Thursday 23 May 2019

Llorente's sub-plot sends Tottenham through after City are denied in dramatic VAR finale

Manchester City 4 Tottenham Hotspur 3 (4-4 on agg, Tottenham win on away goals)

Tottenham Hotspur's Fernando Llorente celebrates scoring his team's third goal of the night sending through to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur's Fernando Llorente celebrates scoring his team's third goal of the night sending through to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Jason Burt

Silence. That is what it was. It was total silence. This was the most extraordinary end to a Champions League tie as Tottenham Hotspur held on to defeat Manchester City on away goals and reach their first ever semi-final.

That silence came from the stunned City fans after they thought their side had won it, they thought Raheem Sterling had completed an injury-time hat-trick, only for the goal to be ruled out by the VAR for an offside in the build-up.

The pocket of Spurs supporters celebrated, but silence everywhere else in this stadium was simply, weirdly eerie.

Before that depleted and down, Spurs had rallied to score decisively through substitute Fernando Llorente - with the suspense heightened again as that also went to the VAR to check - in what turned out to be a seven-goal frenzy rather than an eight-goal one.

It was endlessly end-to-end. No-one wanted it to finish. No-one apart from Spurs who dug deep and then dug deeper to show extraordinary reserves of resilience and resistance and set up a mouth-watering semi-final against another vibrant young team in Ajax.

Pep Guardiola had demanded an atmosphere; and what an atmosphere he got.

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min shoots at the Manchester City goal. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Tottenham’s Son Heung-min shoots at the Manchester City goal. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Nothing creates atmosphere like a remarkable, crazy game. What an incredibly, topsy-turvy, breathless start.

There were four goals in 11 minutes; in fact four in just seven minutes as both sides struck twice and there was not a moment to even take stock; catch one's breath.

Kevin De Bruyne started it, cutting in from the right, exchanging passes with Sergio Aguero and turning the ball out to Sterling. He ran in from the wing, as Kieran Trippier backed off, and arced a right-footed shot around the full-back, beyond the grasp of Hugo Lloris and into the bottom corner.

Spurs then sliced through the heart of City's defence not once, but twice.

Raheem Sterling celebrates before his injury-time goal is disallowed for offside. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Raheem Sterling celebrates before his injury-time goal is disallowed for offside. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Firstly, Lucas Moura broke to find Dele Alli, who tried to play it on.

Aymeric Laporte intervened, but only to tee up Son Heung-min, whose first-time shot ricocheted up off the legs of Ederson to level.

Remarkably, Spurs and Son broke through once more and again there was a Laporte mistake as he miscontrolled with a heavy touch on halfway and Moura whisked the ball from him.

City were overrun in defence and Spurs swarmed forward and Christian Eriksen picked out Son who curled a quite brilliant shot around Kyle Walker and beyond Ederson's grasp.

General view as an incident is reviewed on VAR leading to Manchester City's Raheem Sterling goal being disallowed. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
General view as an incident is reviewed on VAR leading to Manchester City's Raheem Sterling goal being disallowed. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates

City now needed three goals to go through and they immediately clawed one back as Aguero sent the ball out to Bernardo Silva in space on the right of the penalty area.

Danny Rose tried to block, but only managed to divert Silva's shot past Lloris's leg, as he dived to cover, and just inside a post.

So it was 2-2 and almost too much to take in. It meant City needed two more goals, without conceding, while if Spurs could hold out - and it was a long time to hold out against this opponent - they would make it.

Scratch that. They held out for just nine more minutes, with De Bruyne again central as he surged towards the bye-line from Bernardo's cute flick and wonderfully whipped the ball low across the six-yard area for Sterling to arrive beyond the far post to side-foot home. It meant there were five goals in the opening quarter of the game, for the first time in Champions League history, the aggregate score was level, but Spurs held the away goal advantage. One more unanswered City goal, though, and they were out.

There was another blow for Spurs, a big blow. They did not concede, but they lost yet another midfielder to injury, Moussa Sissoko pulling up as he tried to stop De Bruyne. Mauricio Pochettino had little option from the bench - even Erik Lamela had pulled out before the warm-up - so he brought on Llorente and reshuffled, before Son angled a shot just beyond Ederson's far post.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino celebrates at the final whistle. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino celebrates at the final whistle. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Yates

They were not done as Pochettino ran towards the dressing rooms before the half-time whistle.

City were soon back at it. And on it. Lloris shovelled out Sterling's side-footed shot from David Silva's low cross with Rose doing extremely well to challenge Bernardo so that his close-range follow-up went wide.

Then Lloris intervened again to make an excellent, one-handed save at full-stretch to turn away De Bruyne's shot across him as City piled on the pressure.

Spurs could not gain a foothold in midfield, but just as they looked set to be overwhelmed Llorente met Alli's inswinging cross only for Ederson to block his diving header. How important would that be?

Very was the answer as De Bruyne once more created as he dribbled through to slide a pass which Aguero met to powerfully to drive an unerring shot between Lloris and his near post. For the first time in the tie City were ahead.

Guardiola turned to Fernandinho to try and lock down the game, but he could only watch as a corner sailed over him and over Vincent Kompany before striking Llorente and going into the net.

As Spurs celebrated, referee Cuneyt Cakir consulted the VAR with claims that the striker had handled.

After a delay, the goal was given.

City had to score or were out and sub Leroy Sane headed the ball to Ilkay Gundogan only for him to volley over from close-range, but incredibly Sterling's late strike was ruled out as Bernardo had played Aguero in with the striker being inches offside. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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