Son wins it for Spurs after last Min VAR controversy

Raheem's dream poached by Poch

If ever there was an advertisement to promote English football, last night's Champions League quarter-final clash between Manchester City and Tottenham was it, and more. It had everything: stunning goals, controversial decisions, last minute knee slides for nothing, the list goes on. Last night's match between two of the Premier League's best sides reminded us all why we love football. Within the first eleven minutes the ball had been in the back of the net four times - twice from each team. By the time half-time came around the score stood at 3-2, narrowly favouring the hosts who knew they had it all still to do to ensure qualification through to the semi-finals against Ajax in two weeks time.

Raheem Sterling's opener inside four minutes set the tempo at the Etihad, before an almost instant response from Tottenham's player of the season, Son Heung-min, ensured that Spurs weren't just visiting Manchester to make up the numbers. Bernardo Silva's stunning curling effort just after the ten-minute mark had everyone watching on in awe of the quality being produced by these two mouthwatering, goal-hungry, attack-heavy sides. Last night's game was played at a beautifully frantic pace throughout, to the point where even the viewer became out of breath and found it difficult to keep up. It showed why the Premier League is the best league in the world and always will be, despite a brief lull in performance from England's representatives in the Champions League throughout the previous decade.

After the first leg at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ended 1-0 just over a week ago, Spurs travelled to City's stomping ground just about in control of their destiny, knowing that a clean sheet would be enough to see them through to the semi-finals. This is Manchester City, though, a side that have scored at least once in every single home game they've played this season, so the thought of obtaining a clean sheet in their own backyard becomes more and more delusional the more you think about it. Sterling had put an end to that plan before a selection of fans had even found their seats anyway, so that was the end of that.

Spurs had to adopt a different game plan; sit back, try and keep things tight and you'll get punished, this City side are too good, too ruthless. Mauricio Pochettino knew that the only way to beat the Sky Blues last night was to play them at their own game. Without Harry Kane, the thought of scoring at the Etihad becomes frightening. It's like going into battle without your experienced leader, but don't worry because the nice, gentle, likeable number two has been left in charge, and he's gonna step up, you watch. Spurs' reserved, quiet, rapidly-emerging world beater, Son Heung-min, has taken the piss this term. Twenty goals and ten assists - two coming when it really mattered on the biggest stage possible against arguably the worlds best team this season - the South Korean was emphatic in battle last night; without him Spurs would not be heading through to the semi-finals, that's a fact.


There was something in the air that night, Fernando

After Sergio Aguero did what Sergio Aguero has always done, rifling the ball home past one of the world's best goalkeepers at the near post, just like he did in November's Manchester derby, City looked to have done it. An hour in and the game stands at 4-2 to the hosts, 4-3 on aggregate, Pep's boys look home and dry.

The game is still energy-infused though, with 22 world class players buzzing about the pitch looking like they've all just eaten ten packets of Smarties and drank fourteen Lucozade energy's each, it was, actually, a thing of beauty. I can't remember the last time I watched a match with such intensity played throughout. Not one single player rested on their laurels last night; City weren't content with a one goal lead and wanted more so continued to flood the attack and think about defending much, much later.

Tottenham flew into everything. Dele Alli, who last week had to be substituted after sustaining a broken hand, was bullish in central midfield and yet again showed a maturity level way beyond his years - it's so easy to forget this young man is still just 23 years of age. His ball retention and decision making were hugely to thank for Spurs' success last night and they'll need him firing on all cylinders against Ajax if there to make it through to their first ever Champions League final in June.

Then there was Llorente, introduced just before the interval to replace the injured Moussa Sissoko. The 34-year-old veteran was pulling his trademark carthorse again, but it didn't matter because he was a nuisance to Aymeric Laporte and Vincent Kompany, pulling them from side to side, winning aerial duals - basically, giving them a taste of their own medicine. The Spaniard's legs may have left him years ago but at 6ft 4, the vastly experienced target man is always a threat, especially from set pieces.

Then it came, against the run of play and without so much as a warning. A corner swung in by the glorious right foot of Kieran Whippier is met by Llorente who rises above everyone in the six yard box. The ball finds its way into the net and, shit, they've done it, surely? Spurs have regained their lead with roughly twenty minutes to play. Celebration breaks out among the visiting supporters and Pochettino cannot contain his jubilation on the sidelines, though he is desperately attempting to remain cool in that all black suit of his, fuck me he must be so hot in that. But this game isn't normal, is it.

