Ninety minutes of being a Tottenham Hotspur fan in the Champions League quarter final
Being a Tottenham fan is never easy at the best of times. Having your hopes built up, only to be deflated, usually in the cruellest of circumstances is something that every Tottenham fan has become hardened to over the years. Despite earning a well deserved 1-0 lead in the first leg of the Champions League quarter final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, eight days previous, it was still going to take a momentous effort to beat an excellent Manchester City team on their home ground and progress to a mouth watering semi-final against this season's surprise package, Ajax.
Spurs fans across the globe dared to believe that they could triumph but at the same time, the trepidation was there that City could potentially blitz their way through the tie due to the exceptional firepower they possessed. The game failed to disappoint, being labelled by many as the best Champions League game of all time. For Tottenham fans, this game was a rollercoaster of emotions which was mentally very difficult to watch. Below is an account of how the action unfolded.
Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Sterling 4)
After an even start, City scored with their first meaningful attack. We expect an onslaught but the early goal was every Tottenham fan's worst nightmare. Tottenham teams of old would have buckled at this point and caved in to an emphatic defeat. The belief in this squad of players and indeed, the management is different. They never know when to give up although even I wasn't expect the reply to be so swift.
Manchester City 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Son 7)
Just as I was digesting the City goal and coming to terms that it was going to be a very long evening, the unthinkable happened, we got the away goal which was always going to be so precious. Although the City defence didn't cover themself with glory, Son somehow managed to get the ball past a suspect Ederson, with the keeper only being able to help the ball into the roof of the net.
I was off the sofa, jumping up and down, shouting as if I were one of the lucky band of supporters who had made the trip to the Ethiad stadium. My neighbours must have been wondering what on earth was going on.
In my mind we were half way there, City now had to score two more goals to progress, but a key factor for me was the game could now not go to extra time and penalties.
Manchester City 1-2 Tottenham (Son 10)
If one away goal seemed perfect, two would put us in dreamland and against almost any other team, would make us strong favourites to progress. It was that man Son once again who curled a beautiful shot past the helpless Ederson and into the top corner and once again I was jumping and shouting for joy.
This time more out of disbelief with the realisation that we might actually be on the verge of knocking out a City side who were heavily odds on favourites to progress to the semi-final. I kept telling myself it was now key to manage the game and to try and get through to half time with no further scares. Little did I know that this subliminal message to the team would fall on deaf ears in double-quick time.
Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham (Bernardo Silva 11)
Tottenham, oh Tottenham, why do you do this to us? The celebrations had barely died down and City were level again on the night. Bernardo Silva found himself in acres of space on the right and although Danny Rose got half a block on his shot, this deflection was enough to wrong foot Hugo Lloris who could only watch the ball trickle past his outstretched leg and roll into the net.
A minute before, City were on their knees but this goal gave them renewed hope and the doubts started to creep in to my head again. City still needed to score two goals to progress but they had virtually the entire game to do so.
Manchester City 3-2 Tottenham (Sterling 21)
The crazy opening to this game continued with a fifth goal before the half hour. Again questionable marking by Trippier gave Sterling all the time in the world to shoot into an unguarded net to put City into such a strong position. I don't think I would have been alone to have started fearing the worst at this stage.
Ten minutes ago we were in a fabulous position but this excellent City side had the quality to turn things around and it didn't look as if they were finished yet. As things stood, Tottenham would still qualify on the away goals rule but City now only needed one more and they had over an hour to find it.
Manchester City 4-2 Tottenham (Aguero 59)
Relived that we had managed to make it to half time with no further damage to the score, I was still concerned that we wouldn't be able to keep City out for another 45 minutes. A forced change in tactics which saw the influential Sissoko suffer what seemed like a groin injury replaced by striker Llorente didn't stop the City onslaught.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were brutal. Wave after wave of City attacks eventually brought the decisive fourth goal. The Etihad was bouncing and City were in front for the first time in the tie. Personally I thought we were out. I slumped into my seat, contemplating another glorious exit from a competition and how fans of other teams would be reacting on social media to our demise.
Manchester City 4-3 Tottenham (Llorente)
We were 17 minutes from exiting the tournament. Apart from a few sorties into the City half, a comeback was not looking likely. Thankfully, out of the blue an inswinging corner hit Fernando Llorrente on the hip and found its way into the net. Once again I was out of my seat, shouting at the TV and renewed optimism was suddenly there again.
That was not the end of the drama however, and it soon became apparent that the goal was under review from VAR for a potential handball. I couldn't believe it. Was this the moment that all my hope was going to be eroded away by some guy behind a TV screen?
Replays were continuously shown, in my opinion there was no doubt the goal should have stood. Yes, it may have brushed his arm but it certainly didn't contribute to the act of putting the ball into the net.
After what seemed like an eternity, the referee decided to go and check the monitors himself. My heart sank as in my experience of VAR, once the referee has checked himself, the majority of times the decision is reversed. Thankfully, our friend from Turkey shared my opinion and the goal stood. We were now a quarter of an hour plus stoppage time away from a monumental achievement.
Once more City through everything at us and when the board went up to show five minutes of time to be added, I was quietly relieved as it seemed that they had only added on a minute for the VAR review. I was impressed with how we were coping with attack after attack but it was frustrating that we kept giving the ball back to City for another go.
One such occasion saw City break in the 93rd minute with Aguero squaring the ball to Sterling to fire home for his hat-trick. City were jubilant. Spurs were desolate. I slumped back into my chair, disbelieving of what I had just seen, contemplating throwing my phone across the room in sheer frustration. I was gutted but then given a glimmer of hope. VAR were checking the goal for a potential offside.
The pictures were conclusive, Aguero was half a yard offside, I was screaming at the TV for the goal to be disallowed. There could be no other outcome. When the referee made his square signal to indicate he was reversing the decision and disallowing the goal, it gave me a feeling that I've never felt before.
From sheer dejection to relief and elation, all within 30 seconds was amazing. Although I never want to go through that massive emotion change again, I'm certainly glad I experienced it on this occasion.
Whilst obviously elated that we had made the first Champions League semi-final in my lifetime, my first though was one of relief and pride. We had been battered for 90 minutes by one of Europe's top sides and matched them all the way.
We had the belief to come back from an early goal and the strength to turn it around from 4-2 when most people, including me thought our race was run. This was the longest, most painful football match I can ever recall watching.
The stress levels were immense, the highs were glorious and the lows...., well that is what being a Spurs supporter is all about. It's what keeps us all coming back for more of this beautiful, yet cruel game.
Bring on the Ajax!!