8th May 2019. The day any Spurs fan will never forget.
The scene was the Amsterdam Arena, Tottenham were trailing Ajax 2-0 at half-time, having already lost the first leg of the Champions League Semi-final 1-0 at Tottenham. Surely another missed opportunity for Spurs?
Tottenham were notably without Harry Kane so being 3-0 down (Agg) with 45 minutes to go away from home, against an Ajax side who'd beat both Juventus and Real Madrid, a comeback didn't seem likely.
Tottenham came out in the second half like a team on a mission, a team that believed when no one else did. One man stands out amongst the rest- Lucas Moura.
Lucas scored in both the 55th and 59th minutes, meaning that Spurs had half an hour to get that elusive goal that would send us to the Champions League final.
5 minutes were added onto the 90, with 10 seconds left. Spurs were heading home...
94:54-Moussa Sissoko punts the ball into Fernando Llorente
94:58– Llorente touches the ball into the feet of Dele Alli
94:59– Dele without looking flicks the ball into the box and the direction of Lucas Moura
Here’s Dele Alli, here’s Lucas Moursa, OHHHHH AND HE’S DONE ITDarren Fletcher- BT Sport commentator
Spurs were in the Champions League final, and despite not winning the final, the manner of that comeback made us (temporarily) feel like Champions of Europe.
I've since visited the Amsterdam Arena and the Ajax supporters were happy for Spurs - a club Ajax have shared a special relationship with since the '70s. The Amsterdam Arena is the scene of my favourite sporting memory and it'll take a lot to change that.
Thank you Lucas. Thank you Poch.
There aren’t enough words on this planet I can use to describe how this sporting memory makes me feel. Everything about watching that freekick fly into the top right corner was pure ecstasy.
I was around 6 hours away from heading to Manchester Airport with a few of my mates from school, watching perhaps the biggest game in England’s recent history as we took on Croatia in the 2018 World Cup Semi-Final. What do you know, England get a free-kick within the first 5 minutes of the game, and with no Trent at this tournament only one man steps up to take it: Kieran Trippier.
I wasn’t expecting much of it, maybe a light shot just to test the keeper early on, but he went on to defy expectation, as the ball curled elegantly around the wall, placing it so top bins that some may Subasic is still picking it out to this day. I’m screaming and running around my living room, tears balling up as I envision England making it to a World Cup Final.
And then Perisic equalises in the 68’ minute.
As we approach extra time I just keep thinking “Oh god, not another penalty shoot-out”. But Mandzukic gives me a helping hand, as he squeezes it past Pickford in the 109’.
Those 120 minutes are perhaps my happiest, and saddest, as an England fan.
It was a hot, July evening in 2018. By the round-of-16, us boys had our routine worked out: bus back from college, get changed, head to 'Digsy’s' for a quick game of heads and volleys and some cans before kick-off. The waistcoated man-of-the-moment, Gareth Southgate, had picked his strongest team pretty much (cough, cough, Jesse Lingard), and bar a little blip against Belgium (we lost on purpose to get the easy draw, obviously), confidence was high as we settled down around the TV. After all, it was only Colombia; how hard could it be?
The game itself was tense and scrappy, but England always looked likely. The high tempers on the pitch in Moscow seeped back to West Yorkshire, and things only escalated when William Barrios got away with a head-butt on Henderson. Colombia kept kicking away at England players throughout the match, and as England missed chance after chance, we started to get frustrated. Eventually, in the 57th minute, England were finally given yet another penalty from yet another set-piece. Harry Kane stepped up… beautiful. Lots of shouting, Desperados spilling, Snapchat stories being filmed.
The jubilation was short lived. As the game wore on, Colombia’s chances grew more frequent. Over the tournament we’d grown a habit of shouting “J PICK!” and “DISTRIBUTION!” whenever Jordan Pickford touched the ball, and these cries were becoming increasingly common and increasingly desperate. The culmination of this was in the 92nd minute, when Mateus Uribe let fly with a volley from 35 yards, and Pickford flung himself towards the top left corner, getting an impossible fingertip to the ball, tipping it round the post, surely winning the game. Just a corner to see out.
But no, Yerry Mina had other plans. A simple inswinger, Mina rose highest and headed it down, and Trippier couldn’t reach it on the goalline. 1-1.
After such a high, this was a real low. We knew it was extra-time to come, and if it got past that we might as well give up.
Extra-time came and went without any of us moving from the edge of our seats, and slowly it dawned on us that penalties were inevitable. We were all too young to remember Euro ‘96, and 2006’s penalty induced heartbreak was only a vague memory, but from a young age every England fan is conditioned to shiver at the mention of a penalty shootout. Kane and Rashford fired home assuredly to keep England level after two penalties, but when Ospina saved from Jordan Henderson all hope seemed lost. But after a Colombia miss and Trippier finding the top corner, we were level again, and just maybe in with a chance. Carlos Bacca tried to go down the middle with Colombia’s final penalty, and once again Jordan Pickford was England’s saviour.
Now, score and we’re in our first World Cup quarter-final since 2006. Who’s your man? Erm… Eric Dier. We couldn’t watch. One of us literally left the room. But with the weight of the nation on his shoulders, Big Eric strode up and slotted it home. We jumped around the sitting room, hugging, knocking over furniture, exhausted.
As we walked back home in the warm night, cars beeped their horns at us, pubs overflowed, and we looked at who we’d get in the next rounds. Sweden in the quarters, then, if we’re lucky, Croatia in the semis, and the final’s anyone’s game. Just maybe, football might be coming home.