Spurs Opinion: Dele Alli was one of the architects of the remarkable comeback at Ajax alongside star man Lucas Moura
It was incredible scenes at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam on Wednesday night, as Spurs produced a miraculous comeback to stun Ajax 3-2 in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals to progress to the finals on the virtue of away goals rule.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side set up an all-English showdown with Liverpool in the final scheduled to be held at the Wanda Metropolitano on the 1st of June.
Tottenham’s remarkable comeback sparked by Lucas Moura’s second-half hat-trick ensured that the Champions League final was going to be contested between two English teams for the first time since 2007-08 when Man United beat Chelsea on penalties in the finals at Moscow to lift the cup.
Spurs needed to be at their best to give themselves a chance of halting Ajax’s fairytale run in the Champions League and it was always going to be an uphill task for them to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.
Away from home in front of a hostile crowd at the Amsterdam Arena and without the services of Harry Kane, Spurs faced an overly tough challenge, which was made a near-impossible one by first-half goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech.
The Lilywhites looked rattled against an energetic and hungry Ajax side, who showed plenty of desire and determination to press their opposition off the ball. Kieran Trippier’s nightmarish outing at the back allowed the home side plenty of joy and the tie looked all but sealed even before half-time, with Ajax leading 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate.
However, things took a complete U-turn in the second half. Spurs managed to pull their socks up and came out with a point to prove, showing more intent and purpose in the first 15 minutes after the interval to bring the tie back to life.
Lucas Moura’s quickfire brace in a space of just three minutes prior to the hour mark allowed Spurs to draw level on the night, though Ajax still had a 3-2 lead on aggregate.
Hakim Ziyech had multiple opportunities to put the tie to bed but the Moroccan hit the post once and fired his shot agonisingly wide on another occasion, while Hugo Lloris produced a sharp save to keep out his third attempt.
As the game wore on, it looked as if Ajax were going to make it to the finals, despite Spurs putting up a brave fight, but Moura completed his hat-trick in the 96th minute to put his name down in the history books of the competition.
The Brazilian’s stoppage-time heroics should endear him to the hearts of the fans at north London and few can deny that he has been a key contributor for Spurs with his goals and assists.
Well, it was Moura, who was the undisputed star in Spurs’ remarkable comeback, but in all honesty, Spurs stepped their game up as a team in the second half and managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
While Moura was the star of the show, Dele Alli’s contribution throughout the game should also be recognised, as the Englishman was not only the provider on two occasions but he was arguably Spurs’ most influential presence in the midfield alongside Eriksen.
Going back to the first half, Alli created a gilt-edged chance for Heung-min Son with a delightful pass, only for the Korean to fire his shot straight at the goalkeeper. Alli himself should have scored in the first half when Eriksen played him into a great position but he scuffed his finish and the chance went begging.
In the second half, prior to Lucas Moura’s goals before the hour mark, it was Alli, who had the first real chance to get Spurs back into the game. Eriksen once again played him in behind the backline but Alli’s effort was kept out by a fine save from Andre Onana.
Alli, though, finally made amends to set up Moura’s first goal when he danced his way through the defenders to lay the ball in the Brazilian’s path. And he also bagged the assist for Moura’s injury-time winner, setting the Brazilian up with a slick pass after Llorente had flicked it on.
The 23-year-old registered a total of 29 passes at an accuracy percentage of 76.3, including 2 assists, 2 dribbles and 4 key passes, while winning 7 out of 21 duels on the night. Defensively, he was no slouch either, registering 2 key tackles. He did miss a chance in the first half, but barring that, he was absolutely phenomenal.
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Spurs next play host to Everton in the final match week of the Premier League on Sunday and Mauricio Pochettino’s side will head into the game high on confidence after this remarkable performance.
[Image] Lucas Moura to lead the line? – Predicted 4-2-3-1 Tottenham XI to face Liverpool in the Champions League final
Tottenham vs Liverpool Predictions: Tottenham Line-up
Tottenham take on Liverpool in the Champions League final in Madrid, as the north Londoners look to lift their first-ever European trophy at the weekend.
Spurs were 3-0 down on aggregate with just 40 minutes to go in their second leg against Ajax, before Lucas Moura silenced Amsterdam with a fantastic hat-trick. They have knocked out some genuine heavyweights on the road to Madrid and Mauricio Pochettino will aim for glory on Saturday.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have enjoyed the edge over Tottenham in the Premier League this season and for that reason go into the game as favourites.
Harry Kane, Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen have all joined in the training session as they progress with their rehabilitation.
Harry Winks has undergone groin surgery and remains doubtful for the Champions League final.
Probable Tottenham XI
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Hugo Lloris (GK)
Lloris’ form has fluctuated throughout the season but he’ll be aiming to finish the campaign with the Champions League trophy.
Kieran Trippier (RB)
Trippier has had a poor season according to his standards. Yet, he’ll be preferred ahead of Aurier at right-back.
Toby Alderweireld (CB)
One of the best centre-backs in the Premier League, Alderweireld will have to be at his best to keep the Liverpool attackers at bay.
