- de Ligt (5)
- Ziyech (35)
- Moura (55, 59, 90+6)
Twenty-four hours after Liverpool produced a footballing miracle to thrash Barcelona and reach the Champions League final, Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham went and matched them. Ajax had left north London with a 1-0 lead after the first leg of their semi final eight days earlier, and doubled their advantage through a trademark header from captain Matthijs de Ligt as early as the fifth minute. The visitors had their moments, but their hopes looked gone when Hakim Ziyech put Ajax 3-0 ahead on aggregate with a smart finish past Hugo Lloris late in the first half. Pochettino turned to Fernando Llorente at half-time, and the Spanish forward gave Tottenham a focal point for their quicker attackers to work off. Enter Lucas Moura, who struck twice within five minutes to bring Spurs level on the night with half an hour to go – and once more in the sixth minute of added time to secure a dramatic and emotional victory on away goals. Moura wept with joy, as did his manager and very possibly every Tottenham fan both in the stadium and out.
Ajax set up using a 4-2-3-1 structure, with Dusan Tadic attacking from the left and Kasper Dolberg as the central striker. This initially gave them more width in possession, as Tadic attacked around the sides of Tottenham right-back Kieran Trippier, with Donny van de Beek supporting from the number 10 role. Their threat out wide led to an early corner from which Matthijs de Ligt headed the opening goal of the evening.
The hosts’ 4-2-3-1 often turned into a 4-3-3 when defending, as Lasse Schone pressed higher on to Tottenham’s ever-deepening double pivot. This put more pressure on the visitors’ shorter build, but didn’t necessary help the hosts regain the ball high. If anything, it gave more room in front of their back line for the likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli to rotate, drift and receive more passes between the lines. As Spurs enjoyed a significant spell on the ball, Schone subsequently held his ground in a reformed 4-2-3-1.
Dolberg moved away from Tottenham’s central defenders, to bounce and link play around the Spurs double pivot. With van de Beek still supporting Tadic on the left, Hakim Ziyech would move inside from the right to attack in central areas. This maintained an overload around Tottenham’s deeper midfielders, yet still allowed for dangerous combinations from the left – it was from one such move that Ziyech fired a superb shot past Hugo Lloris to double Ajax’s lead on the night and give them a seemingly invincible three-goal cushion in the tie heading into the break.
As Tottenham utilised more crossing in the second half, Ajax’s defensive block deepened once more, prioritising numbers inside the penalty area over higher pressure on to the ball. With Christian Eriksen now playing deeper in place of the withdrawn Victor Wanyama, Spurs had even more control during their build; higher pressing only left more gaps for their front line to exploit. The visitors pulled one back from a counter-attack after Ajax committed too many players forward at an attacking set-piece and then failed to condense around the second ball.
Goalscorer Lucas Moura grabbed a second moments later, as Tottenham’s patient build penetrated around Ajax’s incredibly narrow block. Trippier’s early cross found Fernando Llorente; despite Andre Onana’s superb stop, Moura somehow avoided the mass of bodies to squeeze home his second.
By now, Ajax’s intricate combinations between Tottenham’s full-backs and central midfielders had totally vanished, as they instead searched for more direct passes in behind the visitors’ higher back line – not just to create chances, but also to relieve the increasing pressure.
Tadic eventually moved into the centre of the attack, where his movement helped drag Tottenham’s centre-backs apart. Frenkie de Jong also started to drive forward for the first time in the match, into the space created by Spurs committing more numbers in and around target man Llorente, while Ziyech hit the post after a well-worked break with less than 15 minutes remaining. It was not to be, however, as the hosts succumbed to intense Tottenham pressure in the sixth minute of added time.
Ajax set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation but created most of their chances down their left flank, where they overloaded around Kieran Trippier and Moussa Sissoko. Alternate movements to combine and bounce behind the visitors’ midfield allowed the likes of Dusan Tadic and Donny van de Beek to receive in dangerous areas.
