Keeping faith; this season's UCL lesson
Barça's unexpected loss in Anfield and Lucas Moura's cruel but emotional goal in 96' were not isolated facts. In fact, they were shown as two more chapters (although the most shocking) in the history of the beautiful game, which is, at times, truly mad to witness.
As if to show, as a premonition, that this edition of the UCL would be unlike any other, the first shocking result came quite early on. Ajax surprised Real Madrid at the Bernabeu after losing 2-1 in the first leg, and beat the then Solari lead team with a shameful 1-4. It was an unexpected comeback, and evidently, the starting gun for what was to come.
But Real Madrid is not the only team from the Spanish capital which said goodbye to the UCL in the round of sixteen. Atletico Madrid was also the victim of a comeback by their rivals. In the Metropolitano, Atlético beat Juve 2-0, but Cristiano, with a devastating hat trick, lifted the result with a 3-0 in Italy.
Another unexpected result was that of PSG and Manchester United in the same round. The 'red devils' arrived with renewed hope under Solkjaer's management, and the result was oustanding. The 0-2 at Old Trafford seemed to assure the spot for the Parisian team, but the 1-3 at the Parc des Princes (Rashford's penalty in 94') changed everything.
Although less spectacular, Porto's comeback against Roma in the Round of 16 is also noteworthy. Olímpico's 2-1 win was overturned in extra time, three minutes from the penalties, with Alex Telles scoring a penalty for the final 3-1.
In this round we don't find any comebacks as such, if we understand these as losing the first leg and scoring enough goals to make up for it in the second leg. But Ajax's continued amazinf performance in Turin is still noteworthy. The 1-1 of the first leg seemed like an advantage for Juventus, but it never materialised as such. The Dutch continued monopolizing the affection of all Europe by leaving the king of the last editions out of the tournament. Cristiano, after the 1-2, had to say goodbye to his favourite trophy.
Tottenham qualified for the semifinals after winning in the first leg and losing in the second leg against Pep Guardiola's City. A surprising result to say the least, as City has dominated almost all Premier League teams this season, but Pochettino never lost faith... and VAR was definitely on his side. After a crazy match, Llorente scored the 4-3 that qualified the London side in the 73rd minute. This result was not without controversy, as Sterling scored an equaliser in the 93th minute, but after seeing it with VAR, the referee decided to discard it.
This year's semifinals where the semifnals of comebacks. And madness. In equal parts. Barça's 3-0 win at the Camp Nou was accompanied by praise and euphoria, which ended proptly in the second half after an amazing comeback. Liverpool's 4-0 win left the Azulgranas in the gutter with more questions than explanations.
Finally, Tottenham put the icing on the cake. Ajax's 1-0 draw in the first leg meant that the 'little ones' would sneak into the final. And after a 2-0 result for Ajax in the second leg, it was all but confirmed that the Dutch would make it to the UCL final. However, the second half brought together all the ingredients reviewed so far (goals, comebacks and last-minute emotions) to prepare the final dish... at least until the 1st of June.
Lucas Moura signed a hat trick in 45 minutes to move from 2-0 to 2-3, scoring the last goal in 95:01 after the referee added five minutes to regular time. They say faith moves mountains, the same ones that collapsed with the greatest cruelty on the Johan Cruyff Arena, to put the cherry on top of mad UCL. A Champions League brought through faith.