Tottenham have a shot at becoming champions of Europe for the first time in their history after a hattrick from Lucas Moura pulled off a dramatic victory against Ajax in the second remarkable turnaround in the competition in as many days.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino sobbed in joy and called his players “super-heroes” after Lucas’ goal six minutes into injury time set up the first all-English final against Liverpool since 2008 in Madrid on June 1.
The last-gasp victory on the away goals rule -- the tie finished 3-3 overall -- came 24 hours after Liverpool had destroyed Barcelona with an unlikely 4-0 victory.
Ajax, a team captained by outstanding 19-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt, seemed set for the final as they grimly held on to a 3-2 lead on aggregate deep in stoppage time in the second leg of the semifinal at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Then Lucas, a Brazilian who was released by Paris Saint-Germain and sold to Spurs for a cut-price fee, delivered the killer blow.
When the ball broke to him in the box, Lucas shot beyond Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana to seal the comeback, making it 3-2 on the night.
“It is one of the most important nights in my life,” said Pochettino, who was in tears at full-time. “The most important thing is to congratulate my players. They did a great job.”
“I have said before that they are heroes. I think they are super-heroes now. To have brought the club to the final of the Champions League is very close to a miracle.”
Lucas was also swept away in the emotion.
“Football gives us moments like this that we cannot imagine,” said Lucas. “We need to enjoy it. Look at me -- it’s the best moment in my life, my career.”
The Ajax players slumped to the turf after having a first Champions League final since 1996 snatched away from them.
Leading 1-0 after the first leg, the thrilling Dutch side appeared to have killed the tie after De Ligt and Hakim Ziyech scored in the first half in Amsterdam.
That left Tottenham needing a comeback to match that of Liverpool against Barcelona the previous night, but in an even shorter timespan.
Two goals in quick succession from Lucas early in the second half gave them something to cling onto, before he struck the decisive blow.
Erik ten Hag’s team must now lift themselves to try to complete a Dutch league and Cup double.
Their team is then likely to be broken up before the new season begins -- Frenkie de Jong has already signed for Barcelona and De Ligt could reportedly join him at the Camp Nou, although Manchester United are among a host of other suitors.
“I told the players it is very hard to find the right words in a moment like this and that football is cruel,” said Ten Hag.
“We have to endure the cruel side tonight but we have to go on.”
Both teams were deprived of key players -- England striker Harry Kane was missing through injury and Ajax suffered the blow of losing Brazilian winger David Neres to injury just before kick-off.
But the Dutch side shrugged off his loss as De Ligt’s header put them ahead on the night.
Spurs did threaten an immediate reply as Son Heung-min hit the near post before Ajax got their second when Dusan Tadic cut the ball back for Ziyech, whose shot flew into the far corner.
Spurs scored their first in the 55th minute, Lucas combining with Dele Alli and slotting past Onana.
Four minutes after that Lucas pounced when substitute Fernando Llorente’s effort was saved, the Brazilian deftly hooking the ball into the corner.
Ajax came so close to securing victory as Ziyech twice nearly scored again and Jan Vertonghen crashed a header against the bar at the other end.
Just when it looked like Ajax would hang on, Lucas sent his teammates into raptures.