Jan Vertonghen (CB)
Vertonghen has been a rock at the back for Spurs over the last few years and he’ll aim to contain the Reds on Saturday.
Danny Rose (LB)
Rose has been Spurs’ first-choice left-back since the second half of the season. He’ll keep his place in the team.
Victor Wanyama (CM)
Wanyama has struggled since returning from injury but with Spurs needing steel and aggressiveness in the middle of the park, the Kenyan could be handed a start in the Champions League final.
Moussa Sissoko (CM)
Sissoko offers the energy, drive and power from midfield and is expected to partner Wanyama in central midfield.
Christian Eriksen (RW)
Eriksen has blown hot and cold this season. Regardless of his form, the Dane is one of the most important players for Pochettino.
Dele Alli (CAM)
Alli will have a very important role to play on Saturday. His ability to link up play between the midfield and attack could determine Spurs’ fate.
Son Heung-min (LW)
Among the club’s best players this season, Son has to keep his place if Spurs are to have a chance of winning the Champions League.
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Lucas Moura (ST)
Even if Kane is deemed fit for the final, Pochettino will go with Lucas up front. The Brazilian single-handedly helped Spurs beat Ajax in the semi-finals and could wreak havoc against Liverpool as well.
[Image] Matip to partner Van Dijk? – Predicted 4-3-3 Liverpool XI to face Tottenham in the Champions League final
Liverpool vs Tottenham Predictions: Liverpool Line-up
The Champions League final will be an all-English affair for the first time in over a decade when Liverpool take on Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on June 1.
The Reds reached the Champions League final last season but ended up losing 3-1 to Real Madrid in the showpiece as they failed to win any silverware. They will be favourites to win the final after finishing second in the Premier League and beating Tottenham twice this season.
Tottenham, who have never won the European Cup or Champions League before, will be aiming to do the unthinkable next month.
Naby Keita looks set to miss out on the Champions League final, there is hope Roberto Firmino will be available.
Probable Liverpool XI
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Alisson is the Reds’ first-choice keeper and should be in goal against Tottenham.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB)
The youngster has enjoyed an excellent 2018/19 season. He will be hoping to end it on a strong note at the weekend.
Joel Matip (CB)
The Cameroonian has been a rock in the past couple of months and deserves to keep his place in the team.
Virgil van Dijk (CB)
A colossus at the back, Van Dijk is an irreplaceable cog in the team and is certain to start in the Champions League final.
Andy Robertson (LB)
Arguably the best left-back in England this season, Robertson will be a big threat down the left flank. He is expected to be a part of Liverpool’s backline.
The Brazilian has settled in well after a tough start to life in England and he should start in the biggest game of the season.
Jordan Henderson (RCM)
Henderson was fantastic against Liverpool and he deserves to keep his place in the team.
Georginio Wijnaldum (LCM)
Wijnaldum played a pivotal role in beat Barcelona and guiding the Reds to the final of the competition. The Dutchman will complete Klopp’s midfield trio.
Mohamed Salah (RW)
The Egyptian will be eager to make a mark in Madrid and help Liverpool win their sixth Champions League trophy.
Sadio Mane (LW)
The Senegalese international has already proved his ability to make an impact this season. On his day, he is unstoppable and Liverpool fans will hope that day is on June 1.
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Roberto Firmino (ST)
Firmino isn’t yet 100% fit but there is hope the Brazilian will be ready ahead of the game. His presence in the team is crucial as Klopp looks to win his first trophy as a Liverpool manager.
Poch’s change in tactics, Dele Alli’s brilliance and more: A tactical run-down of Tottenham’s incredible 3-2 win vs Ajax
UEFA Champions League Post Match Analysis: Ajax 2-3 Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur stunned Ajax 3-2 at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam in the second leg of UEFA Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday night, as Mauricio Pochettino’s side produced a miraculous turnaround away from home to set up an all-England final with Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano on the 1st of June.
It was Liverpool, who defied the odds to stun Barcelona at Anfield last night but Spurs came up with arguably their best ever comeback in European football after being 2-0 down on the night and 3-0 behind on aggregate. Both the team finished with an aggregate scoreline of 3-3 but Spurs progressed to the finals on away goals rule.
Ajax would have felt that they already had a foot on the final when Matthijs de Ligt put them ahead on the night with a towering header just 5 minutes into the game. The hosts looked pumped up in front of a raucous home crowd and did everything to ensure that their fairytale run in the competition continued.
Things got better for Erik Ten Hag’s side when Dusan Tadic set it up brilliantly for Hakim Ziyech to make it 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate midway through the first half. It was all going wrong for Spurs and Ajax were by far the better side in the first forty-five minutes, though the Premier League giants also had a few opportunities of their own.
Trailing 3-0 on aggregate, Tottenham needed nothing short of a miracle to turn things around in the second half and the job looked all the more difficult in the absence of their talismanic striker Harry Kane, who watched on from the sidelines.
