Ajax 2-3 Tottenham is part of 90min's 20 Greatest Matches of the Decade series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.


​So...where to start? Maybe a bit of context? Yeah, I think we'd all appreciate it. Anything involving Tottenham usually needs to be explained at length. As a football club, they don't make any sense.


Ajax had emerged as one of the best teams in Europe during the 2018/19 season, providing some entertaining displays in the Eredivisie, which they would eventually win, and showed they weren't in the Champions League to make up the numbers with a few classic encounters with Bayern Munich in the group stage.


They stunned Real Madrid in the last 16, winning 5-3 on aggregate following a smashing 4-1 triumph at the Bernabeu, before producing a smash and grab performance Juventus would be proud of in the quarter finals against...Juventus.

Andre Onana,Daley Blind,Dani De Wit,Donny Van De Beek

Tottenham, by quite a stark contrast, performed weirdly in 2018/19. After a strong first half of the campaign, the wheels quickly fell off domestically, the squad was crippled by injuries and looked knackered. 


So when the two teams were paired up in the Champions League semi finals, the Dutch side were favourites. And the gap in quality was clear for all to see in the first leg in north London.


Ajax's midfield three of Frenkie de Jong, Lasse Schone and Donny van de Beek made their Tottenham counterparts - Victor Wanyama, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen - look like amateurs in what was a horrifically lopsided opening 35 minutes, the visitors scoring a crucial away goal when Van de Beek was given the freedom of Enfield to fire past Hugo Lloris.


Spurs eventually began to assert themselves with the introduction of Moussa Sissoko, but they couldn't bring themselves level and knew only a win in Amsterdam would do.


As you can probably remember, things didn't start off too well for Spurs.

Matthijs de Ligt

Matthijs de Ligt, Ajax's man-child captain, charged away from Kieran Trippier, who was inexplicably marking the home side's biggest aerial threat, to rise higher than Dele Alli and glance his header into the far corner, past Lloris.


Barely five minutes in, and it seems like it's game over already.


Tottenham start to show their teeth a little more, Son Heung-min - so often their hero during the UCL campaign - getting in down the left before sending a shot from an acute angle against the post. Half chances that need to go in for Spurs aren't going in.


35 minutes in, Hakim Ziyech walks on to a Dusan Tadic lay-off and smacks a shot past Lloris in glorious fashion.

Hakim Ziyech

That truly is game over. 


There's no conceivable version of events after that goal that could allow Tottenham to progress ahead of their Dutch opponents. Frankly, it would be undeserved.


But the 2018/19 Champions League wasn't particularly sober. As Tottenham fans can attest to, most of their results looked like they had been plucked out of the air by some wino sat outside a Spoons at three in the morning.


A 1-1 draw at Camp Nou while relying on Inter to slip up against PSV Eindhoven? Weird.


Thumping Borussia Dortmund 3-0 at Wembley before sealing a 4-0 aggregate victory in Germany? Odd.


Reaching the semi finals after all kinds of drama at the Etihad? Freaky.

FBL-EUR-C1-AJAX-TOTTENHAM

So perhaps we shouldn't have been so surprised at what unfolded in the second half at the Johan Cruyff Arena.


In the midst of the ridiculousness of the drama, people forget how good the goals Tottenham scored on that fateful night really were.


The comeback started with, of all people, Danny Rose in the 55th minute.


The left back hilariously mugged off De Ligt with a cheeky nutmeg, before sending a long ball out down the middle of the pitch, where Lucas Moura had drifted in from the right to prod on to Dele Alli. The midfielder, probably knowing he couldn't beat the retreating De Jong for pure pace, looked to chop infield, where his touch fell perfectly for the onrushing Moura.


He skips past challenges from Schone and De Jong, sending his shot past Andre Onana's outstretched left hand.


That's one back. Two more to go.

Lucas Moura

Just four minutes pass before Spurs are in again.


Rose fires a pass into Son on the edge of the box, with Kieran Trippier in acres of space down the right. Son finds him and the defender's cross is perfect for Fernando Llorente. But, in typical Fernando Llorente fashion, the Spaniard has his would-be-tap-in incredibly saved by Onana.


Again, it seemed like a do or die moment. It needed to go in for there to be any chance of Tottenham progressing.


But, barely seconds later, Ajax's wobbled rearguard decided to give Spurs one helluva juicy present.


Onana dives to gather the ball from Llorente's shot, only for Schone to intervene. The ball squirms free, and what Lucas Moura produces under extreme pressure is somewhat extraordinary.


The former Paris Saint-Germain attacker keeps the ball so close to his feet during the ensuing chaos in the penalty box, as if it were tied to a piece of string, wriggling away from challenges before shooting through De Jong's legs and past a despairing De Ligt on the line.

Lucas Moura,Fernando Llorente

Two back. Tottenham level on the night, behind on aggregate, yet knowing another goal could send them to the final. 


For the first time in the tie, there's some genuine belief from Spurs fans that their side could actually do the unthinkable, just a day after ​Liverpool produced one of the most iconic Champions League comebacks, coming from three goals down in the first leg to beat ​Barcelona 4-0 at Anfield.


What follows is a bit weird. Understatement, yes, but still accurate.


In the 79th minute, the ball falls for Ziyech on the edge of Tottenham's box, he takes a touch to steady himself before firing towards goal.


Off the post.


About seven minutes later, a Spurs corner is flicked on by Llorente, and falls for Jan Vertonghen. Inside the six yard box. Being the cultured centre back that he is, one suspects that he could take a touch before hammering past Onana. But he doesn't. Instead, he tries to concentrate as much energy into his neck as possible, heading the ball towards goal.


The bar not so much rattles, but shakes quietly, before his follow up is cleared off the line.

UEFA Champions League"Ajax v Tottenham Hotspur FC"

That's it. The 'sink to the floor in a sticky pub, holding your head in your hands' moment. A better chance to write a piece in your club's football history will not come again. It's done.


But even in that moment, you could be nothing but proud, as a fan of Tottenham. They were done and dusted in the group stage. They had seen off a Bundesliga title challenger with ridiculous ease in the last 16. They came back to life again and again at the Etihad in the quarter finals. The group had given everything in pursuit of one goal, and the final chapter in Tottenham's Champions League campaign of 2018/19 seemed to have been written.


And yet, they came...again. But not without a scare down the other end, mind you.


Daley Sinkgraven broke away down the right, teeing up Ziyech, who danced away from Toby Alderweireld before hammering a shot at Lloris, who beats it away before Tadic curls high and wide.


The 95th minute.


Son goes back to Sissoko.


The ball is hoofed up field.


Llorente, grappling with De Ligt, flicks into Alli.


He prods it round the corner to Moura.


Snap-shot.

Lucas Moura

Goal. 


Manager Mauricio Pochettino charges on to the pitch, embraced by Victor Wanyama, Eric Dier, Ben Davies and Jesus Perez. The boss collapses to the floor, in tears, holding his head.


Ajax players are crumpled and left inconsolable, knowing they had a foot in the Champions League final and, in the nicest possible way, blew it.


Play restarts, and eventually Sissoko makes his way to a corner flag.


The full-time whistle. Harry Kane's charged on to the pitch. No one can make head or toe of what's just happened.


Lucas Moura, now a Tottenham icon, can't contain his emotion, and neither can Pochettino. A first ever ​Champions League final for ​Tottenham, and probably their last for a long, long time, judging by how things are going at present.


9 May 2019. Better than 24 February 2008. And it's not even close.

Mauricio Pochettino


For more from Jude Summerfield, follow him on Twitter!


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