There has to be a talking point, god forbid a goal goes in and is awarded without further complication. The much talked about VAR is referred to, hearts are firmly in mouths for Tottenham while the referee checks if the ball hit Llorente's arm before hitting his hip and nestling into the net. It looked to me as if it had at first, the initial angle picked up by the camera behind the goal showed Llorente's skin ripple but it's a difficult one as his arm was not in an unnatural position.

Regardless to what I think, or anyone else for that matter, it doesn't matter, nobody gives a shit. The only opinion that counts is that of Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakır, who stares at the pitchside screen with intent, wearing what look to be a pair of pink socks with the conventional black shirt and shorts, different. The stern-faced man in the middle has made his decision and turns around making that somewhat ridiculous TV screen hand signal - why do they do that? We all know you've just checked VAR, chill out. He gives it, though, it's 4-4 on aggregate and Spurs are heading through.


VARcical decision, or justice served?

Wow. This game just gets better, anyone watching Liverpool's training match against Porto will perhaps regret their choice for the rest of their lives. The tension surrounding the Etihad could be cut with a piece of string. City find themselves in an extremely strange situation, for once they're the ones chasing the game and not taking the piss in the dying stages of a match, playing tidy little one-two's around their hapless chasing opponents.

For once, Pep's side look desperate, desperate for a lucky break, for the ball to fall for them in front of goal; desperate for Spurs to just fuck off and let them win. Spurs defend for their lives but the intensity they've shown throughout the entire match is now starting to show, perfectly summarised when Victor Wanyama just aimlessly leathers the ball out of play in City's half because he was both too tired and too scared to attempt an actual pass. Tin pot Sunday league move in a Champions League quarter-final at the Etihad, poetic.

As the clock continues to tick and Tottenham edge ever closer to a monumental win, there's an overwhelming feeling that something huge is about to happen. City continue to probe, trademark cross-field passing from the substitute Fernandinho creates space for Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne to flood the box with a series of crosses, which ultimately amount to nothing thanks to the resilient defending of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. But there's something left in this match, we all know it.

Then it happens, Christian Eriksen is caught in possession when all he had to do was do a Wanyama and boot the ball as hard as he could upfield. De Bruyne dispossesses the Dane and the ball is lofted through to none other than Sergio Aguero, who heads it into the floor to get it under control before cutely setting up the oncoming Sterling, who is desperate to make his hat-trick the match winner.

The England international does just that, sticking the ball past Lloris deep into injury time. They've done it! City have snatched it at the last hurdle and will be playing Ajax in a fortnight's time. Sterling runs off, happier than ever before, even does one of those half knee slides that turn into a face plant by the corner flag. Team-mates join, Pep's buzzing. The Etihad goes on an extremely rare mad one.

Cüneyt Çakır is having none of it, though, stood there in his pink socks, everyone's far too happy for his liking. He's going to VAR to see if there's one last kick in the bollocks left in the tank. Suddenly, the atmosphere has changed drastically, City might not have actually won it. Sterling may have just grazed his knees for nothing. Eriksen might actually swerve the oncoming P45.

After much deliberation a decision is made and it's not the one the hosts are looking for - Aguero's adjudged to be offside in the build-up. He is, just. Heartbreak for City but sheer joy for Tottenham and Liverpool, who have by the way just thrashed Porto 4-1 to book themselves a spot against Barcelona in the semi-finals at the end of the month.

VAR has a long way to go before it's deemed a total success, with much of the impulse being sucked out of the game due to the constant fear that a goal will be ruled out. The process needs to be made much quicker, more efficient, that's a certainty. However, last night it made the right decision; Aguero was JUST offside, and had Spurs been dumped out because of that dramatic, last-gasp strike from Sterling it would have been extremely unfair.

Decisions and controversy aside, though, and last night was a pure, uncut, beautiful example of why we're all obsessed with this game. The passion, intensity, quality and sheer entertainment displayed by both sides throughout was like nothing else in this world. We can all consider ourselves extremely lucky to be alive during this exhilarating campaign which continues to amaze. Next up it's the semi's; same again, please.


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