Let’s start on Tuesday 7th May at Anfield. Liverpool were going into the second leg following a 3-0 defeat away at the Nou Camp after another Messi masterclass. To add to the uphill task, Liverpool were without Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita and their star man, Mo Salah. Despite all this, Liverpool got off to a great start with Origi pouncing onto a rebound from a Henderson shot to give Liverpool an early lead. The first half was back and forth, with both teams having opportunities to score. Messi was having an on-going battle with Allison, although it was the Brazilian shot stopper who came out on top. At half time Robertson was replaced by Wijnaldum, after he was injured following an incident with Luis Suarez. It did not take long for Wijnaldum to make his mark on the game. The dutchman was there to fantastically finish under Ter Stegen from the edge of the box from an Alexander-Arnold cross. Liverpool began to take control of the game in the midfield with Henderson and Fabinho alongside Wijnaldum. I bet the substitute couldn’t believe his luck when Shaqiri floated a cross in from the left-hand side. The former Newcastle man was left unmarked and rose highest to head into the back of the net. Anfield erupted, Liverpool fans began to rally around their team. But little did they know; the best was yet to come and that one of there own would play a huge part in a comeback for the ages. A corner was given following a blocked cross from Alexander-Arnold. What happened next was one of the best pieces of innovation I’ve seen used in football. Whilst the Barcelona defence were organizing how to set up from the corner, the 20-year-old showed maturity way beyond his years, as his fired the ball across the face of the box to Origi who was free in the box. The Belgian striker finished magnificently into the top corner to complete the comeback. Barcelona huffed and puffed with little conviction. Not even the best player of all time, could prevent another magical night at Anfield. As the final whistle blow you could feel the emotion through the screen. I’m not a Liverpool fan, but Anfield is a special place. As the fans sing ‘You’ll never walk alone’, you can’t help but feel this is more than a football club to the people of Liverpool. What Jurgen Klopp has brought to Liverpool is that sense of togetherness. The German manager knows exactly how to get the most out of his team and Tuesday night was an example of his fantastic management and tactical nous.
Onto Wednesday 8th May at the Amsterdam Arena. The young stars of Ajax dominated the first leg at the new White Hart Lane and went into the second leg with a one nil lead. From the first whistle, Ajax picked up from where they left off. A Tadic strike was excellently saved by Lloris, although the French goal keeper could only push the resulting shot out for a corner. From the subsequent corner, the keeper could do nothing to stop De Ligt header. The young Ajax captain outjumped the Tottenham defence to give his side a very early lead on the night and extend their lead on aggregate. Tottenham did hit the post from Son shortly after the goal, although Ajax continued to dominate showing their superiority throughout the first half. Any hope of a comeback looked to be put to bed on the 35th minute, when Ziyech brilliantly wrapped the ball into the far corner giving Lloris no chance. Tie over, thanks for coming. Ajax’s young superstars were adding to their already brilliant reputation and demonstrated a masterclass of total football at Tottenham’s expense. When the referee blew the whistle for half time, it looked as though Ajax fans could book their flights and get their sun cream ready. But whatever Mauricio Pochettino said in those 15 minutes has changed the history of Tottenham football club. How I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in that dressing room. Tottenham came out like a completely different team. The quick, direct attacking football that were all used to from Tottenham was in full effect. A long ball from Danny Rose found the feet of Lucas Moura who flicked it on to Dele Alli. The England international terrifically slipped the ball through to the speedy Brazilian, who carried on his run to finish pass the helpless Onana. Only a few minutes later and that man again, Lucas Moura, was there to brilliantly turn and finish into the bottom corner following a mix up in the Ajax defence. Like many watching this game around the world, I thought this can’t possibly happen again. As the saying goes, lightning doesn’t strike twice. As the clock ticked down, it looked as if Tottenham were crashing out of the competition. This was until the last seconds of the game. A long ball by Sissoko up to Llorente fell to the feet off Alli. The Englishman once again combined with the man of the evening, Lucas Moura, by flicking the ball in behind the defence of Ajax for the on-rushing Brazilian to finish. Incredible. Tottenham had matched Liverpool by pulling off another famous comeback. The ability to pull themselves back from such a miserable first half shows the character and qualities of each of those players. Sure, Lucas Moura will take the headlines and rightly so as he was fantastic at night. However, each one of those players should be commended by the Tottenham supporters for what they displayed on the night.
It will be very difficult to find two consecutive nights of football that will ever match this. The magnitude of both evenings along with the sequel of events that occurred, just made it magical. It was theatre. Congratulations to both Liverpool and Tottenham, both were shining lights for English football. Surely the semi-finals can’t be as crazy as the final. Or can they? I just don’t know with football anymore.