches are complete and fast, including a two-match series against the "destination team" Ajax for the right to travel to Wanda for the Champions League final. This is an Ajax team that has eliminated both Real Madrid and Juventus from the competition. They are really good, and the Spurs must play the first leg of that series without Son Heung-Min, who got a third yellow against City and will miss the game due to the accumulation of yellow cards.
But at this point, even if the Spurs are defeated by City on Saturday, would anyone doubt that this team could finish in the top four and even win the Champions League? FiveThirtyEight has the Spurs with a chance to throw the coin of the Champions League final, and a 15% chance to win everything. Considering the way he started his group stage campaign, it's amazing. They have come so far with serious problems in the midfield and a despondent squad. There is no reason to think that they can not continue to defy expectations.