The hosts initially pressed higher in a 4-3-3, with Lasse Schone moving forward on to Tottenham's double pivot. As Spurs’ possession grew, however, Ajax converted into a deeper mid-block and reverted to the 4-2-3-1 structure pictured here.
Tadic’s move to central striker in the second half helped split Tottenham’s centre-backs. This linked nicely with Frenkie de Jong having more room to drive forward, as Spurs committed more central bodies in attack.
Tottenham set up in a 4-2-3-1 shape, with full-backs Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier providing the attacking width around a very deep double pivot of Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama. This gave more room for Christian Eriksen to link with Son Heung-min and Dele Alli around centre-forward Lucas Moura.
The visitors moved into a 4-4-1-1 structure when defending. Son and Eriksen filled the wider midfield roles, while Alli shadowed Frenkie de Jong in the central lane and Moura blocked access from Ajax’s centre-backs.
Ajax narrowed to deal with substitute Fernando Llorente’s aerial presence in the second half, as Rose and Trippier again found space to overlap out wide. This moved Son and Moura further inside, from where the latter was able to win the tie for Tottenham.
Mauricio Pochettino set his Tottenham team up in a 4-2-3-1 structure, with their early attacking width created by full-backs Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier. Moussa Sissoko dropped into the back line to cover his full-backs’ advances, while Son Heung-min moved inside from the right to join Lucas Moura behind Ajax’s double pivot.
After going behind early, the visitors enjoyed a period of possession to stem the pressure. Christian Eriksen operated as a central number 10, with Dele Alli and Son supporting around the sides of Moura. The double pivot of Sissoko and Victor Wanyama moved deeper to draw out Lasse Schone and Donny van de Beek, affording Eriksen more central space with only Frenkie de Jong to mark him. With Alli and Son providing forward runs to support Moura, Spurs always had players attacking between Ajax’s centre-backs and full-backs.
During Ajax’s longer spells of possession, Tottenham managed the hosts’ rotations well. They formed a 4-4-1-1 defensive block, with Son and Eriksen filling the wider midfield roles. Alli was responsible for shadowing de Jong, with Moura pressing on to Ajax’s centre-backs. Their only real defensive issues came from Ajax’s persistent overloads in the left inside channel, with Tadic and van de Beek combining well between Trippier and Sissoko.
As the hosts pushed more players inside from their right side, however, spaces opened up for Rose to assist the transition into attack on the Tottenham left. Spurs enjoyed a number of moments on this flank, with both Eriksen and Son having good opportunities to level on the evening – although neither could really trouble Andre Onana in the Ajax goal. Despite looking the more controlled of the two teams, the visitors conceded a second when Ziyech drifted inside from the right to finish a move that had started with Trippier ceding possession to Tadic on the Ajax left.
Fernando Llorente was introduced for Wanyama at half-time, and he immediately gave Tottenham a much needed physical presence against Ajax’s central defenders. Eriksen moved deeper alongside Sissoko, while Son in particular took up a wider role on the left that allowed Rose to make frequent progress within the inside channel. Along with Trippier on the right, Tottenham now had three crossing options into Llorente – but with Ajax naturally drawn to the big Spaniard, runs away from the ball made by Moura and Alli added to Tottenham’s threat. Eriksen’s delicious ball into Alli was a sign that Tottenham were getting close to a goal, and within moments Moura had run on to Alli’s ball to slide home his first.
Spurs’ rotations within their front line were starting to look beautifully choreographed, with Son now joining Alli, Moura and Llorente in attacking the width of the penalty area. This deepened Ajax’s block even further, with Trippier and Rose advancing higher and higher in wide areas. Trippier’s first-time cross should have been converted by Llorente, but Moura was again on hand to convert a remarkable rebound and level the scores on the night.
With Tottenham now pushing numbers forward around Llorente, Ajax reacted well. De Jong was able to influence things more from a less congested midfield, with Ziyech and substitute Daley Sinkgraven pinning Trippier and Rose further back in wide areas. Spurs were not done, however, and in truly remarkable fashion Moura grabbed his hat-trick in the sixth and final minute of added time. Tottenham, against all the odds, were in the Champions League final.