Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
- Mauricio Pochettino sobbed uncontrollably after watching his team, Tottenham Hotspur, come back from the brink of defeat to beat Ajax in the UEFA Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
- Lucas Moura’s hat-trick cancelled out Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech’s two first half goals, and sends Spurs through to the final next month.
- Pochettino, fighting back tears and speaking with a voice that was failing him, thanked his family on the BT Sport broadcast after the match.
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Mauricio Pochettino broke down in tears and said "thank you football" after watching Tottenham Hotspur valiantly come back from the brink of defeat to eliminate Ajax in the dying moments of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semi-final in Amsterdam.
Tottenham, already 1-0 down from the fixture’s first leg last week, needed to score at least once to give themselves a shot at reaching the tournament final on June 1 in Madrid.
But Ajax struck a morale-sapping blow in the fifth minute when the team’s golden boy Matthijs de Ligt converted his header from Lasse Schone’s corner, before Hakim Ziyech scored a second in the 35th minute to send Ajax 3-0 up on aggregate.
The Dutch team could sense glory, but just like Tuesday’s miracle four-goal comeback in England, when Liverpool battered FC Barcelona 4-0 (4-3 on aggregate), Spurs rallied after half-time.
They said they wouldn’t be able to look themselves in the mirror if they went on to lose without fighting hard, and recalled Pochettino’s own words before the game — to simply remember what Liverpool did the night before, to think about what is possible, and know they can do the same.
Spurs embarked on their own improbable, but monumentous comeback as Lucas Moura scored not once, not twice, but thrice — bang, bang, bang — the last in the 96th minute, a last-gasp heroic winner. And nobody was more overcome with emotion than Pochettino, who collapsed on the pitch and sobbed uncontrollably.
Speaking through tears to BT Sport after the game, he said it was "still difficult to talk."
He said: "Thank you, football, thank you, these guys, my players … they are heroes. In the last year, I am telling everyone that I have a group of players who are heroes. Second half was amazing. Thank you, thank you, football. This type of emotion, without football, it is impossible to live. Thank you for the people that believe. It’s fantastic, but difficult to describe with words how we are feeling now."
Photo by Simon Hofmann – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images
"We were talking before the game that when you work and you when you feel the love, it is not a stress, it is a passion. The emotions we showed together is the passion. This is football. I am so grateful to be a coach.
"All heroes, but Moura … he’s a superhero."
Breaking down into tears once again, Pochettino, now speaking with a voice that was failing him, said: "I want to remember [to thank] my family, it’s for them, too. It’s amazing to reward them."
The midfielder Christian Eriksen added that it was a "ridiculous game" because Spurs were "really far down" and in the end "were just lucky."
The team will be hoping to ride that luck for one more European game, when it takes on Liverpool in an all-English final next month.
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