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by James Nalton
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR are through to the Champions League semi-finals following a memorable night of football and a rollercoaster ride of emotions at Eastlands.
A unbelievable end to their meeting with Manchester City followed a crazy start, with VAR playing its own part in the drama.
Five goals were scored in a breathless opening 21 minutes: two apiece from Raheem Sterling and Son Heung Min, and another from Bernardo Silva with Spurs going in at half-time ahead on away goals.
A period of relative calm followed in the second period, and City looked to be heading to the semi-finals after Sergio Aguero gave them an aggregate lead on the hour.
Kevin De Bruyne was back to his blistering best, and Aguero put in one of his best all-round centre-forward performances. The pair linked up for the goal which was powered into the roof of the net by the Argentinian.
Fernando Llorente had replaced the injured Moussa Sissoko in the first half, and it was the big Spaniard who caused trouble at a corner to give Spurs the advantage again with 20 minutes to play.
VAR was called in to check a possible hand ball and, though the ball struck the arm of Llorente before going in off the arm of Aymeric Laporte, neither were deliberate and the goal was given.
Sterling spent the game reinforcing the idea that he is the best player in England, and it was he who looked to have given City a last-gasp win when he scored from Aguero’s pass in added-time.
The staff from the City bench, including manager Pep Guardiola, were off celebrating down on the touchline with players and fans, but in front of a TV screen somewhere, the VAR was checking for offside.
Christian Eriksen’s stray back-pass had glanced off Bernardo on its way through to Aguero, and in that moment the striker was in an offside position.
The goal was disallowed. From the biggest high to the lowest low for City and their supporters who had responded to Guardiola’s calls to create an atmosphere in the stadium on the night.
For Spurs’s travelling support the VAR decision was the equivalent of a goal for their team. Eastlands was stunned, but the away section who celebrated with players on the final whistle.
Despite City’s recent domestic dominance, Guardiola reminded us that City have only reached the semi-finals once in their history.
“It was an incredible illusion [dream] for us to get to the semi-finals, because this club has not been there many times,” he said.
“Just once in our lives we have been in the semi-finals, was an incredible illusion and the players played for that, but Tottenham take the victory and go through.”
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino recognised that his team were up against it, facing one of the most talented sides in world football, but said that this is part of the beauty of football.
“The sport always gives you the possibility to beat teams that maybe no-one believes or thinks that we were capable of beating,” said the Argentinian.
“Football is not only about talent, but also about belief and having the right mentality. This team has the personality, character and mentality, and belief that all is possible.”
Tottenham will face Ajax in the next round, who themselves have been on a fairytale run through the competition, and it promises to be another entertaining tie, but it’ll have to be something special to surpass this quarter-final.
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