By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur reached the semi-finals of the Champions League on away goals after a 4-3 (aggregate 4-4) defeat to Manchester City in a breathtaking quarter-final second leg game on Wednesday.
Spurs, who won the first leg 1-0, will play Ajax Amsterdam for a place in the final against Liverpool or Barcelona after one of the most remarkable matches in the competition’s history.
There were four goals in the opening 11 minutes of the game and non-stop action right up until the dramatic finale to an astonishing contest, when City had a stoppage time goal from Raheem Sterling, which would have sent them through, ruled out for offside after a VAR review.
City fans had celebrated what looked like the goal that sent them into the last four before the replay confirmed that Sergio Aguero was offside in the build-up.
It was a perfect example of the benefits of using technology but it was also cruel on Pep Guardiola’s side who had been the stronger over the 90 minutes.
The contest exploded into life in the fourth minute when Sterling put City in front, receiving a ball from Kevin De Bruyne on the left flank and then cutting inside onto his right foot before beating Hugo Lloris with a beautiful, curling shot into the far corner.
Three minutes later though, Spurs drew level when City’s French defender Aymeric Laporte’s attempted clearance fell straight at the feet of Son Heung-min whose low shot flew in off the leg of City keeper Ederson.
Laporte was also at fault for Spurs’ second in the 10th minute when he gifted the ball to Lucas Moura, the Brazilian feeding Christian Eriksen who found Son, the South Korean finishing superbly into the far corner.
City responded immediately, however, as Aguero fed Bernardo Silva and the Portuguese winger’s left-foot shot deflected off Danny Rose and beat the wrong-footed Lloris to make it 2-2 on the night.
The dangerous Sterling struck again in the 21st minute to level the aggregate score, ghosting in at the back post to convert a low cross from De Bruyne that had zipped across the face of the goal.
A thundering strike from Aguero in the 59th minute put City in the driving seat again — the Argentine blasting in at Lloris’s near post after a magnificent burst forward and perfectly weighted pass from De Bruyne.
City were stunned though in the 73rd minute when Spurs substitute Fernando Llorente bundled in a Kieran Trippier corner to restore the London club’s advantage through away goals.
With officials unsure if the ball had bounced off the Spaniard’s hand or rolled off his hip in the goalmouth scramble, VAR was called into action and the goal stood for Spurs.
Then came the stoppage time video torture for the home support — Aguero burst down the right flank and delivered a low cross for Sterling to slot home what would have been his hat-trick goal.
The VAR call was correct and the Premier League champions were out — to the delight of Mauricio Pochettino and his players who celebrated wildly in front of the travelling Spurs support.
Tottenham reach the last four in Europe’s premier competition for the first time since the introduction of the Champions League format.
The London club reached the semi-final of the European Cup in 1962, losing to eventual winners Benfica.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)