Lucas Moura, however, had other ideas, and the Brazilian rose to the occasion to complete a hat-trick in the second half, breaking Ajax’s hearts and setting up a final showdown with Liverpool. It wasn’t only Moura, who put the foot on the accelerator in the second half, but Spurs as a team were absolutely unstoppable, as they sparked off wild celebration amongst the handful of travelling fans from north London.
Although both the teams produced some nail-biting end-to-end stuff on the night, it was a tactical seesaw battle between two world-class managers split into two halves. Let us get a deeper insight into how things went by at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Wednesday night.
1. Pochettino’s change of tactics from the first leg defeat
Pochettino came under the spotlight for his questionable tactics in the 1-0 home defeat to Ajax in the first leg. As opposed to the first leg where Spurs went in with a back-three system with two wing-backs, Pochettino was well aware of Ajax’s extravagant pressing in the midfield and he fielded a back four with a midfield diamond this time around.
Spurs had the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Victor Wanyama, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen in their midfield four but they weren’t able to deal with Ajax’s high press, as the home side showed more desire and determination to press their opposition off the ball. Donny van de Beek and Lasse Schone, in particular, played a very important role for Ajax in the midfield, while, on the other hand, Wanyama looked completely off the pace and visibly lacked the sharpness to deal with opposition’s energetic and aggressive approach.
Ajax won the midfield battle in the first half and as a result of that, they created more clear-cut chances. Spurs, on the other hand, were a bit all over the place, and although the likes of Heuing-min Son, Lucas Moura, Eriksen and Alli all had chances to get shots away on goal, they lacked the clinical edge in their attack.
2. Trippier’s defensive horror show
Kieran Trippier has made the headlines for some high-profile uncharacteristic defensive errors this season and his poor run of form continued. The right-back single-handedly gifted Ajax the opener, as he lost track of de Ligt inside the box and allowed him to head it home off a corner.
Things got bad to worse for Trippier as the game wore on and Dusan Tadic got the better of him numerous times. The England international’s poor positional sense allowed Tadic to run clear through on goal but Spurs survived a scare, as he fired his left-footed shot just wide of Hugo Lloris’s far post.
Trippier, though, didn’t learn from his mistakes and was all over the place in the first half. He was once again caught out of position by Tadic and the Serb raced through the pitch to set up Ziyech for the second goal, though he can share the blame for that with Wanyama, who didn’t make much of an effort to close down the Moroccan.
All in all, it was a defensive horror show from Trippier that led to Spurs’ demise in the first half.
3. Lack of a focal point in Spurs’ attack
Lucas Moura and Son were supposed to play as the two mobile strikers up front with Alli and Eriksen in support but it looked as if neither of the players knew where their actual position was.
Eriksen threaded a lovely through ball for Alli but he scuffed his finish and Son did the same thing when Alli played him into a good position to have a crack on goal. Moura, Son, Alli and Eriksen all had attempts in the first half but Spurs looked a bit disjointed in the final third and they just weren’t able to capitalise on their half-chances.
1. Pochettino’s masterstroke to introduce Fernando Llorente
The lack of a focal point in Spurs’ attack was one of the major reasons behind their undoing and Pochettino responded to the situation by introducing 34-year-old Fernando Llorente. Llorente has scored some crucial goals for the team off the bench but it is his hold-up play, physicality and aerial ability that adds another dimension to Spurs’ attack.
The introduction of Llorente and the consequent withdrawal of Wanyama at half-time meant that the Spaniard was going to operate as the focal point of the attack with Moura and Son playing on either side of him. Alli played as the supporting striker, while Eriksen dropped down to join Sissoko in a more withdrawn role.
The introduction of Llorente reinstated a sense of organisation and discipline in the attack and the Spaniard went on to play a key role without getting his name of the scoresheet. It was his blocked effort from close range that led to the scramble inside the box and Moura’s second goal, while the veteran showed some delightful link-up play to play a pivotal part in the build-up to the Brazilian’s injury-time winner.
Llorente’s presence helped Spurs improve massively in the attacking third, both in terms of cohesion and link-up play, and he once again proved how important a player he can be in the absence of Kane.
2. Dele Alli’s impact and Lucas Moura’s brilliance
Llorente’s introduction certainly had a positive impact and Spurs came out in the second half with a point to prove, even though they had a near-impossible task in front of them. That, however, wasn’t going to put them off and a dominant spell in the first 15 minutes of the second half brought the tie back to life.
Dele Alli got his act together, and so did Lucas Moura. Alli showed his dancing feet to lay the ball into the path of Moura, who used his pace to beat the defenders and made it 2-1 with a neat finish from the inside of his left foot. Buoyed by the goal, Spurs pushed harder and Moura reacted in time to put the ball into the back of the net after Llorente’s blocked shot led to a chaotic situation inside the box.
In fact, Alli himself had a chance to score early in the first half when Eriksen played him in behind Nicolas Taglifico with a sumptuous lobbed pass, only for Andre Onana to make a wonderful stop.
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Alli was once again in the thick of things when he set up Moura for the winner in stoppage time and Spurs ultimately completed a remarkable comeback to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
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