I was screaming at the top of my lungs.
Not in the away stands in Amsterdam with the Spurs fans that made the trip from England, nor in a Tottenham bar with a mass of blue and white-clad fans gathered together to guzzle pints and hope for a miracle. No, I was in my basement apartment alone in my sweatpants. But my throat hurts all the same.
When Lucas Moura rolled his third goal of the game past the Ajax keeper, I burst out of my chair and roared so loud I’m pretty sure I woke up my roommates upstairs.
I still haven’t gone up to apologize. To be fair they also could have come to check on the woman who screamed bloody murder in their basement.
The scenes will be seared into my brain forever. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino mobbed on the sideline as he sobbed for joy. Ajax players strewn across the field, casualties of a game they were seconds from winning. An injured Harry
Kane sprinting across the field to find his teammates in celebration. Steve Nash crying on the postgame broadcast for godsake.
Pochettino called them heroes. And for three straight halves across two legs in the semifinal, they were far from it. Ajax mopped Spurs like no team I’d ever seen in the Pochettino era. Just an absolute ethering on the level of the army of the dead vs. the Dothraki. Ajax passed like their toes were connected with an invisible string. There was no stopping them. A goal down within four minutes. Another 30 minutes later on a brilliant curler from Hakim Ziyech. That’s the tie right there. Game over.
When a team beats Real Madrid and Juventus, it probably means they’re supposed to win the whole thing. I salute them. It pains me to think they will almost certainly get pillaged of most of their talent this summer by teams with deeper pockets. And so it goes.
At halftime, a good friend of mine (and an Arsenal fan I’ll have you know) texted me there was “still a second half if Poch can spark some energy.”
I wasn’t having it. “We’re done,” I replied. “Been done.”
And by essentially every conceivable metric, they were.
This game made me feel as if there was a finite amount of soccer magic in the world and Liverpool saw fit to gobble up every drop of that charm yesterday against Barcelona. A couple missed chances by Heung-min Son in the first half, a Jan Vertonghen header off the crossbar in the second.
Turns out there was a little bit left, smeared on the boots of the indomitable Moura, a handsome man on a team of handsome men, who hadn’t scored a Champions League goal since December.
There was a bit more sprinkled on the goal post that kept out a late clincher by Ziyech. And some more laced into Hugo Lloris’ gloves on a 90th minute stop on a shot by Barcelona-bound Frankie de Jong.
Moura’s third goal materialized in the absolutely last possible moment. At the death, as they say. And Moura did his best Syrio Forel impression.
Tottenham had one point after three matches in the Champions League group stages. O-N-E. No one thought they would make it out of the group with Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven. But they did.
A Round of 16 draw with Dortmund – then top of the table in the German Bundesliga – surely spelled the end of them. Good job, you made it out of the group, but no further. A 4-0 aggregate win changed that narrative quickly.
And then the quarterfinal against City. An unconscionable second leg that sent this team to their first-ever semifinal.
Afterward, I called my girlfriend and told her I had just watched the best game of soccer I had ever seen. She said, “That’s what you said last time.” And she’s right, I did say that (I literally titled it, “The best game I’ve ever seen”) and when I said it again today it was true for the second time in three weeks.
This is what sports do to you. They continually force you to move the goalposts – willing I might add – to account for the new, previously inconceivable sports moment that breaks your brain. And now we’re on to the final in Madrid, the first in team history.
I just hope I get one more chance to scream at the top of my lungs.