This will go down as one of the greatest, and most dramatic, games in the history of the UEFA Champions League.
In their quarterfinal second leg at the Etihad Stadium Manchester City beat Tottenham 4-3 on the night but drew 4-4 on aggregate and lost on the away goals rule, as their dream of winning an unprecedented quadruple is over.
Spurs will play Ajax in the UCL semifinals, and Man City were knocked out at the quarterfinal stage by a fellow Premier League club for the second-straight season.
After two goals a piece from Heung-min Son and Raheem Sterling kicked off a wild opening 21 minutes where five goals were scored, VAR drama in stoppage time saw Man City score, as they thought they had won 5-4 on aggregate. But Sterling’s goal was chalked off and Pep Guardiola’s men were beaten by Mauricio Pochettino’s battling Spurs who were without top goalscorer Harry Kane but Son and Fernando Llorente delivered the goods.
Good news for neutrals: Man City host Tottenham on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a crucial Premier League game for both clubs.
Here’s what we learned from a wild encounter, which will go down as one of the most incredible 90 minutes in the history of European action.
HISTORIC START SETS TONE FOR INSTANT CLASSIC
Five goals were scored in the opening 21 minutes of the game, which set a new record for the quickest time five goals have been scored in a single Champions League game. Aside from that wild opening period, which ended in Raheem Sterling putting Man City 3-2, the entire game was played at a frantic pace which will see it go down as one of the greatest games in Champions League history. Both teams threw caution to the wind and just went for it.
🔥 Raheem Sterling gets his 2nd and Man City's 3rd of the night.— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) April 17, 2019
There have been 5 goals in the first 21 minutes. Man City need one more goal to advance to the #UCL semifinals.#MCFC 3-2 #THFC (tied 3-3 on aggregate, Spurs have edge on away goals)pic.twitter.com/41NFwCFzuf
This was playground football. One team scored, another went up the other end to score. One team attacked, the other then launched a counter. Guardiola and Pochettino will have been far from happy with the standard of defending throughout, but this was one of those games people will be talking about for years and was a real “I was there” moment for anyone at the Etihad Stadium.
Man City went 4-2 up, and thought they had it in the bag, then Fernando Llorente made it 4-3 after a lengthy check with VAR, and then came Sterling’s hat trick goal in the 93rd minute which sparked pandemonium inside the Eithad... only for VAR to correctly show the goal was offside.
This game had it all and it will be shown again and again for the next few decades.
STERLING, KDB SUBLIME BUT CITY’S QUADRUPLE DREAM OVER
Raheem Sterling is having the season of his life and has now scored four goals in his last two games, and on top of Sterling’s goals, the return to form and fitness of Kevin de Bruyne has been a huge bonus for Guardiola’s side despite their heartbreaking exit to Spurs. De Bruyne has now assisted on six of City’s last eight goals, with the Belgian midfielder taking games by the scruff of the neck and making up for lost time after his lengthy spells out this season.
City thought they had sealed yet another dramatic late win, one that would rival Aguero’s amazing last-gasp goal to win them the Premier League title in 2012, but it wasn’t to be. They dominated the game and beat Spurs fair and square in the second leg, but Aguero’s missed penalty kick in the first leg and slack defending from Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte in the second leg ended their chances of winning a historic quadruple.
City’s Champions League jinx has continued for another season, and it was made even crueler by knowing they deserved to go through and thought they had before VAR denied them. Guardiola has long been a fan of VAR technology, but he must feel sick to his stomach as City once again came up short in Europe. He will hope that disappointment will now fuel them to complete the domestic treble, but it is likely this defeat to Spurs over two legs will haunt this group of players for at least the next few months, if not years.
SPURS, SON, DEFIED BELIEF
Losing Harry Kane in the first leg and Moussa Sissoko in the second leg hit Spurs hard in both games, but with Heung-min Son stepping up to score three of their four goals and almost adding a few others, the South Korean star and Tottenham didn’t really deserve to get knocked out of the Champions League.
This was the moment Son truly arrived as a world-class player. He has been criminally underrated in the past few seasons and has stepped up in Kane’s absence again, big time. Llorente, only on for the injured Sissoko, turned out to the hero for Spurs, as they dug deep and rode their luck at City.
GOALLL! It stands after a VAR check. Fernando Llorente bundles home. Looked like the ball hit his arm, then hit his hip and went in.— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) April 17, 2019
Tottenham back in front. Man City need 1 more.#MCFC 4-3 #THFC (4-4, Spurs going through on away goals as it stands) pic.twitter.com/FuFuF1sfQL
As for Spurs’ run to the Champions League last four, for so long it looked like the “Spursy” tag would strike again in this second leg after they chucked away a 2-1 lead by giving up three-straight goals. But they did it. And they’re in the semifinals of the European Cup for just the second time in club history. This is Pochettino’s greatest-ever achievement as a manager, and many will forget that Spurs didn’t win any of their opening three group games, and were 12 minutes from being eliminated but rallied to beat PSV at home in their fourth group game.
Given their injury-hit squad, not playing at their home stadium until the final weeks of the season and not signing a single player in the past two transfer windows, Pochettino has worked miracles. They beat Man City, the favorites to win the Champions League, fair and square over two legs and despite Ajax’s young stars stunning both Real Madrid and Juventus in the last two rounds, Tottenham will be the favorites to advance to the UCL final in Madrid on June 1.
Write this Tottenham team off at your peril.